Recently I declined an invitation to go camping and to shoot in Joshua Tree National Park.
That got me wondering.
When I first picked up a camera while working in the airlines, those were the only kinds of pictures I made.
Back then I was a cabin attendant so I worked on the plane.
Except on the return trip, whenever I got off work, I could count on being some place other than my home base, Singapore, so I always had places to explore with my camera.
I suppose I could have just bought postcards, but how much fun was that?
So why the change in heart?
Every photographer/artist needs to feel challenged so they can push themselves to be better.
I’m no different.
I seldom go out of my way to shoot scenics and places, not because I’ve mastered them and I can’t get better.
Please don’t misunderstand me.
Over time, I realized doing landscapes and scenics well requires a lot of planning and commitment in terms of time.
You have to plan on being on location when the light is perfect.
Furthermore, if you’re traveling with a family in tow, I’m sure you must have heard these:
“Come on Dad, how many pictures do you need of the seagulls?”
“Dad, you want us to be up at what time because the light is just right?”
Finally, I don’t favor scenics and places as much anymore because cameras are so ubiquitous and do such a great job for anyone.
The popularity of the iPhone speaks for itself in this regard.
Doesn’t the artist in all of us like to think we are always creating an original work of art?
It wasn’t till much later after I got the hang of my camera that I started pointing my camera at people.
But I didn’t exactly confront my subject or accost them right away.
I would approach them as if I were a carnivore stalking my prey.
That approach, as I found out later, doesn’t work so well.
I was already very at ease with accosting strangers thanks to my stint as a cabin attendant.
It made a lot of sense for me to combine the two skills.
What I didn’t know was how to light.
Learning to light didn’t come till many years later after I started shooting color transparencies.
Most photographers graduate to portraiture very naturally after they gain mastery of their camera handling techniques.
One of my former students confided this to me recently.
I had said that eventually she would outgrow the landscape, not to the point that she won’t shoot them entirely, but she will favor other more challenging subjects.
It amuses now how adamant she was about only doing landscapes at the time.
When I ran into her recently, she pointed out my prediction was correct.
Next time: Interesting cases