Just finished teaching another “Mastering Your SLR” class yesterday and it went great! I’m always nervous leading up to a class, love the teaching it as it’s happening, and completely crash, drained of all energy, afterwards. After a four hour nap right after class, a huge supper, and then a full night’s sleep I’m pretty much back to normal. I’m sure most of the students are pretty drained too – it’s a full day of working your brain pretty hard. But students of all levels are leaving the class pretty excited about the new-found abilities and choices they have when creating their photos. It’s fun to see their process of discovery, and it inspires me too.
Now for the composition class on Wednesday (there’s still space!), and then I get a little break from teaching until we set up the next classes in a month or so.
The photo is from Blackfoot Lake Rec Area this past fall.
14mm, f4, 1/80 of a second
150mm, f2.8, 1/640 of a second
There are so many different things to learn and ways to expand photography, art, and paths of thought. My photos tend to be visual and design oriented. I recently started creating some videos and that’s been pushing me to think about story or narrative. This is an area which I think could improve my photography as well.
I received “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell as a Christmas gift, and have started reading it. It’s a really interesting mix of fairly dense academic writing, ridiculous un-academic assertions, and inspiring observations about human experience. I’m not very far in yet, and I’ll update with further observations, but it does prompt me to think differently about art. And I love that.
This feeling is predictable and it has very little to do with photography. It goes on: “I’ve already taken all my best shots. I might as well quit now. What’s the point of going out trying to get more photos? My photos aren’t that good anyway. And even if I do take good photos, why? Does anyone care? I’m not saving any lives, or improving anyone’s living conditions.”
In the morning light, my brain isn’t as critical as in the dead of night. I start developing some photos I missed from a trip last year, and I actually start to like them. I realize maybe I’m not horrible. But even on good days, the negatives linger in the back of my mind, waiting for their chance to work their way into my thoughts.
I think this is something a lot of people struggle with – regardless of their profession or hobby. Ignoring the negative thoughts sometimes works for a bit, just so I can be productive, but the problem is that they have an edge of truth. So then I have to take a step back, try to be objective, and decide whether I’m on the right track. Find the things that are good and true and believable.
I think adding to the beauty of the world is important, and I have the ability to do that. I might even be able to pique interest in the world around us. I think a sense of wonder and curiosity can make life immeasurably better. And even though this isn’t necessarily saving any lives, I think it adds to the net good of the world. And I’m satisfied with that.
A cedar forest in Pacific Rim National Park.
12mm, f4, 1/40 of a second
I’ve just updated the Impressions gallery on my website. You’ve probably seen many of these images before, but there should be a few new ones too. The general idea of this gallery is to include photos that are about the feeling rather than the subject. They’re impressions as opposed to representations. This doesn’t mean that I’ve done a lot of editing on the photos. As with almost all my images, I’ve done some color correction and contrast adjustments. That’s about it.
I grew up on an acreage in northern Saskatchewan. We had a massive yard and a massive garden, I think partly because we were not wealthy and the garden provided much of our food, but also because my parents loved plants and trees. Many of our plants were your average garden plants — potatoes, carrots, beets, broccoli, tomatoes, beans, squash, peas, etc. I had to do what felt like a lot of gardening as I was growing up, and I remember not really liking it (as any kid is likely feel about chores). But I also have a lot of fond memories of the sun-warmed dirt between my toes, of throwing the sun-greened potatoes at the aspen trees growing around the garden, and of eating the fresh fruit and veggies right off the plants.
We also planted trees. At first they were mostly fruit trees that we’d expect to produce, like a few varieties of apples, chokecherries, cranberries, and whatever would grow in that harsh climate. Over time though that expanded to more challenging trees like plums or more decorative trees that were just for the beauty of being. We got a Swedish Nut Pine, we tried varieties of maple. All of us kids also learned about all the trees in the woods around us. We knew where all the stands of birch were (there weren’t many) and the one little group of balsam fir was a highlight that we built a little trail to. We would climb the jack pines and find the perfect white spruce or black spruce for a Christmas tree. I learned to love trees.
I’ve tried to increase my knowledge of trees over the years, but I haven’t done well. Living in the city with the pressures of jobs and bustle of life it’s hard to keep up with that sort of thing. Last month in BC I went on a few hikes with interpretive signs that taught me a bit more about Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, and Red Cedar. But one tree stood out to me more that anything else: the Arbutus menziesii, commonly known as Arbutus (ar-’byoo-tus). They have a striking bare yellow trunk sometimes covered with curling red to purple bark. They’re a broadleafed evergreen — even in late October there were flowers on some, and bright red fruit on others. They often have twisting gnarled trunks with clusters of leaves at the top. They are a beautiful tree. But they’re often overpowered by the cedar forests they’re growing in. They tend to be here or there on the warm south-facing rocky slopes where the forest isn’t too thick and they have a chance. I never saw forests of Arbutus.
I guess this is a post for my parents, who I thought of a lot as I was searching for these trees. I was thinking they would enjoy planting a small forest of Arbutus. Not that it’s practical or makes any sense at all, but I think they’d like these trees. They seem like they’d be a bit of a challenge to grow, and would pay off in beauty. Maybe they could even get them to grow out in Manitoba, although I’m pretty sure the winter would kill them.
One thing I really wanted to accomplish in BC was to get a photo that did justice to the Arbutus tree. I’m not sure I succeeded, but I gave it a good shot.
This is more of an explanation of yesterday’s post than anything else – mostly because I don’t feel like this is as strong of an image, but it does add a lot of information. Its both proof that we got a fire going when everything was completely soaked, and a view of the lake, showing the contents of yesterday’s picture. The lake is fairly small, and the dark lines you see coming in from the sides are the trees on the other side of the lake, mostly obscured by fog. As all good campers should do, we kept the fire on the beach, where it is well away from our tent (bear safety and “sparks melting the tent” safety) and where there is no fuel around or under it to catch on fire. I wouldn’t advocate making new fires on the beach unless they’re small and you can remove all traces of them, but this was in a well established fire pit.
One slightly disturbing thing about Davis Lake is the amount of trash lying around. We tried to clean up a lot of it, but there was still lots remaining. Please, if you go out in the woods at all, pick up at least a little extra trash and pack it out (I’m assuming no one reading this would actually leave trash behind). If everyone does this, eventually we could all have well travelled and unspoiled woods.
And just because I’m not sure it warrants its own post, I’ll add a picture of my tent taken from the beach.