Photography, A Game of Chance


There’s a light rain, I’m walking around this still pond, looking. I notice a beautiful reflection of a tree against a very interesting variegated gray sky. I set up my camera, then I focus, set the exposure and before I can click the shutter, a bunch of loud squawking Canadian geese plop down and swim into my frame — completely destroying the reflection. I know my shutter speed is too slow to stop the action of the geese or the ripples they create in the water. I expose a few frames anyway to see what I get.

One of the frames is the above photo, probably my best image of the morning. I normally exert more control over creating my images; but even when I’ve accounted for light, composition, lens opening, and shutter speed, there’s always an element of chance for me with photography. I never really know how it will all turn out.

I expect with other art forms, the artist has more control from beginning to end because they’re not dependent on nature and pieces of machinery to create their art. They can always paint over what they don’t like in their painting, rewrite what they don’t like, but with photography you’re stuck with the image you’ve captured. Nowadays with Photoshop you can do a lot more to change your original image to your liking, making it more like painting, but I don’t like to work that way. I like sticking to what I’ve captured.

I try to choose a location I think will have what I want to photograph. I try to go when I think the light will be good and I try to have the right equipment with me to properly capture what I want to capture. The rest is up to nature and she has her own desires. The light can change. The weather can change. I may initially curse the changes but it just creates more chances to see things creatively.

Then there’s the equipment. When I was shooting film, no matter how much I used a particular emulsion, I never really knew how the color would turn out. Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised and sometimes horrified. I remember photographing 4×5 images of some rocks with a nice subtle green lichen. I was shooting Astia. In the resulting transparencies there was no green at all in the lichens, but a pasty yellow.

One reason I love digital capture is the incredible accuracy of the color. However with looking through a little viewfinder, composing and determining depth of field, I’m never really sure how the image will turn out. Even when the images looks good on my monitor, I always have to make a print to really judge it.

In general, I’m not a gambling man, but with photography I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love looking at a day’s shoot on the computer and seeing what turned out and what didn’t. Taking photographs is always an adventure with me and the fact that I rely somewhat on chance or luck keeps me humble. I’m always more open and creative when I’m not overly sure of my self.

The photograph below was taken in a little creek. I photographed it with a shutter speed that I knew would give me a little blur. I have a number of different captures of it, some with blurs of bubbles moving by and some that are pretty sharp. This one really spoke to me.

There are times I’ve tried similar things and I ended up with just a blurry mess. Such is photography for me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

~ by danbaumbach on May 9, 2015.

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