Now that we've sold the house (we're officially in escrow) and have probably picked out a school for Damian for fall, this is all seeming far more real. And as it does, I find myself missing the photoblog. No, stay with me, this is not a nonsequiteur. Because we're leaving. And we're here now. And what I see now, every day around me, won't be my every-day-around-me for much longer. And I want to capture that, best I can. And what better way?
I've posted a photo essay of the Venice Boardwalk over on my photoblog for your enjoyment. I thought about posting it here, but here is words, there is pictures. So there it is. I plan to update there far more often. Should I post here every time I do? Or only if it's full-on essays like today's? Or not at all? What do you folks think? Let me know!
It's a Jewish tradition to go to the movies on Christmas day. Instead, my mother and I went to the beach Saturday afternoon. It was surprisingly crowded, especially on the pier. But it was a glorious, clear day and it felt wonderful to be there, taking picture after picture. She put some up on her blog, and here are some of mine:
Caught on their way through Beverly Hills. The only snow hereabouts is fake.
My photoblog has been on hiatus since May. It's been a busy (not to mention emotional) summer edging into fall and I have too many projects. In truth I shouldn't even be writing this blog, should certainly not be starting a daily photoblog up again. It's time carved out of an already busy schedule and energy taken from my too chaotic mind.
And yet. The blog gives me a voice, a chance to explore what I think and what I experience in bite sized chunks, a record and a lovely forum for feedback from you who come to read. And I've grown accustomed to all that. I'd miss it. My world would feel smaller. Less connected.
The photoblog is different. More lonely in some ways, since I haven't become part of the photo blogger community. But it too serves as a forum, not for what I think but for what I see and so by extension, yes, for what I think. A picture portrait of the world as I live it. Without it I may take pictures that sit on my hard drive or occasionally become prints but lack that gallery-of-images feel I remember from the photoblog. And sometimes words are too much. Pictures are just right.
So I start again. Every day? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. For now, yes. A picture a day. Sometimes abstract, sometimes personal. My life, my eye, my images.
I've been trying to fully and completely imagine the life of a photographer, what it will be like for that to be me, on the job. Doing it. How to handle a photo shoot, the interaction and the getting-that-image part, mixing the two in just the right measure to elicit emotion on film. Also how to make it fun. And most importantly, how I'll do with it. How the photographs will turn out, whether I can capture something good. Whether I have the chops. What it will be like when I'm not just snapping away at a party or grabbing an interesting shot as I walk down the street, but doing it on command, with full intent.
I love photography, I have for years. But it's a different animal when you're on a shoot and you have to consider f-stops and remember ISOs and be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your lens at the same time that you're taking in the entire frame and what the background and light are doing for you.
You could say photography is just a matter of catching the moment, of just being there and knowing when to press the shutter. Sounds so simple. And it is. But yet it isn't. I want more practice before I can be confident setting up official for-pay photo sessions (and no, taking pictures of a copy machine doesn't count, copy machines don't have emotional depth). So I asked a very pregnant friend if I could do a test run with her. She said yes. Free pictures, why not? For those of you who have been with me for a long time, you may remember her: Jami, Damian's former nanny. She's one of the best people I know. Heart and soul.
I went over there on Thursday. She warned me that she's a terrible model, outrageously self-conscious. I said I'd wear her down by taking so many pictures she'd forget the camera. Which is what happened. We had a good time and I'm pleased with the results.
Here are a few sample shots:
The crib, by the way, was Damian's. A friend gave it to us, now we bequeath it to Jami for her little one. This will be the fifth baby to dream her way into toddlerhood in that crib.
Did I mention I got a new camera in June? I did. My longed-for digital Rebel. Which is part of what landed me the Irvine gig. Have equipment, will travel. Camera paid for itself, rather quickly. I love this camera.
Of course, new camera meant new computer. Must have better processor to handle bigger image files. And so it goes. Little fish eats tiny fish and is eaten in turn by bigger fish. Ever bigger, technology moves on, engulfing itself.
At any rate, I've been spending the evening learning RAW conversion and suchlike. And now I'm tired and so no words. Just a couple of images from the zoo. Amazing how much farther a responsive shutter will get you.
Meercats. I always thought of them as prairie dogs with a twist in nomenclature. I now see their catness in action.
I love giraffe tongues. Prehensile, like tails.
(final image deleted)
I shot three hundred forty pictures today. I'd say at least three hundred were disaparate images. Completely different shots, in other words, not duplicates. This makes a total of nine hundred and fourteen shots over two and a half days. One to two more days of this and then I get to go home. I'd say I'm earning my (quite nice) salary.
