Sunday, October 12, 2008

Seeing As Opposed To Just Looking

The Southern End Of Lake Pukaki - South Island NZ (last week)

Kelvin is a good friend of mine who takes good photographs; in fact very good photographs ('Available Light' BlogSpot on my Blog list). He wrote on his blog a number of postings ago about how some people have consulted him about what type of camera to purchase with the view to improving their photography. He made the point that in many ways it doesn't matter how expensive the camera or lens is, the quality of the photo is about "seeing" rather than just looking, pointing and clicking. This "seeing" is something that comes with practise I guess, and the practise being something that involves a deeper level of awareness.

In technical terms the ability to paint or draw or take photographs is about seeing the connections and relationships of line juxtaposed with line, space with negative space. Its about positive and negative form, symmetry, colour, tone and hue. It's about these fundamental basic skills developed and built up over time to a greater level of sophistication. But there is something else that is important; a certain context within which all this resides which in a sense is spiritual.

The approach to art is a process of spiritual discovery requiring the engagement of all the faculties: the eye that sees, the mind that conceives, the heart that feels and the hand that wields the brush, camera or pencil to create something of beauty and value.

Amongst a whole lot of other thoughts, I also thought about all this as we left by car to travel to Aoraki Mount Cook after a few days of visiting Kelvin and Clemency in Dunedin. While visiting I had asked Kelvin about various cameras and thought about what he had said on his blog. I left with a determination to improve my photography.

After taking a few photos on the way back north I came to three conclusions.

First, I need a camera with a view finder. I found it impossible to see the images on the little screen on my borrowed digital camera outside in the sunlight.

Second, but just as important - I feel the need to take time to relax and really 'look' at what is being photographed - not to be impulsive and just click away enthusiastically as if I have to record everything - relax, absorb the essence of a place first and then try and take a photo that captures that essence.

The third conclusion is a remembering of something my brother Chris saw recently - Don't let the photography dominant the experience. Chris told me of a Japanese tourist he saw in Auckland festooned with cameras who was so intent on recording every piece of the experience that he walked off the tourist bus as he was filming, missed the entrance steps and fell out onto the road. - The tourist was missing real personal engagement with the experience itself in his haste to record what was happening. You can't capture the essence if you aren't immersed in the experience.

Time will tell whether my new resolve and approach will be reflected in my photographs.


Anonymous said...

I like what you have written here. Yes - I think you need eye mind and heart for good photography. Perhaps it is rare to have the balance of these things that makes it possible to take truly wonderful photographs. Maybe we shouldn't try too hard.
Ive been thinking about doing your best.Always doing your best- but - no more and no less.

Tillerman said...

I agree, always do your best, no more and no less. We should save our trying hard for our intentions i.e. to be relaxed, awake, mindful and involved.

Katherine said...

I find it hard to take a good photo of something that doesn't engage me, or call to me, in some way. I may enjoy or dislike the message, but I cannot ignore it. My challenge then is to capture that message. That last bit is the bit that improves with practice.

Thanks for the post, Tillerman. It made me realise the above.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Are you an art teacher? Thank you for the lecture on photography which articulates much of what I have instinctively felt/thought about the subject. Hope you are not setting readers homework sir! This is the first time I have visited your blog but I will be back to cement relations between the UK and NZ - after all we don't want a third world war do we? Cheers, Mr Y. Pudding Esq..

Tillerman said...

I am the Deputy Principal in a medium sized Primary School.

Welcome to my humble blogspot, your erudition and intelligence is most welcome.

I don't do World War 3 with kith and Kin, (but I do do thermonuclear linguistic salvos in jest, especially with Australians) in fact NZ and Brits have supported each other from the Falklands back as far as the Boer War.

What I found interesting in your photograph was the image of your father - in look and dress he reminded me so much of the teachers from my childhood - and he started his Headmastership in 1951, the year I was born.