Silver blur

The assignment topic in my local photo club's monthly contest this month was "blur." The club web site had a rather long and specific description of what blur is (as if we don't already know) which concluded with, "whatever the photographer wants to do to create areas that are not in focus in the composition." That limitation ruffled my feathers a bit. When I first joined the club, the assignments were one- or two-word topics and that's all. The photographer had complete creative license to interpret the topic however he or she wanted. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility — it was up to the photographer to research the meaning(s) of any terms he wasn't familiar with and depict them in a way that was creative but obvious enough for the judges to recognize.

The club got an influx of new members 2-3 years ago and many of them were relatively new to photography. They were eager to experiment and learn. As perhaps a byproduct of the digital-age instant gratification mindset, they also wanted to jump right in and participate in the program without taking the time to learn the nuances of our system. I can't say I blame them; I did the same thing when I first joined. However, I didn't ring the alarm bells and call the system flawed when the judges didn't "get" my approaches. I just tried harder. It ended up making me a better photographer.

At the behest of a vocal minority, the powers that be decided to attach rather specific and limiting narrative descriptions to the topics so the newer members would have a better feel for what the judges would look for. Their intentions were good, but the result was that the range of creativity in the entries dropped considerably and the entries became mostly rote and predictable. I've seen a wider creative range in the last few months but I still think the narratives are too limiting. Besides, the people who complained the loudest don't even participate anymore. So, I decided to make a point. My interpretation of "whatever the photographer wants to do to create areas that are not in focus in the composition" was to turn in a photo that was entirely sharp and in focus. I got a Silver award for my entry. It shouldn't be too difficult to see where the element of "blur" comes in, and thankfully the judges didn't adhere strictly limit themselves and the photographers rigidly to the published description.




Wow, have I been busy! This is just a quick post to say that I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth or decided to quit posting. I'm working on my house, moving my fianceé and her children in, and preparing to get married. Things should settle down next month and I'll have the time to start posting again.

New Year's resolution

I didn't make a lot of pictures in 2009. There just didn't seem to be time between the photo club, working on the house, making wedding plans, and all the other things that were going on. I didn't realize how busy the year was until I started thinking about it for this post. As I look ahead to 2010, I can't help thinking that it will be less busy. I'm stepping down as photo club president, the wedding is in March, and I hope to have the house mostly finished by early this summer.

One thing I would like to do is get back to participating in the photo club field trips. Sure, a lot of them in the past have started before the crack of dawn in order to catch the good light (I'm NOT a morning person) but it has been worth the sacrifice. The trips present stimulating opportunities and challenges. Take the zoo trips for example. I love animals but I don't particularly enjoy wildlife photography (not that animals in a zoo are considered wildlife in the photographic world, but you get the idea). The trips present the challenge of finding interesting shots that don't necessarily involve animals. The zoo is a haystack and my challenge is to find a few needles. We had a Downtown Houston field trip a couple years ago which netted a nice shot of a fountain and one of a parking garage, among many others. My outings with the Houston Leica Fellowship have been enjoyable and productive as well, and my association with that group provided the opportunity to go on a 2005 photographic journey through China led by renowned photographer Dazhen Wu (吳大軫). That trip was truly a life-changing experience.

I would like to get back to doing more personal work and less work for hire. Sure, it's nice to make money, but personal work is, by its nature, more enjoyable. It can be stress-reducing and therapeutic. It also helps keep the creativity flowing.

I want to refine my skill as a digital printer so I can get what I see on my monitor to appear more faithfully on paper. I mentioned challenges above — printing can be very challenging too. Inkjet printing of black and white images is particularly difficult to do well. This might come as a surprise to some people but for me, printing black and white well is harder than color printing even considering all the color management issues that come with color printing.

I've spent 417 words talking about my resolution without directly saying what it is. In 2010, I resolve to make more photographs. I'm talking personal photos, work I do for my own enjoyment instead of for a cheque. I'm curious what other photographers are planning for the coming year so please leave a comment to tell us about your resolution.

Rocky Mountain HiPhone

This afternoon I drove out to Lookout Mountain and other mountainous points of interest. Photography wasn't good because of the weather, but it was a nice, relaxing outing. The guy at the hotel gave me directions for how to take the "scenic route" there. When I was done sightseeing, it was getting late and I just wanted to get back to town to get something to eat so I took the more direct route back. Problem is, I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in, shall we say, an undesirable part of town. iPhone's Google Maps to the rescue again. Granted, I could probably have used the Google Maps Java app on my old phone to get me out of a bind, but it would have been so painful as to be almost not worth doing. The screen on the CU500 is about one quarter the linear size and less than one quarter the pixel count. And "typing" addresses, or anything for that matter, is a royal pain -- in some situations it puts you in T9 and in some you're in plain old 724446633388555555999#833_3444666887777 ("painfully tedious") mode. Having a QWERTY keyboard makes everything go much faster as I'm sure Blackberry, Blackjack, and other smartphone users can confirm.