“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera”
As this is a book based round a sequence of lesson chapters, the best place to begin is at the beginning. So the first steps are designed to get us into the habit of using the camera every day, throughout the day, and snapping anything and everything that catches our eye. The mobile phone is ideal for this, as it tends to be the piece of technology that accompanies us everywhere. I know how important this step is if you are going to become a photographer of whatever kind, and not just a casual holiday snapper. As I am past this stage I expected to ignore this step and move on. But as I read through the suggested process of viewing the daily ‘contact sheet’ and winnowing out the shots it jogged my memory, so I paused.
Back in 2012 my early struggles were with the Nikon D80, and I was failing and floundering as I couldn’t get to grips with the onboard computer and get the camera to do what I wanted to do. I barely understood the presets! Then Sony launched the RX100, and my world was transformed. I had a pocket camera with all the power of the Nikon, and I could take it everywhere and shoot quickly and inconspicuously. An added bonus was that I understood the onboard computer and could alter the settings, and use it as so much more than an expensive point-and-shoot. And what did I do when it finally arrived? I spent days and weeks just shooting everything that caught my eye! That sounds so like what David Ulrich was suggesting … so I dug out the archive of 2012 and looked at the shots I took through the first few days. As I looked I started to smile – as David suggested: “You want to look for recurring themes and core forms and shapes that appear and reappear. Study how you use colour and form…”
As I shot I was absorbed in learning the camera, its settings and what it could do. But unconsciously I was also gravitating to shapes, forms, colour and light that I recognise as being integral to my photoshoots today! I have picked out just a few, mainly from the narrow window of September 19th-22nd, just when the camera arrived.
Looking closely at the everyday and the familiar, I am still shooting cutlery, door knobs, angles and corners, toast racks, egg cups ….. the list goes on! I use a range of lenses, and a range of lighting effects – but the roots are here with the RX100 in 2012.
The primary use of my now old RX100 is still to shoot the ever changing and ever constant landscape. As a passenger I can take my ‘drive-by’ shots out of the car window or through the windscreen (as here). Shooting at speed and sticking the camera out of the passenger side window I have to shoot blind, as the LED screen is not readable.
And shooting the world around me through the changing seasons is another ongoing and abiding theme of my photographic store!
I guess this is my major obsession: “it’s all about the light”. The natural light in all its manifestations, and then “added light” especially when shooting indoors. Shadows emerge with the play of light, and help define in 3-D the world we see. I’ve written about shadows and lighting here as I studied it first when learning to draw.
Another major part of my own love of photography is studying or discovering shapes and forms. Sometimes subjects can become almost abstract, and morph into shapes, colours and lines. With the telegraph pole here I was drawn first by the evening sun lighting the pole, then looking closer I enjoyed the loops of wires – the interplay of curved and straight lines. With the bar stools at the kitchen breakfast bar it was the circular shapes of the seats and the bases, then the reflections in the shiny bases. Finally the slight diagonal of the tabletop cutting through everything made me think and see more abstractly.
Returning to the beginning of my own journey through the lens of my RX100 I find that the themes and interests of today were already showing as I tested out my new camera.
Maybe I should have made this the first paragraph of this section, and not the last!
The main and most important thing about this whole idea of ‘daily practice’ is that it is entirely for you – for your eyes only! It is private, and not to be judged or assessed by any external criteria. It’s not something you are going to publish online or any other way. OK, you might select some shots and do just that – but your ‘daily practice’ ideas and shots are like a private journal – kept under lock and key ;o)
The shots that I have used on this page are just like that – this is the first time they’ve seen the light of day since 2012. I stress this as I post a lot of online shots, on Flickr. Like every other user of an online photography site, I am aware that what I post is being offered for public scrutiny and comment. And that does influence you (and me) and affect how we judge our own work!
Nowadays I don’t snap as many ‘random’ shots as I used to – but I do keep private folders, themes and ideas that interest me and that I will probably develop at some point. I don’t want to feel that there is a ‘judge’ looking over my shoulder and stifling the creativity that I want to find!