Its Always Been About The Moment

It has indeed been always about the moment, whether I was shooting film or digital photography.

I remember back in 1983 when I purchased my SLR and a whole new world opened up to me, it was a liberating experience. I began to be aware and see things that had always been there yet, I had not seen. That feeling and experience continues to this day.

Back in the film days there were many ways that an image could be produced and/or manipulated. Now with the invention of Digital, we have many more ways to enhance/manipulate an image, perhaps way more than we need (or want for that matter). The ’science’ is there no matter whether we are talking Film or Digital.

I would like you to step back though, away from the film, the pixels, cameras, chemicals and paper and think about the following… If there was no moment, no spark that formed that idea in your head or no experience that drove you to pick up that camera to take that image, there would be no image.

Which takes me back to my original comment, ‘It’s always been about the moment.’

When I’m out there photographing, when I’m out there experiencing the moment i.e. the realisation of an idea, being on the hunt, interpreting the experience, recognising that moment, that has always been the thing I love the most about photography.

Back in the Darkroom or the Lightroom the process continues to build on that moment, which is necessary to bring the vision to others. That process is of course, important, for without that the photographer’s vision will not be realised.

For me though it’s that joyous moment, where I am one with my camera, an experience I can re-live in my mind at any time. The ‘finished image’ is a mere reproduction of that moment, a moment only, really truly experienced by the photographer…

 

Written by David Johnson
20 August 2016

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Viewing Life

Back in the year 2000, my wife and I were touring around southern NSW and visited (among other places), Yarrangobilly Caves. They are but one of a number of beautiful examples of limestone caves here in Australia.

We received a guided tour that day and apart from the memory of the caves, I remember a conversation I had with the tour guide as he, like me, was into photography for a great part of his life. This was until one day, after a 20 year love affair with the medium, he gave it away, citing that, ‘he was tired of looking at the world through a rectangle…’.

I didn’t think of this again until recently when I began reflecting on my photographic journey. Unlike the tour guide, I have not given up photography (as I will love it till I pass from this world), however I now have other interests as well and these days I am a bit more selective of what I photograph with my DSLR (and at this point I’m refining my ‘Light Inspired’ photography business as well). My phone is with me just about everywhere and images from that end up on Instagram.

Starting my photographic journey in 1982, I too have looked at the world through a rectangle via 35mm and through a square via a medium format camera. When I wasn’t with family, friends or at work, I was involved in photography in some way, shape or form since that time, either photographing, developing, printing, editing, reading about the subject, attending a Camera Club (or two) or judging photography. The ‘other’ interests I speak of are Toastmasters/public speaking (since 2008), drawing/painting (since 2010) and writing/writing poetry (since 2013).

Whereas once I would only be thinking and communicating about the world via photography, I now attempt to do this in a number of ways (depending on how I feel that I want to communicate it) and it is a lot of fun.

Life is about having experiences, fun, creativity, overcoming challenges, helping others, growth and communication.

I now enjoy seeing the world in different ways, not just through a camera. In some ways, I feel like my journey has just begun…

Written by David Johnson
June 2016

A Journey To Personal Style…

I love it when I see an Artist’s creations and they have that much of an impact on me that it changes the way I think about my own.

In this case I’m taking about the latest episode on Colour In Your Life, featuring Sydney Artist, Sandra Blackburne which was aired in Sydney last night, and which I have now watched for the second time.

I would class myself as a ‘Beginner’ in terms of painting as my creative background has been through Photography, over the past 35 years. It started as a bit of a hobby about 5 years ago, though and I only ‘painted when I could fit in it’ as I have had other full-time occupations in that time. In January this year I decided that I would allocate 2-4 hours per weekend to my Oil painting and so far I have only missed out once, and I made sure I doubled the amount the following weekend. 😃

As I watched the episode, taking notes (as I do with each one), quite a few things resonated with me and have given me food for thought, such as:

  • Sandra does a few Plein-Air sketches of the subject she paints rather than photograph the scene. She mentioned that this allows herself to ‘put more of herself’ into the painting rather than be constrained by a photograph
  • Sketching with Colour Gesso is a new technique to me and watching Sandra create, I can see the benefits of doing it
  • The choice of colours which creatively evoke the Australian Landscape
  • The concept of layering paint which helps give the image light and life
  • The colours that were used and the way that they were applied. Sandra said that ‘tightening up when painting’ signals the death of a good painter
  • Using Cobalt Blue on Gum trees to reflect the Blue of the rich Australian sky

My style (if indeed I have one yet) seems to be more to ’try to paint subjects in a pictorial way.’ I remember when I did a basic Drawing course 6 years ago, the teacher said that appeared more a ‘Line Drawer’ than a ’Tone Drawer.’

