Sunday, December 18, 2016

A GB and other reflections

The end of the year is generally considered a time to reflect on the year past, and the coming year. Bloggers, columnists, and writers often use it as grist for mill, and I've done my share that.

This year is a little different. It's almost 4 months since I've walked in the front door of Penn West, and waved my access card at the elevator. At first the time off was just vacation, but even then I was doing a bit of long term planning. This retirement thing could potentially last the rest of my life, which (hopefully) is a very long time indeed. Perhaps blogging nearly every day, aren't you excited? Umm, guys, excited?

We don't have any particular big plans over the Christmas season. Linda's work has been particularly busy over the last several months, and next year doesn't look any slower as her retirement clock ticks down. She badly needs some down time.

I think it's a natural time to be thoughtful about life, the universe, and everything. Plus kick back and relax. Drink some wine, read some books, watch some movies. Wouldn't want to overdo the thoughtfulness, or the vegging out.

 Today I realized that I'm well past 10K photos taken since early June, and I've liked more than 600 enough to go through the trouble of tweaking them in Lightroom. Some are for experiments or learning, but some are wanted by people other than me. They all go into a folder, and that just passed 1 GB in size. Some of them are for print and are quite large. The biggest is a 27 MB panorama, and several are a little over 10 MB. Most are less than 1 MB since they are most likely going to the web.

The photography has been a lot of fun! There is the intellectual challenge, of course. Where can I go to get this desired shot, using what settings? Which lens? Why isn't something working? Modern DSLR cameras have a lot of controls and can be very intimidating. (Hint, if that's you, take the Neil Zeller course, you'll love it.)

There are a bunch of cool people involved in photography, and I've got to know some of them along the way. Neil's courses and photowalks have been excellent for that. Plus I've chatted to a few people out and about, where carrying a good camera was the only introduction needed.

Then there is the artistic side. This has been deeply satisfying for me in many ways. Consider a flower garden. The ones just outside our house, for example. At any particular time there are any number of wonderful photographs that can be taken, from close in macro shots of a perfect bloom, to more distant shots that are almost a landscape, to the strange beauty of dead or dying plants. Then there are all the weather conditions from rain, hail, snow, and frost. There's the time of day the shot was taken. All the different lenses and camera settings.

Take all those variables into account and you've got a photograph in your camera. Then it goes through Lightroom, and that's a whole other process. Then if you really want to get carried away there's Photoshop. These and other programs will help you bring your artistic vision to life. Take it from me, it's harder than it seems, as easy as some people make it look. If you put 100 photographers through our garden throughout the day, and they each displayed just one of their photos, you'd probably get 100 very different photos.

Usually there are no ironclad right or wrong answers about what makes a good photo. It depends on your intentions for the shot, or if you should be so lucky, the intentions of the person paying you for the shot. A series of corporate head and shoulders professional shots are considerably different than a series of flowers. You can get something that matches your memory, or is dressed up a bit to enhance some aspect of the subject, or you can go over the top for garish effect, or under the bottom to black and white.

My camera makes a click when I press the shutter button. It's a very nice, solid click, not the sort of whiney click the iPhone makes. Mechanical things are happening in the camera. A mirror moves, a shutter opens and closes. Light photons are captured by a sensor and complicated computer stuff happens. I love that click. It might be distracting at a wedding, but I don't anticipate shooting any of those. I can see an image on the back of the camera, but I don't pay a lot of attention to it. The only way to really tell what you've got is look at it on screen. I've had a bunch of surprises. Shots I thought were blah were anything but, and shots I thought were in focus were not. All a learning experience.

There are many things to take photos of, and just like they say there's someone for everyone, there's a photographer for every subject. It doesn't matter if it's the Peace Bridge, the Calgary Tower, or lettuce. What's interesting for me in this photo is not the big red bridge. It's the reflection of it in the water and ice. The water isn't completely still, so it's not a perfect mirror. Neither are our eyes or brains completely still, so our reflection on past events isn't perfect either.

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