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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moments Of Wow!


Get a glimpse of the simplicity on the other side of complexity

Labels: How-ToColumnBasic Jones
Can we make photos without the "Wow!"? Yes, but when I look at the photos I've taken that way, I find that, no matter how technically perfect they are, they simply don't move me (or others, for that matter). They may be stunning, but they're soulless. They don't move others, and they don't move me, so, really, what's the point?

In the final analysis (or at least the analysis as far as Rik and I have taken it), it's not an either/or choice. It's a both/and. We can never really become children again. Never really shed ourselves of our techniques, experiences and judgments. Nor should we want to. But unless we allow ourselves not just to take, but to be taken by a subject, our images will go only so far.

So is it the simplicity of a child that we want to cultivate? No, actually, it's the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

The simplicity on the other side of complexity. Showing up having engaged in all the study, practice and discipline that makes us a master of our tools. Showing up with all our experience of what makes a great landscape photograph and how to capture it on film. But then putting all that aside and showing up with our mind as open—as ready for the Wow!—as it was the very first time a landscape enthralled us, long before we even knew what a camera was.

Last night, I was having trouble finishing this column and decided to take a walk on the local golf course—just me and my pitching wedge. As I walked down the 2nd fairway, the light of the setting sun was almost blinding. I could barely look straight ahead, much less to my left toward that blinding ball. Then, another step, and the light went away. My head turned involuntarily. There, in the exact spot where I stood, the sun was momentarily blocked by the one lone tree on the fairway. What I beheld was magic. "Wow!" I gasped, on an inhale. And for a few moments, I just stared, lost in the connection.

If you hear a "Wow!" shoot! Yes, yes, but I don't have a camera, I have a pitching wedge! Wait! I have my iPhone! (It's not the iPhone that's important here. I could have had my Lumix LX4 on my belt or my Canon EOS 7D around my neck. The important point is, I had a camera.)

My experience as a photographer told me that if I took a straight exposure, it would end up like the photograph at far left, hopelessly underexposed. My experience also told me that if I took two exposures, I could blend them together as an HDR image and have the correct exposure in the foreground as well as the background. In short, I had the technique to translate my experience into an image. So that's what I did (and then added a few more tweaks with various apps to enhance the magic). I loved the moment. I loved the Wow! I loved the connection. I loved the result.

Standing in front of the landscape with the techniques of a pro and the mind of a child. The simplicity on the other side of complexity. Wow!

Dewitt Jones now posts a daily photographic image on Facebook. You can friend him and enjoy the show. Also check out his new ebook, iPhone Art in My Life, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Apple iBookstore.

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