I love many more than five things about photography, but when I sit and think about why it captivates me these are the things that mean the most – in no particular order:
I’ve always been a gadgety sort of person. In my mid teens I went through a phase of pulling old clocks apart to try and figure out how they worked. Never managed to do that, but I loved the little cogs and wheels. It seemed like magic that someone could fit them together to make a device that kept time.
Photography is gloriously gadgety. So many buttons and dials on cameras. So many different combinations, producing seemingly infinite effects. Then there’s lenses – magical extending gizmos with their own selection of wheels and buttons. Go further; there’s filters, adapters, remote controllers, tripods, bags and all manner of lighting gadgets. Just handling everything pleases me, but then you can fit everything together to create a beautiful image.
A New Way of Seeing the World
Photography is art. And studying art in any form encourages you to look at the world in a different way. You need to take things slower, pay attention to little details, imagine the moment captured and frozen forever. Would you still like it if it stopped moving and never changed?
With limited time (photography is my hobby), I often only get to take photos during the morning dog walk. I take pretty much the same route every day, or at least visit the same location. I’m fortunate to have a country park directly behind my house, so I get to walk in nature every day with the dog off the lead. I can choose wooded pathways, climb hills or visit a nearby fishing pond. But even this variety gets old after a few years.
So the challenge is to find a new way of seeing familiar things. I like to play games (Minecraft, anyone?), so I invent mini photography challenges for myself.
- Stand still and take ten photos of different things without moving from the spot. Zoom in or out, stoop down, shoot wide, look up. Really look. What details can I see that capture my attention?
- Decide on a ‘look’ or ‘effect’ I want to achieve. Examples could be underexposure, intentional camera movement, panning (if I walk down to the road or find some birds in flight to track), shallow DoF… all kinds of things.
- Don’t change settings. See how far I can push the camera and myself to achieve good results in changing lighting conditions without forever tweaking my shutter speed or ISO. Figure out what’s happening, and how I could change position or angle to get the shot I’m after.
- Experiment with the on-camera flash. Lots of people disregard this little lighting aid, but it’s really handy. Use flash compensation to achieve natural-looking results.
Making New Photography Friends
Joining up with other photography enthusiasts is one of the big pleasures of the hobby. Find a good camera club and you’re golden. My own is absolutely brilliant and I’ve made some lovely photo-friends through it. Aside from that, just sharing knowledge and the chance to talk cameras without boring everyone is fun.
The Thrill of Creating
Getting a good image is just the best feeling. In the hectic pace of life we often dismiss creative pursuits. It can seem a bit indulgent when there are more important things to do, like raising a family or earning a living.
But we’re a creative species. Humans need to make things, change things, bring things into existence that wouldn’t be there if we weren’t alive in the world. It’s part of what makes humans tick.
And it’s not about being good or talented. It’s not about making money, selling things, or measuring success by financial reward.
It’s about finding a way to fulfil inner, intangible needs. Of finding peace and joy in your own soul. Maybe creating things improves self esteem or feelings of self worth. I don’t really know. But personally, I need to make things. Knitting, sewing, papercrafts, painting badly, photoshop and iColorama on the iPad. I return to these interests over and over because they all give me pleasure.
Capturing Little Moments
Years ago, photography was a bit of a pain. For one thing, you had to always remember to take a camera out with you, which meant an extra something to find room for in a bag or pocket.
These days most of us carry a camera everywhere we go. If you’ve grown up with smartphones, I dare say you take them for granted because they’re just part of everyday life. But if you can recall the days before we had them, you’ll appreciate what wondrous little things they are.
Smartphone photography was what really convinced me I could and should take my interest and fascination more seriously.
Life is made up of a series of little events after all, and they matter. Of course there are major milestones and highlights, and when we know something like that is coming up we can plan for it and get the ‘big’ camera out. But that means the little, spontaneous, moments don’t get captured, and it’s all those golden little moments that string together to make a lifetime.
Why else do people take pictures of their coffee cups? Is having a cup of coffee in a cafe special? Not in itself. But when you look back through photos of mundane moments, all kinds of memories surface, snippets of conversation, the fashions of the day that now make you smile, the people who shared the moment (don’t we look young!). That cup of coffee might not mean much by itself, but its photograph opens the floodgates on memories that might otherwise stay forgotten.
For me, photography just keeps on giving. At the moment of the shutter click, and for years after when I look back through my collection of memories.
How about you?