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March 18, 2010

The Mind Reels
Thursday. Reading the paper over breakfast this morning (the Times, as it happens), I glanced at a Cartier-Bresson photograph in the Arts section, a showing of his work of some kind in New York. A famous Cartier-Bresson photograph, nothing I haven't seen a hundred times in the past, as I have books on my shelves containing the same photograph, but it caused me to think a particularly unoriginal thought: the photograph itself, what looked like a chance encounter caught by the photographer, was probably the result of standing-sitting-hovering around for a long period waiting for that particular moment to arrive. That's what I mean by an “unoriginal” thought, something so obvious, why would it make a difference? Unless it's come to you at exactly the right moment and hits you in an until now well hidden place.

I've been dividing my time between two kinds of photography, a division I believe (without particular factual support) most photographers understand: the first, taking photographs you know and understand are part of your photographic “bent”, those photographs you've learned how to identify, that brought you to photography in the first place; and images you're experimenting with, photographs you're taking based on a hunch in search of a further expansion of your “bent”, photographs that are not in themselves particularly good, but are milestones in a search for something that's as of yet still hidden inside your eye.

That's how I see a beginning photographer: someone who has some set of images they're looking to find, some set of images they're seeking to define getting them up and out with a camera every day, but they haven't quite resolved yet into what it is she or he is really after. The major step from beginner to beyond beginner is someone who's found his or her “bent” and can now reliably recognize and shoot photographs falling within its bounds. I think I'm there with a certain kind of candid portrait, a certain look I'm after, images that are important and fascinating to me if not to everyone else. Looking back it took a lot of time and a lot of work. Once you've found your “bent”, everything falls into place and, if the urge is there, you still continue to explore other areas, other kinds of images to widen and add to that vision.

There's no reason a portrait photographer can't be a landscape photographer, for instance, if he or she has an internal need, a sensitivity to images that fall into both of these two categories. Is there just one “bent” you'd call portraits? No. There are as many as there are portrait photographers, each different from the other. Shades of grey maybe, but the way it works. Does that make sense?

So, in glancing at that Cartier-Bresson photograph in the paper this morning, I thought about some of the images I've taken recently on the fly, images that worked for me to some degree because I happened to be at a certain place at a certain time when the elements of the photograph came together. I've realized those elements could have been better had I but stayed in place and waited on a more fortuitous event, a person walking into the viewfinder from here or from there, two people together, whatever, a serendipitous congruence.

So my simple revelation is to go out, not look as I've been doing for any and all opportunities for new stuff to see if they may click, but to go back to places where I've found images shot on the fly in the past and stay there to wait on more interesting elements to assemble. Look, not to find new and different potentially interesting images in the day, but for one that seems to have shown potential in the past.

Simple stuff for a simple mind? It took ten years to strike me at exactly the right time? Certainly it's a thought I've had many times in the past. Could be. Why not? Takes time to take another step, to have it come together, everyone has their own schedule; mine just happens to have started somewhat later in life. Boy with a Kodak finally, five decades later, sees some light? There's probably a book somewhere out there about it with easy to read instructions guaranteeing enlightenment somewhere around chapter three.

Breakfast was just fine, by the way, the sun coming up, the weather forecast for sunny days through the weekend ahead. This is good. Sunny days are still new enough around here alone to bring the spirits up. I need to call my sister this evening and see if she's still up for that photography expedition next week, see if that's still makes sense. This month is coming together I think.

Later. A walk to the bus stop thinking, well, there's a bus due in about two minutes, we'll head downtown, while another voice was saying why downtown, why not walk around Lakeview to the left and have a cup of something or other at a table out in front of a bagel shop? The walk around Lakeview won and I set out along Lake Merritt passing the Grand Lake theater to eventually sit (where else?) at a table at Noah's drinking a glass of thoroughly tasteless lemonade. Not lemony enough. It had an enticing slice of lemon floating on top, the thing that probably prompted my decision to buy it, but what the hell, no complaints. Coffee wouldn't have been any different given these anemic taste buds of mine.

So did we challenge our photographer's eye on this walk, take into account the sit in one place thoughts above and wait in place for inspirational images to arrive? Actually I did (keep it in mind), but there was nothing on my route today with a comfortable chair overlooking something interesting where I could await the arrival of enlightenment. OK, OK. We're primed. We're on the case. We can do this.

It's now noon, plenty of time for another walk. Or a trip to that storage locker, whichever comes first, although I did upload WordPress to one of my other domains. My ISP connection flakes whenever I upload too many files, so it will take more sessions to get it in place. We'll see what WordPress looks like, what formatting is possible, maybe use it, but for one of the other sites.

The idea of converting my old entries to something else is a joke, although there's no necessity to convert them, just leave them as they are and go forward with a new format. A bit jarring if you go back to look, but who would do that? People come into the journal through older entries, looking for something I was evidently talking about, but I'm not sure anybody goes back in search of deathless prose more than once. Just to check if the prose was tighter before his brain gave out.

Later still. A walk down to the ATM, a light lunch farther on at the usual place, home now futzing with WordPress again. My assumption is if i use it I'll use it for some other odd ball project and keep the journal as it is. Maybe clean out some of the old no longer used sections. I'd say finish the new 100 Books design, the half finished project I dropped some years back, but I won't say that. Then again, spring seems to have arrived, at least what is clearly spring weather, the temperature in the seventies, who knows what strange and (one hopes) wonderful changes might be made in my (hide bound) outlook on life? My (cranky old) attitudes? My phobia for (and complete lack of knowledge of) punctuation? The mind reels.

The photograph was taken at the San Francisco 2010 Chinese Lunar New Year with a Nikon D3s mounted with a 70 - 200mm f 2.8 Nikkor VRII lens at f 2.8 at 1/160th second, ISO 640.