Part of the challenge for me I guess is that coming from a photographic background, I’m too used to seeing subjects in a pictorial presentation rather than a fluid, abstract way, i.e. when I paint a leaf, a tree, or a building I try to capture all the detail when I don’t need to…

Looking at Sandra Blackburne’s Art I see sheds, trees and other subjects as perhaps ‘how I would remember them after a period of time has elapsed’, rather than as if they are in front of me, right then.

Sometimes I paint from photographs, sometimes from my imagination. I know which is more fun! A bridge between the photograph and the imagination is perhaps a Plein-Air sketch or two, which will then allow me to ‘put more of myself’ into a painting.

Thank you, Sandra Blackburne for your Art and inspiration. I look forward to seeing your Art face-to-face. Thanks also to Graeme Stevenson and to the team from ‘Colour In You Life’ for bringing such Art and inspiration into our Lives!

The journey to find my personal style continues…

 

Written by David Johnson
21 May 2016

 

Links:
https://www.instagram.com/sandrablackburne/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=colour+in+your+life+tv+show

 

 

“Solitary Moments”

This blog post is inspired by a Photography Exhibition I went to today.

The Exhibition featured the images of Chris Donaldson, Frank Alvaro, Ray Finneran, Enrico Scotece and Paul Dorahy, three of whom I have known personally for many years. They specialise in Medium Format Monochrome Film Photography, and develop and print their own images.

“Solitary Moments” for them are those moments when they pre-visualise the idea and image, then spend the time photographing the scene, with the camera on a tripod. It is quite likely that they may only take 1 – 4 images in a day… Their “Solitary Moments” continue in the act of developing the negatives and seeing the finished prints appear ‘like magic’ in the developing tray.

Having experienced the above, I can certainly identify with the “Solitary Moments” they are speaking about.

Shooting Medium Format Film from a tripod-mounted camera slows you down. This helps you get a feel for the scene that you want to photograph i.e. the greater connection you have with the subject the greater chance you have of communicating what you want to say. Here the pre-visualisation continues as you imagine what the final image will look like before you take the photo.

It is later, in the Darkroom that you continue the process to achieve what you set out to communicate initially.

It reminds me of the “Solitary Moments” I have and am experiencing in my aim to become a better writer of Poetry and my fledgling steps of becoming an Oil Painter.

The processes whilst different in terms of the technology used, have some parallels.

I remember on my last trip to Joadja, a historical Shale Mining town in New South Wales, Australia. I took my camera gear and a visual art diary, pens and pencils with me.

These days I shoot digital and whilst the urge was there to do what many do with DSLR’s these days, i.e. shoot a 100 shots and then move on, I decided to sit down and ‘get a feel’ for what was in front of me, absorb the sense of history whilst studying the light and possible compositions.

The pencils came out first and I began to make some rough sketches after walking around the subject. I jotted down in a few words about how I felt and what I was seeing (which later became the poem below). The camera came out next and I again walked around the scene, pausing to take it all in before I started to shoot.

Through The Mists Of Time...

“Solitary Moments” are precious things to experience.

They also come whilst I am fleshing out an idea for a poem, when I sit at my canvas and endeavour to communicate what I feel I want to say, or when I am writing a speech.

I, like the photographers in today’s exhibition are looking forward to many more…

Written by David Johnson
1 May 2016

Exhibition details:

The Bowral Art Gallery – home of the Bowral & District Art Society & BDAS workshops. 1 Short Street, Bowral NSW Australia (02) 4861-4093
April 27 to May 10 Solitary Moments – Chris Donaldson, Ray Finneran, Frank Alvaro, Enrico Scotese and Paul Dorahy.

For more “Solitary Moments” click on the following links:

http://www.chrisdonaldson.com.au
http://www.rayfinneranphotography.com

 

Where Is The Mystery?

When I first started photographing seriously (early 80’s), one of the attractions of photography was the mystery of how one would be able to achieve the image. In this instance I am talking about the technical process rather than the imaginative one that is connected with the idea or desire to portray a subject/emotion.

It was (and remains) a fascinating process. Light entered the camera and exposed the film which then was developed, then printed. There were a number of variables at each stage that could alter the way the image was captured and developed, let alone the printing process in the Darkroom.

To obtain a technically proficient image one had to perfect the techniques required to obtain the best possible image in your negative or positive image.

