Sunday Sum-Up

I can’t complain about the weather this time. It’s been absolutely gorgeous. No one is running their air conditioners, everyone’s windows are open, and the neighborhood kids are spending their evenings outside. Fireflies are everywhere, and so too, it seems are playful dogs. In other words, it’s practically paradise around here. I’ve been taking advantage of the break in the hot weather by taking walks around a nearby college campus. With classes out for the summer, it’s incredibly quiet and full of singing birds, chirping crickets, the nightly cicadas, and the chatter of the occasional offended squirrel.

I’ve gotten a lot of reading done this week, finishing up both The Soul of the Camera by David duChemin and The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. They are both excellent books.

The Soul of the Camera stays away from technical information. There is no talk of aperture or shutter speed or back vs. front-lighting. The camera itself is treated like the tool it is, and duChemin talks about the photographer’s importance in the making of the image. It’s your vision that creates the photograph, he says, it’s your ability to be patient and wait for the right moment to unfold in front of you. It’s your ability to see the world around you and pay attention to how things are that makes a memorable photograph. The camera is secondary to that. If you’re interested in the art and craft of photography beyond the basic technical skills, I would highly recommend The Soul of the Camera.

My current reads are Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain, a book I downloaded during an exceptionally slow and boring day at work today, and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas which downloaded automatically after being on hold for me for several weeks. I keep hearing about Sarah J. Maas’s books and about how  much people like them, so I figured I would give them a try. I haven’t started on Throne of Glass yet, but I should be able to start it fairly soon, since I’m three-quarters of the way through Medium Raw. 

I have to admit I’m a bit dubious about Throne of Glass. I mean, it involves a tournament of thieves and assassins, people who would logically be doing their best to not be found by royal officials. There is also a love triangle, which makes me roll my eyes, but I’ve heard that it’s relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. I haven’t really read any other ‘teenaged assassin’ books so as long as it’s better than Robin LaFevers’s Grave Mercy, it will be the best of that particular type of book I’ve ever read (note: I hated Grave Mercy. I thought the main character was a temperamental dolt who should have been taken out by one of her fellow teenage-girl-assassins, because the other girl was far more interesting and way more intelligent).

But in the spirit of trying new things, I’ll give it a go.


I did not finish Glen Cook’s The Black Company. I gave it about 80 pages, but I never could connect with any of the characters- not even the narrator, Croaker- and it always felt like things were coming out of the blue, event-wise. Like, they’d be chilling in their quarters, and someone was suddenly poisoned, and then half a page later they were conducting a raid on a rival company’s stronghold. I never could get a grasp on the world, its geography, or its history, culture, or ideals. Not really, anyway. It just seemed like everyone was trying to kill everyone else, and then, ‘look! Were-creatures are on the loose! We’re going over here now so we can ignore the were-creatures!’. I know a lot of people love this book and the ensuing series, but it just didn’t connect with me. There is an upcoming television show based on it. I’m hoping it will be a good one, and that I’ll like it more than the book.

New Acquisition

David duChemin is a photographer I’ve been following for a few years now. I’m not sure how I came across his blog, Pixelated Image, but after reading a few posts, I quickly decided that I could learn a lot about taking pictures from him. I’ve had a camera in hand to one degree or another for the past twenty years, so I’m familiar with aperture and shutter speed, while my long education in art has given me a solid grounding in things like composition and lighting.  And yet, before I came across duChemin, I couldn’t find very many books or blogs that talked about more than just the technical skills I had already learned. My photography skills had plateaued, and finding someone who could push me past that was a challenge.

duChemin’s photography motto is this: “Gear is good, but vision is better”. It’s a philosophy I agree with whole-heartedly after dealing with many, many people who think that photography is all about megapixels and focal length. Yes, those are aspects that you need to learn to make successful photographs, but the technical parts aren’t the be-all-end-all. The different between a good photograph and a great photograph is the emotion it captures- how does it make you feel? what story is being told? do your photographs show what you were feeling about your subject? It’s an approach that has truly helped me to make better photographs in the past few years.

The Soul of the Camera came out recently, and after dithering about ordering a copy for a few weeks, I decided to just go ahead and get it.

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I haven’t gotten very far into it, but so far, the points that duChemin has been making resonate with me. It’ll be exciting to get all the way through it and see how it affects my work in the future.

“It is we who put the humanity, the vision, and the poetry into our photographs.”

-David DuChemin
The Soul of the Camera

 

I took this photograph last August, during my trip to Ireland. I had arrived that morning after an overnight flight, jet-lagged, giddy with exhaustion, and clueless about what to do before heading to Galway the next day. I found a little tourist attraction built around Bunratty Castle.

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One of the things that duChemin encourages photographers to do while traveling is to make connections with the people you’re photographing instead of just walking up to someone, taking their picture, and then wandering off.

I didn’t catch this woman’s name, but she was playing songs from the home countries of the tourists passing by. She played ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ for me, and then invited me into the little house she runs in the Bunratty Folk Village when it started pouring rain. We chatted by the fire for a while, and she played more music for me until the rain stopped, after which I asked if I could take her picture, and she agreed. This was one of my favorite memories and favorite pictures of my trip to Ireland, and it never would have happened if I hadn’t listened to duChemin’s advice.