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Friday
Mar052010

Capturing Snow

Arrived at location.  Heavy cloud was clearing.  Not much snow was falling. 

May be I was too late.  The light was not dramatic.  The condition was not ideal.  After a few exposures, I looked down to examine them. 

A big snowflake landed on the camera.  A chill was sent from my neck.  Suddenly, I could felt snows landing on me.  One after another.  Quicker and heavier.  Looked up again, the bridge became a shadow behind waves of snow.  The flow of river obscured.  Ferry from afar reduced to a moving light.  Everything was masked by the wave.  I was suddenly in midst of the downpour.  Ran for a clearer view, I started capturing the motion.  Bridge.  The snow.  Lights from buildings across the river.  The snow.  Waving flag from afar.  The snow.  Isolated.  I could almost hear my footsteps on the snow floor. 

Chills on my face slowed down.  Outline of the bridge became visible again.  Buildings from far away came into view.  Ferry sailing away. 

It stopped.  Just as quickly as it started.  A sliver of sky.  A hind of sun light shined through.

Friday
Feb262010

Photography Heals

Last week, there was a huge set back on my part of a large project at work.  I had been working on it mostly alone for months.  A decision was made from the higher up.  That portion of the project would be called off.  All my effort devoted to it would be wasted.  Regardless of the rationale, I was understandably upset.  However, given the lack of alternatives to the decision, I played the good sportsman and just let it be. 

Saturday came.  Given the rare free day, I went out to photograph.  Despite snow from the previous snow storm was mostly melted, there might still be some in the New York Botanical Garden.  I was right.  It was a clear day.  I decided to be a little adventurous and photograph alongside the snow covered river bank.  I had to be careful.  One wrong step and I might slip into the river.  It was not exactly what I had in mind in my previous blog post, but the sceneries were beautiful.  The more you are out photographing, the more likely you will be in the right place at the right time.  Afterward, as I was making my way back to the main garden path, I stopped and tried to feel the environment.  The sky was clear and blue.  I could hear geese swimming on the river, tree branches moving in breezes.  I had been down since I heard the news about the project.  However, at that moment, I realized something.  Despite my sneakers and socks were soaking wet, I was very grad that photography brought me there.  My encounter with beauty through photography relieved some of my grief.

Friday
Feb192010

Yearning to Photograph Snow

Snow is magical.  Snow makes ordinary scenes and objects extraordinary.  Snow covers evidences of human intervention.  A field of snow gives a deserted feel to a place.  In a sense, snow returns a place to what nature intended.  The Winter Trees series (http://www.brooksjensenarts.com/wintertrees/winter_trees.htm) by Brooks Jensen is magnificence.

Snow is also very hard to capture.  No, taking a picture of snow is not hard.  Being able to take picture while snowing is, however, very hard, especially for someone who is working another full time job.

As I recall, snow falls more often this winter than the last.  Just last few weeks, there has been a few snow falls.  My office closed in one of them.  I would love to photograph snow.  However, for one reason or another, I haven’t been able to this winter.  During the day my office was closed, I had to prepare for a presentation the next day.  On the weekend before that, I was recovering from a cold.  It snowed again this Tuesday, I wanted so bad to take a day off to go photograph.  However, I am in the middle of an important task at work.

So, even with so many snow falls, I wasn’t able to photograph snow this winter.  It pains me.  However, I know, if I get the chance, the pictures will be magical.  In the meantime, I will have to look for sceneries and get ready.

Friday
Feb122010

The Second Set of Eyes

I had a non-photography related presentation this morning.  Since I was never good at presenting, I spent a lot of time this week preparing for it.  Even with my office closed due to the snow yesterday, I was going over my slides at home.  Consequently, it was very difficult to find the time to work on my photographs this week.  Worse off, my presentation turned out to be bad.  I delivered my points a little too fast.  The messages were not clear enough.  The details were a bit too technical for my audiences.  In the end, I did not get my messages across.  I felt crushed afterward. 

It would be easy to just accept that I am bad at it and give up.  However, even these bad experiences can be very helpful.  Since I can point out my problems, I can now work on them.  Just like many things else, presentation skills can be learned and improved upon.

Why am I talking about this?  I think there is one important lesson from this experience.  Namely, having audiences to verify your works is very important.  While photographing, it’s very easy to be self-indulged and believe that we are doing great works.  However, being told that our works are bad is also very important.  Being told that we are bad doesn’t mean that we have to give up our visions.  It just means that we have to improve our skills to better deliver our visions. 

Friday
Feb052010

The Process of Deleting

A few years ago, I discovered that the process of deleting images improved my photography.  When I say delete a photograph, I don’t mean rating it as rejected and hide it.  I mean deleting it forever from my hard drive.

A year or 2 after I got serious about photography, I decided to go through a year worth of my photographs, pick out 10 to 50 of the best photographs, and maybe create a year book.  I quickly found that the amount of images was overwhelming.  As a first step, I decided to reduce the pool of images.  Right away, I realized that many images were blurry.  Those images were essentially useless for printing.  So, sharpness became the minimum requirement, as it should be for everyone.  As I spend more time looking at the pictures, I found that I often took multiple shoots of the same pictures.  There was no reason to keep all of them.  So, I decided to remove all but one of them.  Of course, I then had to decide on which one to keep. 

This is a somewhat time consuming process.  With hard drive storage being so affordable, it seems silly to go through with it.  However, for me, this process is invaluable.  After I decided to do something with my photographs, I looked at them in a very different way.  While deleting, I found myself asking many questions.  What is it about this photograph that’s worth keeping?  How is this photograph different from that photograph?  Which one should I keep?  Remember, once I decide to delete a photograph, there is no turning back.  So, I have to be very careful.  In time, these questions guide me to make better judgments while photographing.  Furthermore, the process elevates my standard towards my photographs.  In other words, it is making me a better photographer.