Fast forward to the Digital world. For some years now (due to the advances in technology, and indeed the Digital format itself), it has never been easier to obtain a ’technically proficient’ image in terms of the basic reproduction of a scene.

On the one hand, this is a positive, as it allows the photographer to concentrate more on the ‘creative’ side of things, knowing that they have the initial in-camera/process taken care of. On the minus-side it has taken away skills, enjoyment and a sense of challenge that many found to be a key part of the photographic process. Learning to choose the appropriate film, exposure, development time etc to gain a negative or positive that would help produce the desired results in printing was the goal.

There was a certain ‘mystery’ connected with the early part of the process i.e. through the processing of film and the effect of light on silver halides through exposure and development (before the darkroom printing stage) which has been lost to a certain degree. Once learnt, those techniques could be applied, but of course that took time…

I am not for one minute saying Digital is a bad thing as the Digital process has brought with it many benefits, one I have already alluded to. I shoot Digital myself.

Of course we do have the wonderful world of image manipulation programmes where we have the choice to alter images with abandon, depending on what we want to achieve. This is a great thing. With all this at our disposal though, sometimes I wonder if the technical aspects of photography have been made too easy?

Even though my passion for photography is as strong as it always has been I have (in the last few years) been slowly getting interested in painting and am currently learning Oil painting. There is certainly a ‘mystery’ there in terms of getting a ’technically proficient’ image.

I cannot just go out and purchase a brush/canvas/paint combination that will give me a technically proficient image. One has to endeavour to learn the skills, practice, make mistakes, learn some more, and repeat the process. (I am aware that I could do ‘Oil’ Painting digitally but that doesn’t hold an interest for me). Once I get better at these skills I will be able to communicate what I want to say, better and in more creative ways.

I love Art and my love for photography will continue throughout my life however my love for painting has increased with each passing year, to a point where I now aiming to allocate a certain amount of time every weekend to painting.

Much like coming up for an idea for a photograph or looking at a scene through a viewfinder, I can look at my blank canvas and proceed to paint an idea or sit outside and interpret a scene.

Ultimately though, what continues to separate individual photographers and individual painters is our imagination and the ability to convey the desired idea through creativity and technical skill.

Harry Callahan, Photographer – 1912 -1999 once said:

“The mystery isn’t in the technique, it’s in each of us…” – More Joy of Photography, Eastman Kodak – 1981

Where is the mystery?

“The mystery is in the learning and application of the technique which we then use via personal expression to creatively communicate our ideas…”

Written by David Johnson
2 April 2016

Profiling Photographers – Barry Moore

I first met Barry Moore via my membership in Toastmasters International. Barry is also a member and previously was the District 70 Toastmasters Official Photographer, and is an accomplished speaker himself. Thank you Barry for participating in this series.

Gear: Canon 5D Mkii, 50D, 400D, EOS-M – various L and non-L lenses from 10mm to 400mm. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30 is my favourite portable camera for bushwalking.

  • Why did you choose Photography as your medium of communication?  

I have always enjoyed the creative process. Snapshots capture a moment in time but can tell a story as well. Landscape’s convey the beauty and isolation of a remote areas as well as the memory of the adventure. I started with an instamatic slide camera, then a TTL 35mm SLR (Hanimex Aka Practika clone). Then an OM1 for ages before the digital revolution. But it’s not the camera or lens. Often it’s that you see the shot or anticipate the shot and then capture it. There almost a sense of a “hunt” for the best shot and then the smile of satisfaction of “nailing” the composition.

  • Which Photographers have been the greatest influences on you & why? 

Ansel Adams and David Moore are great examples – they tell a story with a single image. My current favorite in Ken Duncan. Sheer beauty and the enormous patience to get his compositions right are amazing.

  • What inspires you to create the type of images that you do?                

I want a “wow” or “Ah” when people see my pictures. I love remote areas and it is great to be able to share the image and location with them.

  • What do you think makes your style unique? 

I like all style…. Deep silhouettes and shadows give great depth to an image, so I look for this.

  • Do you have any advice for an aspiring photographer? 

Practice and experiment. Attention to details is paramount. Check the background always and remove all distractions from the image if you can. Get rid of any ‘bad’ photos and try to only show the best. It’s hard to do this though.

  • What is the next big adventure for you, photographically?

I want to do some model photography or street candids. It’s an area I am lacking in.

To explore more of Barry’s creativity, click on the following inks:

http://www.pbase.com/barry_2718

http://www.modelmayhem.com/barry2718