Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My life slipped into the same old routine. Lack of structure had been my lifestyle up until the heart attack. I had to put some structure into it, or I would have never gotten out of bed. So I had developed the walk, eat, nap, routine. That along with my Internet and photography hobbies occupied my time as well as gave me some purpose.

I began looking for ways to merge them all into one daily life plan, even before I signed the final papers. After that happened, on the first Friday morning after the decision to push me from the plane, I decided that I really needed some structure, Structure wasn't the real problem, as much as structure that would allow for some wide variations. How to make the structure flexible enough was going to be the issue.

First of all I needed to walk early so that I didn't wind up eating all day long, Anywhere from two to three miles seemed like a reasonable distance for my mild exercise routine. I could take a camera with me to shoot images along the way but cameras were bulky. Well good cameras were bulky. I couldn't see wasting my money, or time on new cameras. Nothing about them would benefit me, at the moment. The 35mm camera with the big lens would do what I wanted to do at that moment.

So photography while I walked, didn't seem feasible, Random photography didn't seem all that interesting. Even if I could develop an interest, there was the issue of shot selection. To my way of thinking shot selection and composition were everything. I just wasn't good enough to know in advance where to look for the shot. Again random selection was almost impossible from the driver's seat of a car.

The problem wasn't solved the day after I got pushed from the plane, but things did change, It most likely was because I found a ton of things to shoot in one place, I also found out that I didn't like how I looked doing it. Now that sounds vain, but it really isn't.

After my walk and my bowl of cereal, I went for a drive to buy some plants for the yard of the duplex. The place did look awful, and I sure as hell wasn't going to hire a landscaper. On the way to the home improvement store I passed the city museum. I got caught in a line of cars waiting to turn into the parking lot. Naturally I looked to see what the attraction was. In the parking lot someone had strung a banner up between two posts in the homestead village. The homestead village actually was more of a colonial civil war era village with only three buildings.

The banner proclaimed that a civil war reenactment was on the way. In fact it was already there. The idea didn't strike me till I got home. I could either dig holes for rose bushes, or I could go shoot pictures of the civil war re enactors. Guess what won.

"Hello," I said to a middle aged man in a gray uniform.

"Hello," he replied.

"Is it okay If I make picture?"

"Sure, on you way out pick up an event calendar." he pointed to a table set up by the entrance, I had stepped over the low wall, so I missed the table on the way in.

"Thanks, I'll do that." Most of the displays were about civil war medical equipment and techniques. I shot a whole roll of film. I wasn't as careful as I should have been. I only found that out when I had the negatives developed. A one hour lab did that for me on the way home.

That night after supper I scanned them into the computer. There were some very interesting shots but something seemed a little odd about them. After about ten negatives I had one that just wouldn't behave so I turned it black and white, then sepia. That is when I realized what was missing in the sort, actually what was there that shouldn't have been. The images were of a time before color photography. At the infancy of photography itself. I was taking 19th century subjects with 20th century equipment, Even worse was the man who slipped into one of my images. He was staring at the LCD display of a digital camera. It just didn't seem right to me.

That's when I realized how I must have looked. Standing in my 21st century clothing, holding a big hunk of titanium in order to shoot an image on a piece of only slight outdated film. It was just ludicrous. I finished scanning the images then went on line to look at cameras. I actually found several forums but none dedicated to antique photography. For that I got my information from google directed searches.

The one thing I realized very quickly was that reproducing the image in the style of the times was going to be way too much trouble. Not only would it be costly but there would be an enormous amount of crap involved. There was a man who had been able to duplicate the look with modern techniques, but I saw a picture of him holding a Nikon camera. He would stand out like a sore thumb at a reenactment. Which meant he could never be allowed near the actual battle reenactment. Even if I couldn't do that, looking the part would be a great sales tool. I had not figured out what to sell, but I was already thinking in terms of how to market it.

I knew that it was a long time between those reenactments, so I needed something else to do with all my time. A couple of day later. I was back to the basic issues. If I wanted to make pictures on more than one weekend a month, I needed a better was to find my shots.

The first thing I had to do was to convince myself that mundane subjects were worthy of wasting my time and film. So I kept my eyes open while I drove through my own neighborhood. I wasn't really looking for a shot when I found it. I was just waiting for the cars to pass a stop sign when I noticed the crumbling birdbath, in the yard of a deserted house. I swung around the block in order to get back to the house. I got out and made half a dozen shots of the birdbath then finished the roll on the house itself.

When I got the negatives scanned, I was very pleased with the composition. I worked most of that evening trying several different effects, then several combinations of those effects. In the end I had what I thought was a pretty good image, I posted it on a critique forum and waited, I arranged a simple yes or no up or down vote. The image got 75% yes votes. Some images on the page scored much higher but many scored much lower. A few people left comments and some of them were pretty harsh, but I took them all into consideration.

In the end I felt like the lesson learning was that there were thing all over worth shooting. I just had to slow down to see them. Then it became a matter of how to slow down, while still maintaining my structure.

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