Good day for photographs.
Yesterday I had three cups of coffee, and usually only one does the trick. So I spent the afternoon gravely serious and contemplative ambling around North Park. Wandering is one of my all-time favorite things to do; it almost always cheers me up.
One expected thing that did happen was the discovery that the new autumn issue of Printed Pages was actually pretty good. This is the publication I’m most fond of at the moment, these feelings culminating in the spring (former) issue. It included interviews with David Pearson, book jacket designer for Penguin Press and Marian Bantjes – difficult to pigeonhole – whose thoughts on design are illuminating to say the least. Her words radiate a passion for design – in the sense that real passion is deeply personal – and she phrases things profoundly, as things that matter should.
Magazines are great because they include contemporary content and are now elevated to the quality of a book (maybe even better) escaping the ephemeral stigma magazines may or may not have had. In other words, they cost as much as a book does and are, truly, commodities. But they’re also a good way of learning about what it’s like to be a professional in the world of art and design. The paper’s certainly of a higher quality, being weightier, and even smells pretty good if that’s your thing.
My parents have been gone for about a week now, and aside from areas of palpable rockiness, the solitude has been welcome. It’s important for my life to have time (time where I’m not being monitored) and I can be sensitive to my own pace and rhythm. Eventually that’ll come when I’m living alone, but for now I make due.
There are days where I won’t speak a word all day and, finally, I’ll say something aloud and with it comes a familiar comfort—this sort of raspy, uncertain, fresh voice—I mean, these dichotomies are important.
For instance, as of lately my life has been consumed by photographic considerations, but at any given point it’s been something. In the summer I had all the time in the world it seemed, and with it came a certain art of staying busy. This weekend I made it a point to reacquaint myself with this art, taking full advantage of the freedom that comes with privacy. And it’s funny—it’s so easy; it was so easy to feel like myself again, comfortable in my own skin, if I just made a dedicated effort toward it. Serious leisure takes work.
I have this pet project which is my photography website, heysymmetrical.tumblr.com. It’s a constant work in progress (especially since I’m retroactively applying a refined workflow) but it’s coming together. It’s starting to look more like what I envisioned it to, or, at least, what I would like for it to represent—a comprehensive look into the way that I see things. And since what I’m looking for is always changing, it helps to work in an interface that can adapt with me.
Chula Vista wandering.
Late-night conversations are the best. Like alcohol, sleepiness is a great catalyst for truth telling and transparency (ironically) in haziness. And this effect is compounded with alcohol and sleepiness, both—not that sleepiness was the case last night, but I thought I’d mention it.
Last night, my friend and I had this conversation about how film and digital photography compare. What he said to me was along the lines of, “I’m glad you took up digital first, because then you learned how to appreciate it rather than the other way around.” Because, truth-be-told, I love film photography now for its purity.
There’s such emphasis placed on the exposure—the fraction of a second that is photography, as the moment is burned onto film like a document. Immediately it’s this physical thing, and not the unreality that digital images live in. Digital files are dormant, sterile things, and can be tinkered with precisely and interminably as in a lab. It loses the character—the chance—that film has innately. Only in print, I think, can this character be retrieved.
Having given some thought to this, I suppose the love I have for film is in its immediate palpability and outright simplicity. You print only in order to see what you have, whereas in digital there’s this plethora of extra, intermediate steps. Occasionally you find yourself lost in it.
The world’s been unrelenting on this young soul and sometimes I forget that it’s always like this. I’ve had this general conviction (since reading Steinbeck) that armadillos developed armor and peacocks iridescent plumage, and we as humans have our mind and we can think about things. So, in times like this when I feel like I’ve done something wrong, I must be careful in remembering that there are many different ways of seeing things; that life can (and should) be looked at in different ways.
I woke up hot having drunk a little and it was uncharacteristically dark. It turns out that despite my efforts to not see this bloody moon, unsetting my alarm and such, I have—and, boy, am I glad to. I missed out on the last one, although I didn’t try very hard.
My lack of motivation to witness these lunar phenomena, come to think of it, is quite disappointing. But if it’s any compensation when these phenomena happen, and you see it with your own eyes, it’s so anomalous in the realm of human experience that it’s difficult to believe. I was only able to look in disbelief at the ruddy moon for so long before turning my attention to the pulsing brilliance of the stars.
I don’t take the time to notice this “twinkling”, so-to-speak, much anymore, but I’ll try now considering I’ve thought about it. I’m reminded of the time my friends and I lay our backs on the cool, damp-feeling tufts of hard grass in Yosemite, and we looked at the sky—a deep, dark blue punctuated by spots of luminous white. There was the cliff, stark black against it, and below that, the intermittent small, searching spotlight of an anchored climber.
If I say any more my heart just might break. I miss the outdoors.
Highlights from the week.
'Cause I love this place so much.
