While my Main Page or my 500px page represent the stylish and lustrous frontispieces for Generator Photography, I am here to remind you that my facebook page and my flickr page are the beating heart of what I do. I hope that you have “liked” my facebook page and are following my flickr page. I try to update those often, daily if possible.
And, if you have been following my facebook and flickr pages recently, you know that I’ve been posting a lot of my pictures from my trip from the Peace Garden State, North Dakota.
I was only there a week in late June, but even after being home for several weeks, I find I’m still going through whole swaths of files that need attention.
That said, I really didn’t take that many pictures. Well, let me explain.
I actually took about 1,000 shots over those seven days, but really only brought home 500 or so. One trick I have started doing, and it really worked on this trip, was deleting on the fly. At the end of each day, I would just spend 15-20 minutes going through the pics in camera, and deleting the ones I just knew would go nowhere. Or were obviously out of focus, or spent time culling a group of many similar shots. This has really helped in post-processing.
This is also very different from how I used to work. When you get some spare time, browse my flickr photostream and go back and see some of my earlier sets, like the photowalks I did around Norwich, UK, in March and April of 2009, or Industrial Road here in Vegas. The Norwich shots alone are about 500 per set. There are 104 pictures in the Industrial Road set, and that was only about a two hour walk. I used to take a lot more pictures.
This comes from the fact that, at my heart, I had long considered myself more of a documentarian rather than a “Photographer”™ (“P” capitalized, obviously). The Norwich sets especially are more about documenting that city before I left rather than getting one or two really killer shots. However, there are three things that have chipped away at those old work habits.
First, I have changed how I see what I do. Instead of documenting one place with dozens of average shots, I am striving to really produce one or two killer shots. More and more I am asking myself, “Why? Why am I pressing the shutter?” And, if I can’t really answer that, then I don’t take the shot. Or, maybe the light isn’t right. Or, maybe the background is horrible. Thinking through what I’m doing has slowed me down tremendously.
Take this shot, for instance. There is a house, a church, a boat, an American Flag. Many years ago, I would have needed to take one shot of each one of those elements for me to really be comfortable. Yes, part of that has to do with my obsessive compulsion for order and efficacy. But now, I am able to just slow down and really try to frame a shot correctly. My father always said, “Work smarter, not harder.” It’s a great rule that definitely can be applied to photography.
But, it also leads into the second idea; I have simply become a better photographer. This speaks to the idea that composing a picture well takes a certain degree of skill, which is only developed with practice over time. Henri Cartier-Bresson famously said, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” For me, that benchmark was reached a while ago. Which doesn’t mean you automatically become a “good” photographer after your first 10,000 pics, you just suck less. I definitely suck less than I used to.
I wonder, though, if that figure should be adjusted for the digital age? Your first 1,000,000 shots are your worst? Something like that.
Third, I am working with Raw files instead of .jpeg. For you non-techies out there, this simply has to do with the type of file I use to take the picture. There is a whole ocean of technical drama I could dive into with this statement, but I won’t for now. Just imagine that I’ve gone from drawing with crayons to painting in oils. Now understand, I’ve seen some absolutely gorgeous pictures with crayons, and a lot (a LOT!) of absolute crap paintings done in oil. So, that isn’t a diss against one method over the other, it’s just a factual statement that one method can intrinsically be more time-consuming than another.
So, I’m sure I would do those photowalks much differently now. I’m sure I would take fewer pictures, but with a much higher “accuracy” rate. Meaning, I would hit what I was aiming for a lot more.
But then again, there is something to be said for having fun, and really not worrying about “missed” shots. It is, for me, the single biggest advantage of the digital photograph age, the ability to just shoot with an almost carefree attitude. You pay for one roll of film that has a finite amount of shots on it. Or, you pay for one memory card that you can fill up, erase, and fill up again and again. Why not take advantage of that?
Here’s to fun. And trying to suck less.