Merry Christmas! Five wonderful things photography provides that don't have anything to do with the "magical powers" of any specific camera or lens.

Stand-offish guy. 

Happy guy with his mom.


 1. Making photographs of the people you love and the times you enjoy gives you the happy power to revisit those moments and enjoy them all over again. The superpower of photography is being able to stop time. To remember how things were at a specific moment in time. When people go on vacations it's rare that they photograph naked landmarks. They almost always include a loved one in the shot; nearly always front and center, because it's being in that place with that person you care about which, for most people, makes the moment great. 

2. Cameras are momentum machines. If you really, really enjoy taking photographs as a hobby or happy obsession then you usually find yourself looking for excuses to get out into the world to look for and to make the kinds of photographs that make you feel good, competent, skilled, insightful. Without a camera tugging you along you might give in to entropy and stay home checking out the latest "interesting" news on some screen in some warm corner of your house. Your camera seems to provide that extra boost that gets you out of the "floatie" chairs and out into the mix. Thank your camera for helping to ward off agoraphobia. Even if you don't come home with any great images....

3. Tools for augmented socialization. Cameras, and the intention to photograph, can be ice breakers. A reason to photograph someone doing something interesting. For instance, I often come across people painting murals. I love to photograph the people at work on their painting. I don't need to ask permission to make the photos but I ask anyway because I want to know more about the painter. About their motivation. About their message. They, in turn, seem happy that someone is interested and that someone cares. This sparks conversation and that's part of the rich fabric of curiosity and discovery. But it mostly starts for me with having a reason to be there and a reason to ask questions. 

4. Camaraderie. Shared interests are good social glue. When we get together at camera clubs, ASMP meetings, at planned coffees or chance encounters two photographers identify each other because of the camera worn over the shoulder or strapped across a chest. The cameras instantly confer "permission" to break the stranger silence and at least greet each other. Many times, when I am out and about with a camera another photographer will use my camera as a starting point to strike up a conversation, which turns into that person being a familiar sight out on the street, which turns into a fun acquaintance who turns into a friend. 

I met one person who is much younger than me at a coffee shop. She asked me about my camera. I asked her about her interest in photography. We traded Instagram info. We had the chance to see each other's photos. I ended up making portraits of her and we are now cross generational friends. She enjoyed learning about lighting as I was having great fun taking her portrait. 

I gave a lecture once about off camera lighting. It was at a book store. Afterwards I was approached by a person who spontaneously interviewed me. We've been friends ever since. We go out for Tex-Mex lunches and talk about all manner of things beyond just cameras and lenses. It's fun and a good cure for isolation. 

But mostly, the shared experiences of photography work to provide  common ground between people who enjoy the hobby/art/practice. When photographers come through Austin they call and we have lunch. Some people can be a chore but the vast, vast majority of photographers are fun to hang out with and often I learn something new. Maybe not just about photography but about whatever their other interests are. 

Photo connected friends seem to stick around for the long haul. There is a cross connectedness that's hard to explain. But it keeps us coming back and catching up over and over again. 

5. The feeling of mastery is empowering. Once we master something we get two things: A push to keep pushing and keep mastering different aspects of our passion/hobby/profession. And an increasing confidence in everything related. Mastering composition might push us to learn more about art. About painting and sculpture. If we are of a certain mindset of which story telling is important then allegorical photography might push us to read different literature or investigate uses of photographs for narrative projects. For instance, after seeing the work of Duane Michals I became much more interested in multi-image takes. Staying with a scene and making a progression of images that transmit an idea. Now I get into personal projects with the idea of progression, culmination and some sort of reveal. 

By writing a blog about photography, cameras and life I got better ( or at least faster) at my writing. My interest in photography propelled that part of my brain to do better. The payoff has been a wider audience of friends and an ability to lay out in words what I used to be constrained to only showing in pictures. 

Photography adds an extra measure of purpose for me. If I go out for coffee with a friend the addition of a camera often means adding on a walk with the friend which often leads to the discovery of a new thing to photograph. And often, through the friend, I am introduced to new people to either photograph or learn from. 

A camera taken to a boring event is an effective antidote to the boredom. The camera gives me something to do with my hands, my eyes and my head. Like a time machine being engaged in thinking about making images makes the time pass more quickly. And a camera turns one from a bored attendee into a bold sociological anthropologist. With all the curiosity attached. 

I am now endlessly fascinated with light and composition (mastery?). Early on in my life as a photographer my focus was always more about content and context. It's a difference. In the latter mode you "must"  have an interesting subject to feel satisfied about making photographs. In the first mode; having things be about light and composition (or design), everything becomes satisfying to photograph. I find myself progressing from documenting to creating images. It's nice to make those changes.

Finally, my cameras allow me to have access to and interesting conversations with people who I would not meet in the normal progress of life. Across age and education levels. And almost everywhere I go I find people more and more interesting. The camera can be like an engraved invitation to always learn more..

Day notes. Christmas is mellow here. I slept in. We made cinnamon rolls (a ritual from all the previous years of parenthood). Ben came over mid-morning. We all shared scrambled eggs, cinnamon rolls and coffee. We opened gifts. The gifts were thoughtful and happily received (as they should be). At some point, after our walk through the extended neighborhood, we'll get in my car and head off to meet with our relatives and have a loud, fun, kid-filled dinner and ritual opening of gifts. Then back home to prepare for whatever comes next. 

No one gifted me a camera. And I sure didn't need another one. But I have a feeling this will be a wild year (2023) for bold camera introductions and much fun stuff in the lens category. Keeping some powder dry for the unexpected but alluring...

I hope everyone stayed happy and warm through the week. It's sunny and 50° today in Austin. I wish it would stay just like this for a good long while. We'll see what happens...

Did anybody get anything photographic and newsworthy? If so, feel free to share in the comments. I love to live vicariously through other people's good fortune!