I migrated over to Gelato Vero Caffé following climbing at Solid Rock Gym. I didn’t tire as easily as I’d expected considering the roughly three-week hiatus I’d taken being preoccupied with photographic things. It was a voluntary one, but maybe the duality of active and contemplative life can start again.
Following this I’m going to check on my friend, San Elijo. I feel the weight of the void that only nature can fill, and I’m sure she can provide what I’m missing. The day can only contain so many happy, fulfilling things, and visiting there should provide suitable cessation to this radiant, resonant gem of a day.
I can’t have these days all the time, but at least I haven’t forgotten how to now that the opportunity’s there. I used to think that hedonism was the only word for it, but does it apply to reading, or drinking coffee, or taking pictures? There’s also sensualism but that comes off as a little risqué too.
Whatever man, I deserve this.
It may sound ridiculous to pay five dollars for a bowl of granola, but I’m telling you—Influx’s is the best. It’s pretty much gourmet, and I’m celebrating waking up to no class, so there’s that too. They were even nice enough to give me a cup of hot water for my ginger tea. Now I can write and have an overall disregard for time like I did in the summer.
Today I plan on inviting movement into my body again (and generally caring for my body again). This will be my first time visiting the rock climbing gym since the semester’s start, and I’m a happy camper because of it. I also intend on introducing some depth into my life regarding those things that I’ve neglected, because I can’t maintain the quality of life that I want by focusing on one thing.
What I am fortunate to have, and that I will never disregard, are my friends. There are three women in my life (whom I won’t name), which I just fortuitously happened upon, or crossed paths with. And these women, knowingly or not, facilitate and enable me to do what I do, which is to ceaselessly keep myself entertained. So I convene with them and turn around and do my own thing, but the time we share is invaluable.
Well, I hope to let them know sometime soon.
I’ve come up with a workflow with respect to photography, and it’s almost perfectly sound. This has nothing to with the picture content itself, but more so the process. To give away a few things that I’ve learned throughout the semester, here are two very good tips (possibly advanced) that I wish I knew earlier on: (1) Using mirror lock-up in handheld photography, and (2) reviewing the histogram for under- (or over-) exposure.
Mirror lock-up, put simply, is a feature that can reduce vibration and produce sharper results. The way this works is that the mirror flips up to allow light to enter the camera, and flips down when the shot has been taken. (But this can be done prior to, and independent of, the shot being taken.) Once the mirror is locked up, only black can be seen through the viewfinder, so it’s important to compose accordingly. Nonetheless, the lack of the shutter slap is worth it because it can preserve image detail at slower shutter speeds.
One difficulty of digital photography is that things can look very different depending on how bright your screen is, what level your eyes are fatigued (which is a real concern for me), and what lighting condition the screen is viewed in. The only constant in this regard is the histogram, because it’s a fairly precise representation of how much light has entered the lens—beyond our own visible spectrum, which is kind of nuts. My point is, if you really want to know if you’re under- or over-exposed, evaluate your histogram.
My eyes are fatigued because of school, but that’s what I like. It gives me reason to produce, and wander, and see—really see. Not the cursory thing we do to not bump into things.
Sometimes I hear, “I wish I could“ blah blah about photography, and I’m like, you could! —It really is a skill. And they respond, “Oh, but I don’t have the ‘eye’.” (But then that’s an acquired thing, too.) Honestly, that’s what real good art critiques are for; you put your work in front of another’s bright discerning eyes, and then you take their word with a grain of salt…
The only complaint that I have – which is hardly a complaint – is that I’m so preoccupied with photography, that it leaves little room for anything else. My other passionate pursuits have to wait patiently by, and I’m left with this push-and-pull resentment, but also love, for photography. Alternatively, when I’ve had my fill of another thing, photography will always be there.
Monterey Bay Aquarium, 2013
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It’s new and unfamiliar, me likening myself to a photographer. It reminds me of Vonnegut: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” It also reminds me of not too long ago where things were changing at a pace too fast to question it. It was simply easier and better to accept it.
What photography used to be for me and what it’s become now are two different beasts. It used to be a way for me to secure memories, to secure visuals, which I could treasure. These days it’s expanded to a storytelling device, no longer simply a mnemonic one. And there’s a conceptual aspect to it, too.
What I’ve been pleased with lately are harmonies. As far as I know, there are at least three ways in which one can achieve this: form, content, and a combination of the two. And I believe the format that lends itself most to this is the diptych (two images placed side-by-side, or one above the other). This was a common practice with paintings as well, and I think it’s called the “didactic”.
Recently a friend of mine suggested that I could display in his space, this café with white walls and ambient light. At first, this offer came as a little off-putting, but I’m learning to accept it the longer I sit with it.
If I plan well, then it could really turn out to be a successful show—as in it’d be really gratifying for me. I mustn’t forget that photography started out as a personal passion of mine, and neither should I forget my own advice: to accept what comes and to not let it affect me too much.
I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”
— Vincent van Gogh