I never thought of photography as gruelling before: you look, you judge, you adjust, you shoot. But this is a whole new definition of photography. Crank it out, get the shot, keep going till you drop. Wham, bam, flash, smash. Whoosh.
Tired? Punchy? Who, me?
Still and all. It's not bad work. I kind of even sneakily enjoy it. Sometimes. When I get a good shot despite the limitations of the situation (small room crammed with boxes and equipment, none of which can be in a single shot; flourescent lights buzzing above, casting ugly shadows; sometimes shooting copier innards with a flash that wants to cast even uglier shadows though I usually smack it around till it stops that), when I do that, I feel like laughing. Like I got away with something. Because this is supposed to be fast and usable but not necessarily good. Good takes too long, you see. Good is too fussy. This is grab-and-run. Shoot and scramble. So when I get good on top of the rest of it, it's kind of like I got away with something.
Guerilla photographer, that's me.
Sometimes I have so much to say, thoughts bursting out of my stuffing all day long, barely waiting for the nightly computer time to jump out onto the screen and make themselves pixels and bits. Other times, thoughÖ other times thereís not a whole lot going on. Or if there is, itís not the kind of things I can easily shape into interesting material. Unless you want to hear about my search for the perfect photo management program, how fed up Iíve gotten with iPhoto, its deadly slowness, itís insistence on a proprietary filing system which buries your jpegs ten folders deep, its lack of real organizational features. How Iíve searched and read forums and finally found at least half of what I need. Photo Mechanic looks good for the sorting-through-the-pile part, now I just need a thumbnails-of-everything-I-have-on-CD database part, and I have three possible choices there. So the search continues.
Fascinating stuff, huh? Yeah. Thought so.
On the other hand, maybe thereís something hidden in this topic after all. Did I tell you about my photo sale? Tuesday night I got an email from a guy who had scoured the web from Google to Altavista searching for just the right image for an ad, looking for that perfect peach. He found it here. In my photoblog archives. He wanted to know if I held the rights. I did indeed.
I consulted with my photographer friend Otto. (Professional jargon for: ďOtto! Help!!!Ē) I emailed the ad guy with pertinent questions, secure in the fact that email serves as the ideal buffer Ė you can consult with twenty Ottos in the time between query and response.
ExceptÖ the next morning the guy emailed back. He told me his budget. Not huge but not peanuts. Itíd pay for a nice meal out for us, maybe even two depending in the restaurant. His deadline: this afternoon. Can we do business?
This was Wednesday. Damianís birthday. Complete with school party and presents and a last minute rush to gather goodie bags for his classmates. Not the ideal day for dealing with brand new business issues. But I talked to Otto (for his photo savvy), I talked to Toni (for her business savvy) and I talked to a local friend who runs a photography business with her husband and who said I could use her fax if necessary for the contract. Itís not exactly a complex deal. Iím just a complete neophyte in this arena. But I felt more or less prepared. Then I called the guy. It felt easy on the phone. We were thisclose to finalizing the deal when I said, ďSingle use rights, right?Ē ďUm, Iím not sure what you mean.Ē Turned out he wanted the rights for the summer, not the week. Back and forth and hemming and hawing and the price went up.
When I got off the phone, I gave myself a high five, which mustíve looked odd to the drivers in the cars flanking mine on La Cienega Boulevard. My first business negotiation without a net. It worked out just fine. I could get back to hyperventilating about toys and balloons and birthday cake.
Otto emailed the guy the hi-res jpeg and license thereof while I was somewhere between Culver City and Santa Monica, chatting with Damian about his morning and munching on a birthday cookie. Thanks again, Otto. Iím lucky in my friends. Iím also maybe perhaps tentatively a minor league not-quite-but-hey-why-not-a-professional photographer. Iíve now sold two pictures, one to Jill (hey, it counts!) and one to an ad agency. Cool.
The best part? I donít care if this goes any further, if I sell more pictures. I love taking them. I like showing them off. Thatís enough, that makes me happy. If it develops into something else, well, sure. But unlike my writing, I feel absolutely no pressure to make it grow into more.
But I still want better photo management software. Iím a professional, after all.
Funny thing: when I chose that image last year and posted it, I thought, "This looks like an ad." And now it is one.
I'm having serious object lust tonight. I want this. I want it now. It's half the price of the 10D (my previous lust object) and lighter to boot. The review at Steve's Digicam says the image quality is fabulous, that awful consumer digital camera shutter lag is nonexistent, it would fit my old zoom lens and hotshoe flash, and it's almost affordable. I want I want I want I want.
Of course, I'd need a bigger hard drive to handle those honking big picture files...