At Eve's Organic Bed and Breakfast in Marathon, Texas. 2010
I'm glad I took a peek at the statistics for the blog site today. Serendipity. This post is the 2,000th post I've made to the site since I began writing it in the middle of 2009. I've been writing about photography and you've been adding your comments at the rate of about one post per day. When I add it all up that means we've spent a lot of time together on the 'ole' world wide web.
Other metrics include just a little shy of 30,000 comments and nearly 18,000,000 page views.
As I glance through the history of the blog I see a few common themes emerging. Probably the most consistent is the idea that the only practical way to get better at taking photographs is to spend more time taking photographs. And, oddly, since the blog seems to be a big time sink, the blog has helped me make more photographs because to my mind the blog is always voracious for visual content.
The second place idea that I write about over and over again is that the type or brand or size of camera you use is hardly ever as important as your vision and your intention and those are developed by spending more hands on time actually taking photographs.
The third idea I've shared is what I think moves work forward and that is experimentation. New subject matter, new points of view, new styles and even new gear.
I've written many time about new equipment, and of old equipment that I still like and use, but nothing seems to resonate with both my viewers and visitors from the greater space outside the blog than the times that I write about or review the Olympus micro four thirds cameras. There is a passion connected with those cameras that seems to transcend all other brands and types. At least as it is represented on my site. The review of the lowly (but very capable) EPL-2 is still the most popular equipment review article I've penned for the blog. I'd be interested to know what makes us all so passionate about this particular line of camera other than the fact that it represents a sea change from the status quo.
I've written a number of times about shooting etiquette both in the streets and at corporate functions and the article I wrote about asking permission still sits on the "top five" list of all articles. A short version: Don't be a dick. Don't make people uncomfortable. Fit in. Blend in. And get the subject's real, tacit or implied approval to make their photograph.
It probably seems that I've got the attention span of a fruit fly when it comes to acquiring and changing camera systems but that ties into my belief that you acclimate to the constant change in culture and even around your own sphere of existence by embracing change and discovering what it has to offer. It may be that the popularity of the new, mirror free cameras is directly connected to the fact that they push one to make images in a different way, and that each camera pushes you to overcome it's liabilities or limitations by putting you in touch with your own creativity. That creativity depends to some extent on a catalyst to bring it into action....
We've shared a lot together. I've brought you along on my honest journey through the depths of the recession which was an extreme trial for self employed creative people. And I've welcomed you along on the the story of our ongoing recovery and reinvention as a result of that economic downturn. And many of you have buoyed up my spirits with off line notes of encouragement and support that went a long way to keeping me calm and focused on maintaining my vision and intentions for photography through that tough time.
You read patiently through the noisy launch of five different photography "how to" books that Amherst Media published for me and you are currently and patiently waiting (I think) for me to get over my joyous enthusiasm over having completed my first novel.
The image at the top is a signifier for me personally. I took it in 2010. Work was sparse and the income from books was most welcome. At that juncture a very large publisher wanted to have me write and to have them publish a dream book for any photographer. It would be a book about going on a road trip and making art. The problem was that the contract was quite a bit one sided. I'm sure the publisher felt like the book was such an opportunity for a freelancer that no one in their right mind would turn down okay money+the chance to do this book but their negotiating hubris stuck in my craw and, after weeks of very one sided negotiations I finally told them to take a hike. I stuck to my guns. I did not do the book.
But I did take the road trip. I looked at my business checking account and took out $400 for ten days on the road. That left precious little operating capital in the account at the time. Scary little. I cared but I didn't care. I figured that I'd figure it out. I took the cash and my Honda Element and several Olympus EP2 cameras and I hit the road for West Texas. Just to see what it would look like photographed.
Most of the time I camped out under the stars or, when the temperature dropped, in the back of my jaunty Honda Element. I shot whatever the heck I wanted on whatever schedule I wanted and when I finally got bored I packed it in and headed home. But the image above is one that I've always enjoyed looking at from that shoot. The richness of the color. The ability to see and make square images in the camera. The discovery of something different and new. And finally, just the rich color contrasts that still please my eyes. Done with a m4:3, twelve megapixel sensor camera with a "tiny?" sensor. For my own enjoyment. And that's the basic and enduring message of the Visual Science Blog. It's this: Forget about what people did in the "good old days." Forget the rules as learned by unchanging techno-weenies. Forget the subject matter that gets the most "likes."
Shoot for the fun of it. Shoot for your own self-discovery. Shoot for the glory of having seen something unique and having savored it well. Sharing images is over sold. Make the images as extensions of your own fragile memory. Let them be your personal touchstones and prods to memory of stuff well seen. Fifty years from now pull a photo up on your screen and remember what if felt like to be fifty years younger---maybe in love---maybe lonely and on your own---maybe surrounded by family. Let the images you take be your enduring guides to your own vision and your own past and leave it at that.
The one favor I ask all my friends is this: Please resist the temptation to show me your work on the screen of a phone. I'm 58, the screen is too small. Either share that image large or enjoy it on your own. I'm not looking for more excuses to pull the reading glasses out of my cardigan sweater, I'm too busy yelling at those damn kids to get off my lawn!
Finally, I have two things to ask of you. Especially if you enjoy reading the blog. (Maybe only if you enjoy reading the blog...) : First, it's always nice to see the numbers grow in the followers box on the home page. Sign up if you can. If you can't do it that's okay---you are still most welcome here. And, secondly, I'd really appreciate you taking a chance and spending the $9.99 to buy the novel I took a long time to write. Some of you already have and I appreciate that you were early adapters and also took a leap of faith to click on the "buy this book" tab at Amazon.com. I'm so appreciative of the great reviews the book is getting. I'm grateful for the feedback from early readers----please note that we jumped right back in and made numerous corrections you suggested which made the book even better. But so far only a small (tiny) handful of VSL's thousands of daily readers have taken the plunge with the book.
I'd love to have your support for the book. Buy it. Read it. If you hate it, return it for a refund (if you must). But give it a shot. You may find that you like my fiction much more than you like my daily posts.
Thanks for reading through the 2,000 blog posts I've put up over the years. I don't plan to stop any time soon. We're in a new photo industry transition and I get the feeling there's still a lot to write about. It's going to get even more interesting. Keep your lens clean, don't keep cleaning your lens. Get out there and shoot.