I took a walk yesterday. I take a walk most days if the weather isn’t completely hostile. Walking on Thursday is usually a bit special, though, because (as I’ve written before, and before that) I belong to Utata — an international group of photographers and other reprobates — and Utata walks on Thursdays.
The group has been doing this for 619 consecutive weeks. That’s very nearly 12 years. We walk and we take a few photos of whatever we see. Not everybody in Utata does this, of course, but there are always a few people out walking with their cameras. This week, for example, we had people walking in Vancouver, in Switzerland, in the U.K., in Indiana, in Austria, in Ontario.
Normally during a walk I’ll shoot maybe half a dozen photos. Well, probably a few more than that now that I’m consciously shooting a Knuckles Dobrovic project. Yesterday I only shot a single photograph. This one:
I’ve been noodling around with cameras for a few decades now, and I’m familiar enough with whatever equipment I have with me to compose and shoot without a lot of conscious thought. I usually know the geometry of the composition I want before I bring the camera (or cellphone) up to shoot the photo. But with this particular photo, a process that normally would take moments ended up taking a few minutes.
I’d actually walked a few feet past that structure before my brain registered that its shape echoed the shape of the shed in the background. So I stopped, walked back, started to take the photo…but there was a distracting bit of playground in the back yard of the house. Couldn’t have that, could I. So I shifted my position a couple of steps to the right…only now the trees were out of balance. So I shifted again…only now a tree partially blocked the shed. So I shifted closer…but the top of the structure no longer aligned with the roof of the house. So I squatted…only now it cut off a corner of the damned house window. So I unsquatted a bit…only now there didn’t seem to be quite enough of the fucking sidewalk. So I shifted back a couple of steps and re-squatted, then re-unsquatted a bit…but some cruel, heartless son-of-a-bitch pulled a goddamned car into the drive of the neighboring house and left its ass-end hanging out just enough to intrude into the fucking frame.
So I said ‘fuck it’ and took the photo.
Thanks, Billy. It’s not a terribly good photo, I’m afraid. The balance is awkward. Mostly I just wanted to write about the photographic process…and my tendency to overthink things.
And I’d also like to say that I appreciate your willingness to keep coming back to this blog even though we disagree on almost everything. I’m not sure if that makes you a masochist or me a masochist, but I want you to know I respect that about you.
As a photographer who wanders around my own neighborhood with a camera in hand, I completely sympathize with your frustration.
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Years ago when I was learning photography I used to put a 50mm lens on my old Canon A1, attach it to a tripod, and keep it that way for a couple of weeks at a time. Now THAT was frustrating. But it taught me to size up a photo in advance (which has been incredibly useful) and to consider the edges of the frame before shooting (well, anything but street work).
I think shooting in your own neighborhood(s) can be a huge pain in the ass, but it can also teach you to be more aware of the generally unseen stuff that a lot of photographers will just walk by..
I fully sympathize with that “fuck it.” I also agree about shooting in your own place. We take so much for granted and forget to see, to notice, to appreciate. I certainly learned that in the four Project 365s I did on Flickr. Almost every day, somehow, I managed to pull off a shot that, for whatever reason, “worked”–whether visually, or storywise, or moodwise, or (occasionally) just another-day-down-wise (a.k.a. fuck-it-wise). I toy with the idea of doing another one of those, but then remind myself not to be crazy. Again.
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I’m a big fan of personal photo projects, but I’d never attempt a 365 of any sort. It works for a lot of my friends, but I suspect I’d come to resent it. For me, I suspect it would become too much like work.
Ha, yeah, the four photo ones weren’t enough, so I then did two blog ones. Never again! Though I do miss the daily discipline (such as it is).
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