Missing the Point of Living

We’ve become a visual lot with our media—social and otherwise.

Lately I’ve thought about how, before the advent of photography, we humans managed to appreciate the beauty of life. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that there are certain places too vast and human experiences too fraught with emotion to make capturing them photographically pale when compared to the feeling inspired by living the moment.

The lack of tools needed to capture one’s likeness might have left the more self-absorbed feeling impotent unless wealth afforded them the ability to hire a portraitist.

Conversely, those less fortunate or living in rural places, set apart from civilization excepting the occasional itinerant salesman or traveler, probably owned few instruments of self-indulgence such as these; forced instead to focus upon things without.

I envision a homesteader spending a lifetime tending to land, animals and family, who when rare opportunity to break arose, did not pause to consider looks for his own sake. Rather others may have insisted that he or she gather the instruments of grooming and couture for the purpose of looking the part by which they would be judged.

I take photos. Lots and lots of them. Several recent changes have become apparent to me when I am holding a camera.

Though I work hard to remain discreet it’s intensely difficult to capture candid photos. The instant people notice me, they pose. Worse, they give me that kissy-faced selfie expression that only works for Betty Boop.

Notably, it has become implausible to capture a photo of any group of people wherein at least one person is not fixated on his or her phone rather than upon the people and happenings that surround them.

If I shoot using my phone, no one cares, few people notice and no one asks on what website the pictures will appear.

I enjoy watching people even if through a lens. Lately, I’m just less sure of exactly what I am seeing.

Children possess an innocence that I most love to capture.  I lament that even those as young as one year old understand that the phone with its camera is the object for which they need to “act” and they, encouraged by well-meaning parents, respond by becoming an actor in its presence.

If there are children present in a public space, regardless of whether I say I am an amateur or professional photographer (and I have chosen to say one or the other depending upon the occasion) I get asked who I am and my purpose for taking photos. I don’t have to respond at all though I usually do. In public spaces, a person has no “expected right to privacy;” on the whole people seem to think that they do. This despite that they are likely being recorded whether I choose to press the shutter button or not.

Maybe the answer is in the words. By “taking photos” maybe people have come to believe that I am “taking” a part which inherently belongs to them. Still, I react with sadness when people become suspicious of my intentions. These are often the same ones who load their social media with photos of their children, friends, co-workers, the places they frequent, the insides of their homes, schools, places of work, worship and recreation.

I love photographing people at public events but I also make time to put down the lens and live in the moment.

Going One Better than Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow

You may have noticed that in an effort to avoid writing extended diatribes without an occasional break for the eyeballs, I make it a point to place an original photo or block cartoon every so often in each post. I generally avoid stock photos because (a) the really good ones require that I part with cash, (b) the really good ones show up frequently on the web already, and (c) they thwart my imagination.

But supplying original photos and drawing cartoons taxes both my time and my so-called artistic abilities. While I have an eye for design, writing is sort of the point of it all. At least I think so anyway. But one little piece of advice that has helped me more times than I can count is less of the garden variety “Don’t eat the yellow snow,” or “don’t run with scissors” sort.

It came from a professional photographer who taught a free, one-hour class offered by a camera shop to all customers upon the purchase of any new camera. Everyone in my class had some form of a digital camera from point and shoot to DSLR. His advice was two-part: never look at the photos you have taken as you take them, and never delete any photos from the disk…not ever. Buy a new disk he said.

card and a penny

He said, and I wholeheartedly agree, that you cannot really tell what you have or have not captured in your photo until you see it on the big screen (no matter how good your eyesight is.) More importantly, you may well miss the perfect opportunity to take a once in a lifetime photo because you were busy looking into your tiny viewer. You cannot change whether you got the shot you’d hoped for or not, so he said just keep taking photos. Save the review for later.

The second part of the advice requires a little math so stick with me on this one. This is how I understood what he said and may or may not be the perfect description of what really happens on a little photo card.

Never delete photos. Pretend the little trash can icon doesn’t exist. “But it’s blurry,” or “She blinked,” you might say. Still, don’t delete anything. Here’s the math part, but I’ll do my best to keep it calculator free for you (okay… it’s really for me.)

Suppose you take five photos in a row, each exactly 1000 MB in size. They are stored sequentially on the card in one long string totaling 5000 MB. You then decide to delete pictures 2 and 4, leaving two gaps of 1000 MB each. You proceed to take three more photos. The first is 1200 MB and the next two are 1300 MB each. The first 1000 MB of the first picture starts being stored in open space left from picture 2 that you deleted, but because it’s 1200 MB, it won’t fit in Space #2, so the remaining 200 MB get stored in Space #4, leaving 800 MB leftover from the original 1000 MB there. Okay breathe.

Next, the camera tries to store the 1300 MB photo, 800 MB of which fits into the remaining space left from the deletion of Picture #4, and the last 500 MB gets tagged on the end after Picture #5. Finally the third photo of 1300 MB saves to the very end. Multiple deletions and insertions can quickly cause “broken” photos which in turn can corrupt the card. A corrupt card means that your photos are gone, probably forever. Don’t let that happen.

Back up your photos to the Cloud or your computer in case the card becomes damaged or lost. Store the card when it becomes full, and start with a new one. Currently I’m working on a 4GB card and have well over 5000 photos, and it’s still not full. Your results may vary.