Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I don't know about you, but when actually start to study a topic I already know something about, I often see the baby flying out in a large splash of bathwater before I pull it back in. Or less terribly-worded, I jump into the new ideas, ignoring what I already know, but eventually find the right combination of new and old experience.

Politics - what's the old saying? You're a democrat until the government takes your money, and then you go republican. I'd like to think that as we become more exposed to life, the intelligent among us start to see the subtleties and realities that we missed in our younger rose-coloured days. We find what we're passionate about, or what makes sense to us, and follow that path. Some eschew all materialism and build a cabin the woods to live off the land while giving all their possessions to an orphanage. Others become birthers who move to a cabin in the woods afraid the gubmint is gonna take their teeth. Most find a happy medium where they develop an opinion about stuff and continue on with their daily lives, adjusting as needed.

Poker? Read Harrington, or Negreanu, go through a thread on a forum about small ball, and our game changes overnight. Suddenly we're playing crap for small bets or checking M constantly to determine if our JTo is push-worthy. Inevitably, sticking "to the book" results in being very easy to read and control. Good players adapt and find some combination of lessons that fits their situation. Changing gears and all that.

We read about someone who took their own path and found a life model that made them rich and successful. Suddenly, what they did is what we're going to do, with no consideration for the differences in our situations. You can't invent a second pet rock and expect it to sell as well as the first.

No, eventually the excitement of our "discovery" of new methodologies wanes, and our old practices start to reassert themselves. These former rivals often find a means of melding into a new outlook that often works better, for us, than either did by themselves.

I'm slowly coming to that stage in photography. I find I'm swinging wildly between old habits and new lessons. I long ago started filtering the information being fed to me through a screen of care/don't care, but now I'm starting to see what's left behind.

We covered portraits a few weeks back, something I've never really done. I learned something - I hate portraits. I can't help but think that a couple pieces of advice from the teacher might have changed that mindset a bit. Even so, posing someone, checking lighting while the subject is in flux, and trying to make a living, breathing, feeling person look good is a collection of things I don't like. If you take a bad picture of a landscape, the landscape isn't going to care, and it will still be where you left it. The whole class was me trying to apply the various points of instruction from the previous week. I was a bit stressed, and fairly unhappy by the end. I looked at the hundreds of shots I took during that session, and was glad I only had to find 5-10, since I dislike most of them. I had applied none of the things I've learned in the past, and my shots look like those of a raw newbie. I'll see what I can fix in post.

But then we did black and white photography - another area I have zero experience in. This time, I had much more fun. I can look back and see various reasons - subjects that don't move or care what their picture looks like, more real-time advice from the instructor, and a bit more comfort in the studio after the portraiture session. But I think the key change was me tossing aside some of the opinions that had been pressed on us and going with what I knew. My tripod was out early and my camera stayed on it. My Promote Control was attached and I was bracketing shots for HDR use later. I switched between prime and zoom lenses as needed (although I pretty much stuck with my macro by the end). I went back into a comfort zone I've known for years and found the right amount of new education to bring in. Looking through the, again, hundreds of images from that session, I loved most of them. I'm in the process of whittling down the count to a displayable number, some HDR, some not.

I think my favourite part of that session was when the teacher was talking to my group towards the end. I had my camera 6ft in the air on the tripod, control in my hand, and I fired off 9 bracketed shots. The "what the hell is he doing?" look crossed the teacher's face, which one of my partners graciously responded to with "HDR" in a tone that said, "he's been doing this all class." El instructo thought for a second, said, "Black and white HDR?" thought some more, and then said "That could be really interesting."

Considering HDR is all about light and texture, the same areas that B&W focuses on, I had thought the same thing.

Favourite shot from the session so far:


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