I went for a drive on Thursday.
No, wait. It would be more accurate to say I went for a ride; I didn’t do any driving, I was just a passenger. It would be even more accurate to say four of us decided to visit a small town and have lunch in some local cafe (or diner or bakery or brewery or whatever passes for a lunch spot in that particular small town), and while we were out, I shot some photos. This is something we do periodically. After we eat we tend to tool around fairly randomly and see what there is to see. We may tour the town (if it’s big enough to actually tour), we may wander along the surrounding back roads.
I generally sit in the front passenger seat and shoot photos. Sometimes we stop and I shoot photos, sometimes I shoot photos out the window, sometimes I convince the driver (my very patient and obliging brother) to stop, turn around, drive back to something I thought might make an interesting photo.
My point, if you can call it that, is that on Thursday we…well, we did that. It was a chilly, occasionally breezy day with a steady fall of exceedingly fine snow. I don’t mean fine in terms of high quality or excellence (although as snow goes, it was pretty fine); I mean fine in terms of texture and delicacy. It was mostly a light, powdery sort of snow; it made the world look like it had been dusted with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
Two things. One, I used to bring one of my cameras on these ventures, but for the last few years I’ve mostly used my phone for this sort of photography. Two, in winter I tend to shoot in black-and-white. I know it makes more sense to shoot in color and convert it to b&w; you have greater control over the final image. But there’s some weird trigger in my brain that says, “Hey, old sock, if you’re going to make black-and-white photos, commit to it.” It doesn’t make any sense, but there it is.
Over the years I’ve used half a dozen different dedicated b&w phone apps. So far, I keep gravitating back to an app called Vignette, which is a very flexible app that allows you to create a number of different camera profiles. I bang it around until I get a b&w setting that meets my general needs and aesthetic, then save it. Every time I buy a new phone, I sort of recreate that setting (although the recreated version is never quite the same as the previous, I’m okay with that).
All of the photos here are drive-by photos. They were shot through the passenger side window (which, of course, was closed because it’s fucking winter here). There’s always a part of me that wishes the window was perfectly transparent, and a conflicting part of me that likes the fact that the window conditions change and the photos change accordingly. The window might be a tad foggy with condensation, or it might be streaked with water or melting snow, or even spattered with mud or road grime. It all finds its way into the photo.
Drive-by photography is ridiculous. It’s all about predicting an image–seeing what’s up ahead and visualizing what it might look like when you get there. If that’s loopy enough, you then have to anticipate what’s coming and try to time the shutter release (okay, there’s no actual shutter in a cellphone, I know that, but you know what I mean) to correspond with what you hope will be a proper composition. That’s another issue with the Vignette app: the shutter lags. Just a moment, but it’s a fairly predictable moment. Which means if you’re using Vignette to shoot a drive-by photo, you have to factor that lag into the equation.
Half the fun of drive-by shooting, of course, is not quite knowing what you’re going to get. You make a number of guesses and predictions based on your experience and intuition and your understanding of the technical concerns, and hope for a good result. Most times, you guess wrong. But sometimes you guess just right and the photo is what you hope it will be. I guessed right (or close enough to right) on the photos you see here. None of them has been cropped, but most of them have been rotated slightly to straighten the horizon line.
The snow helped. Not just because it was pretty, but because we were driving more slowly. That gave me more time to evaluate the shot and a larger margin of error.
There are few finer ways to spend a weekday, when all the normal employed people are at work and out of the way. Good company, good food (usually), good drink (usually), and the serendipitous exploration of some place we have no real reason to visit other than whim. I count myself very fortunate that I get to do this.