Sunday, October 24, 2004

Bay Bridge Photo Shoot

First things first: I got a new camera! Woo hoo! It's the Canon 20D, and this thing is simply amazing! It's a true SLR digital, 8 megapixel shooter. Here's a picture of it:

Quite simply, this is the camera I've always wanted, even before it was invented! Rather than try to tell you all about it (which is WAY too much!), you can click THIS LINK to an in-depth review of it, if you're interested.

Okay, that out of the way, I'm really excited about my first shoot with it. There's a shot I've been wanting to get for a few months, but got put off by one thing or another each time. It's a shot of the San Francisco Bay Bridge at dusk, from Treasure Island facing West (into the sunset).

Now, the easy place to get a shot of this bridge is from a parking area at the bottom of the hill. I've already done that with my Sony F717, and you can see the shot HERE. But I wanted something a little more dynamic and dramatic - from the top of the hill.

The only problem with that is, there's no place to park up there. It's two lanes, with a cliff wall on one side, a cliff drop on the other, and not even a shoulder to pull over onto - at all. I was going to have to work for it...

I parked down the hill in the parking lot, strapped on my backpack full of gear, and set off on a hike up the mountain. Half an hour later, and I was setting up my tripod at the only place I could get a view through the trees without going off the cliff. I spent a couple hours there, shooting from about an hour before sundown to about an hour after, then packed it up and headed back down. It's hard to tell from the small viewfinder on a digital camera if you got exactly what you wanted, especially when it comes to sharpness, but I had some good feelings about the shoot.

While I was up there, another fellow walked up with a camera and tried to take a shot or two, then lamented that he had no tripod, and knew it wasn't going to work out for him. Well, I always carry a couple of mini-pods, so I loaned him one to get his shot, and he was very thankful. I was glad to help. I hope it turned out well for him.

When I got home and dumped the photos onto my computer, I was very happy! Of the 225 photos I shot there (MAN, I love digital!), I chose this as THE shot of the session:

If you'd like to see the rest of my photos, you can head on over to my photo album. I recently went through it and gave it a whole new look and new functionality. If you've been there before, you may have to refresh your browser to see the new look, and the new photos since the last time you were there. An easy way to do that is to simply press F5 on your keyboard when you get there.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm still feeling great here, and doing fine. Hope you are too! See you next time!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Artistic Dreams and Reality

Lately, I have dreams of being a photographer. I don't mean aspirations; I mean the stuff that happens when you're asleep. I have to say, they're wonderful, and I wake up feeling refreshed and invigorated!

Sometimes I dream that I'm a big time pro photographer with assistants and all, shooting in some exotic location. Other times, I'm just a working photographer, barely able to make ends meet, but very happy that I can do it for a living. Still other times, I visualize a particular shot, work out the details of how to set up and shoot it, and wake up with a fresh idea to pursue.

Like most people (I imagine), I dream about things that are on my mind a lot lately and for me, for now, it's photography. Other times in my life, my dreams have allowed me to be a cartoonist, musician, writer and once, even a sculptor. They've all been wonderful diversions, and quite welcome from the other types of dreams I've had that are associated with problems at work or in my personal life.

Nonetheless, they are dreams; fantasies; flights of fancy, and I know it. While my artistic pursuits have always played a large role in my personal life, I've always drawn the line at the money issue. There are simply WAY too many starving artists out there, many of whom are much better than I at their craft. I just can't muster the kind of commitment it takes to live in poverty in trade for making the art I love.

My personal artistic pursuits have played a big role in my own life since I was very young. Trudging through the Michigan snow on my paper route, I wrote songs in my head, singing them lightly out loud. Later, I begged for and got a guitar, then spent years learning to play it. Eventually, as an adult, I assembled a small recording studio and began to record my compositions, like this one.

I constantly drew and doodled. From cartoons to more serious drawings and studies of nature and people, to the many inventions that flooded into my mind, my pencils and pens seemed never to stop consuming endless quantities of any kind of paper, pads and art board I could get my hands on. In high school, I began to study more serious drawing techniques, from artistic to architectural. Now those efforts manifest themselves mostly in the form of the cartoons I like to make.

Sculpture captured my imagination early on as well. Clay, plaster and found objects transformed in my hands, and I found great respect and admiration for the works of reknowned sculptors and painters I saw in books. Now I take great pleasure in visiting many museums to see these great works of art in person. In my own life, these tools and methods of the sculpting craft have combined with a love of engineering to become a way for me to realize ideas in three dimensional form, mostly for visualizing inventions or solving small real-world problems.

I've always fancied myself something of a writer as well. Besides the songs and poetry associated with my musical pursuits, I found myself writing essays on nearly anything that touched my life. I spent a good part of my life reading. Fiction, biographies, history, or technical manuals and books to learn more about the art I was interested in making; I sucked it all up. I paid attention to writing styles and techniques, often re-reading the same thing over and over to get the real rhythm and feel of a passage; to better understand the way the words were used not just to convey an idea, but to do so in ways that transcend such utilitarian reasons, rendering them as pure artistic expression. Eventually I learned to type, which helped me transfer my thoughts to written word much quicker. To this day everything I write, be it an essay, this blog passage, or a memo at work, I think about and try to employ those tools and methods I've picked up over the years. It is the artistic side of me showing itself, (even when done badly!).

And then there's the photography. I recognized early on the power of art in photographic images. Beyond the snapshots in the family album, I saw in professional photographs the depth of field, use of shutter speed, compositional arrangement and use of color and light as great tools of artistic expression, though the tools themselves and techniques to employ them were a complete mystery to me. I set out to find out how that art was produced, and read everything I could get my hands on about the subject of photography, from it's history to it's technical aspects. I bought and used progressively better cameras, lenses and associated equipment over the years, and continue to pursue knowledge and technical ability in the art form today.

Now, I don't know why these artistic expressions have played such a major role in my life-long personal interests, or why they play such a role in other artists. Some particular tweak in our DNA structure or thought patterns in our brains perhaps explains it. In any case, it seems to spill over into the rest of our lives, in varying amounts. I know that it affects and influences my views of the world, of politics, of religion, of humanity - of everything.

And yet, while many artists are wholly consumed by it all, I have set the boundary of it's influence over me to one of monetary pragmatism. In short, I have no desire to be yet another starving artist in a sea brimming over with them, most of whom are on the verge of drowning.

Even so, it is very tempting at times to just 'give it all up' for a shot at making a living, even a modest one, making the art I love so much. These feelings are especially strong when friends and family sing the praises of some recent piece I've made with microphone, pencil, keyboard or camera. It gets even stronger when complete strangers run across something I've made and take the time and make the effort to contact me to tell me how much they liked it. And occasionally - just once in a while - an actual professional artist; one who has formal training and makes a living at it; one who has a critical eye or ear for the craft, has something very nice to say about one or more of my works. Then I allow my thoughts to run wild with the possibilities - at least for a short while, until the pragmatic side takes over again, and I remind myself that I'm, at best, a somewhat talented art hobbyist who has a good moment here and there, resulting in a piece I'm quite proud of.

Maybe someday I'll hit the lottery and have the means to pursue my art unencumbered by the need to have a day job to pay for such a life. Meanwhile, I'll just hang onto my dreams - and reality.