By Steve Kuss
I recently discovered I am in a class of photographers referred to as “serious amateurs”. Somehow, I guess that is to distinguish us from “casual shooters”, you know, the “flip phone people”. Call me what you want, but I hope I never get to be too “serious”, and I’d recommend that if you are one of those trying to improve your photographic skills, that you don’t get overly serious about it either. Never forget, that most hobbies, even “serious hobbies”, are really about “play” – having some fun. No one wants to call it that of course. It gets veiled by the serious terms “creative”, “artistic” or “fine art” photography. Nonsense. Get out there and play.
It is awfully easy to get caught up in the technical, constantly trying to improve sharpness, exposure, composition and the like, sometimes forgetting that onlookers, first and foremost, want to see what you took a picture “OF”. People look first at the subject, content, topic or whatever the serious photographers want to call it. The beauty of photography is that it can be an image of anything. Colorful swirls, blobs and blurs are all fair game. The photography world is full of images that are sharp, soft focus, blurry messes, and indistinguishable splotches, all of which are “oohed and aahed” by viewers. You cannot tell me that some, if not a lot of them weren’t created in a fit of playfulness.
I’ve shot some odd ball stuff over the years, a few of which are included here. Many of these have been well accepted, usually as what I like to call “crowd pleasers”. People like them, remember them, but they don’t usually win contests. They aren’t “serious” fine art masterpieces of photography. But…they were fun to make, they’re fun to look at, and I’m just fine with the idea that they may be remembered that way – as fun images.
Don’t forget that photography is pretty much the only hobby that can be combined with any and all other hobbies. You can take photos of any activity or endeavor you can imagine. Sports, model building, collections, quilting or other crafts are all possible subjects. Photographs of traditional artistic works such as paintings and sculptures can take on new meaning when converted to the digital realm, images that can then be permanently preserved. When I say “permanent”, I am assuming that you keep good backups of your photos, but that is a subject for another time!
Recently the Cookeville Camera Club got together for an evening to practice shooting what is known as “macro photography”. There are various definitions-people love to fight over what is or isn’t a macro shot, but suffice it to say, it’s looking at things close-up and personal.
The members brought in all manner of objects-flowers, jewelry, train models, fruit, antiques, circuit boards, toys, candles, water, oil and food coloring, and that’s just a small sample. There were all sorts of cameras used-old, very old, current models, and, yes, cell phones. Techniques ranged from handheld, run-and-gun to the most sophisticated of tripods, light tents, and support structures. There was endless sharing of ideas, technical talk, hand waving whatchamacallit talk, laughter, and generally just a “good time was had by all”. At the end of the evening, most everyone made the images that at least approximated what they set out to do, and many discovered something new and unexpected. Not too many contest winners were shot, but I’m not sure anyone cared. After all, we were just playing anyway.