I Haven't A Clue What I'm Doing

To prove how accurate the post title is, this is the second time I’ve written this post. The first time I lost about five paragraphs. Maybe I’m a better photographer than I am blogger.

Last year I watched a documentary film called Finding Vivian Maier. If someone asked me today what sparked my interest in photography, that movie and Vivian herself would be my reply. She was prolific, mysterious, private, and somewhat invisible as she moved through the world capturing moment after fascinating moment. To be discovered by accident, and only after her death, was something that I found both poignant and motivating.

After watching the movie and a few restless nights, I was compelled to grab my camera and snap a few pictures, but that felt unsatisfying. Why? Because what Vivian (and so many others) do with a camera is make pictures, they don’t take them, and rarely snap them. My Nikon D5200 was on AUTO, and I had no clue how to move beyond that setting.

I guess I could have read a book (maybe one for dummies), but that seemed uninteresting. I wanted to learn how to use  my camera, so I did what any sensible person in 2017 would do. I watched Youtube videos. I leaned about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  It was, and still is, confusing. I moved on to focal length and depth of field, and became even more befuddled. The more videos I watched the less knowledge I felt I was gaining, with just more questions and seemingly endless permutations on using my camera.

Prior to my Nikon I owned several point-n-shoot digital cameras. Before those, I had little interest in taking pictures save for the occasional Polaroid or leftover roll of Kodak Gold my dad left in his Minolta. My son was born in 2005, and the bulk of my photography up until recently has been random images of him, and on important days like birthdays, holidays, and other similar life landmarks.

All of the videos I watched from creators I enjoyed had something in common. No matter what the topic at hand, in the end they had the same piece of advice, go out and shoot. At first what I ended up with was alot of photos of my feet.  ALOT. What I wanted to do was go out into the world and take pictures like Vivian, certainly not expecting to replicate her work but to be among people, in public, capturing candid moments. 

So, I started going on walks. I would go to the flea market with my camera hanging at my shoulder and I would bring it up to take a photo now and again. Some people would look, most would ignore me.  Other days I would go the park after work so I could catch the best light. The same thing happened, people looked or didn’t but rarely said anything. Those that did talk to me were generally nice, curious people. They asked about my camera, or why I was taking pictures. I answered honestly, that I didn’t know what I was doing and I was learning. 

I had no clue what I was doing. I just did it. The truth is that I still feel that way, but now I’ve come to accept that it’s just a part of a normal process.  Even if I get my aperture and shutter speed bang-on, I may pooch the ISO. Sometimes I forget to check my white balance before I start shooting. I miss alot of good shots while I focus my attention on something silly.  I don’t frame my shots correctly, or I haven’t thought my composition through well enough.

Still, sometimes I’m happy with my results.  Mostly, I get lucky.  Once in a while, a plan comes together.  Overall the results are random, but every time I go out with my camera a feel a bit more confident about my abilities.  The images above are from a walk I took yesterday in the park.  I liked them, and hope you do as well.

Go Play. Have fun.