Streetshooter

July 17th, 2019 … The Mind of a Streetshooter … Some Tips For Working

When I was doing my workshops, there were certain things that were asked and these things carried on for many years. There are things to know and there are things to just Breathe. It’s great to adopt a system to work and breathe in but it’s crucial to understand the mechanics of the language of the street.

First off, do not let anyone rattle your cage. There are many methods to work but they should just be a part of what you do.  watch out for the purist. I do believe here in Philly, they have given up the quest to take over people minds and have them do things right according to their standards.

I remember decades ago I dreamt of auto ISO before it was employed in cameras. I didn’t think about Auto ISA but I knew that shooting a film rated at 400 like Tri’ was limiting in very low light. I thought about if a film could change ASA, then it would simplify changing film. In a way, I did just that but in my darkroom. I got Tri-X to be at ASA 640 as my base ASA.  I used it for 250-800. The results were ok but not ideal. My Leica’s didn’t have a meter in them back then. I didn’t use a light meter unless it was a money shoot or something. Decades passes and cameras had M Mode and well… jump forward some, Auto ISO was installed. Of course, I fell in love with this technology. Many told me I was not true Manual because I let the camera set the ISO.

The argument is, to be true Manual mode, you set the ISO, the Aperture and the Shutter Speed.  This is the Triad of Exposure. So, on the street, we need to be more reactive and pay attention to the subject matter and or scene more than the camera. Wouldn’t be easy to do that when you lock yourself into using a single ISO. Any change in light value requires a change in one of the three parts of the triad. So why go out and spend time walking around, seeking your next photo and being plagued by the traditional Manual Exposure Thought train. There’s the shot, set f5.6. 125/sec and the now the ISO, no… not 250, hmm maybe 400.. sets 400, looks up and the world has changed. It’s ok, even tho NG would have paid $5000.00 for that shot, no matter.

There’s a reason for tradition and a reason to break tradition. Ok, looks around. I’m going to tell you about a feature that is extremely effective. Takes a deep breath. Ok, this is a feature that most people haven’t discovered. Yes, it’s a secret and I will tell you about it now. It’s called the Exposure Value or EV. Don’t let this rattle your cage. EV is a feature on all my cameras and I never use it. For real, all it does on some cameras is change accidentally and upset me. I know many shooters that use this all the time.

The argument for M Mode continues but I gave up the battle to defend using Auto ISA.  The jury is in for me. I have my way of working and that’s that. There’s another feature that gets a lot of chatter. That is Focus.

This is a more touchy subject than M Mode. Basically, we have,  Auto Focus and Manual Focus. My way to work kinda varies with the camera I use. Let’s face it, we all want the fastest AF we can get. What can be faster working than AF? Nothing right? I beg to differ. I will explain about the M Leica and not trying to sell anything, just explaining how it works for me. The M has Auto Focus but by a different concept. What happens is this. I go out and then focus the camera with the rangefinder. Whoa, I see something different and I Automatically Focus on the new subject. So, that’s Auto Focus in a New Concept.

It’s called humor and I know youse get it. At this point, I urge you to use The DOF Master. It’s been a lifesaver for me since it was released many years ago.

Hyperfocal Distance VS Zone Focus. 

The thing is, to understand your photos and how and why you make them. Then to understand your camera and to be friends with it. What focus distances do you really need to have in the photo? Hyperfocal Distance is the most widely accepted way to work on the street. I’ll give an example in a wee bit. You’ll see it down there. The other way is Zone Focus. They are different and we need to understand the difference.

On my M9 with a 35mm lens, @ f8 the Hyperfocal Distance is 16.9′ That means from about 8 1/2′ to Infinity is in acceptable focus. When you change f/stops, the HD changes also. If you use f5.6 then the HD is 23.8′. That gives you about 12′ to Infinity. The key to this is, Infinity is always on the far end of the Hyper Focal Distance. What changes is not Infinity but the near distance? So, you set the f/stop accordingly to the near distance you desire. You need to remember that when you change f/stop the shutter speed or ISO needs to be changed also… Nah…, anyone that knows me, of course, uses Auto ISO so change f/stops, keep your shutter speed and your camera will work with you to change ISO to meet the exposure you use.  I used 1/125 f/11 on my cameras for a very long time and many times I still do.

Well me starting thinking, I’m not always wanting infinity in focus. I mean if I’m like 8′ to infinity, man that’s a long way. That means I can have someone about 8′ from me in focus and then Giovanni in focus in Italy. Oh yeah, that’s theoretically Infinity. Maybe I don’t want that much in focus. Hmmm, must be another way. Lemme think, I mean it’s on my tung I just need a min to find it… YES. By Jove I got it mate.

Maybe, just maybe, Zone Focus can solve the dilemma. If we think about compression in a different light, we can grasp Zone Focus. Years ago the kit for high-end fashion shooters was a Nikon F,2,3 and the 200mm f4.  Moving in kinda close made a very compressed photo. It was more than DOF it was the way the lens compressed the image. I remember thinking back then, I like the way the subject and foreground and background were compressed. this is like 1981 and forward. I thought I wanted that compression but in the background and foreground. I mean, the foreground and background were soft or out of focus. The subject and a set amount of front and back were in focus. Not Hyper Focus because that moves out to infinity. I wanted infinity soft. So one day I had a revelation about zone focus.

 

The most important element for a camera is to be fast in operations. Next probably is how easy and how fast we can change our way of thinking and how the camera supports that. As far as focusing, the element that will change most is the foreground distance. With Hyperfocal Distance the foreground changes distance and the Infinity is a constant. So, you set the f/stop so that your subject falls in the range you desire.  Now you need to be aware of the close end of Depth of Field to make sure you have acceptable focus.

Here’s where Zone Focus is similar to Hyperfocal Distance. It’s about feeling the distances you are working with

What I do a lot is, Leica M, 35mm lens, at f/5.6 the HD is 28.8′. Everything from about 12′ to Infinity is in acceptable focus.  I set the lens to 10′ and then my zone of acceptable focus is 7.06′ – 17.2′. If I want a fatter zone, I would use f/f8.0 The range now is 6.29′ – 24.4′. That’s a very handsome range. If I went to f/11 I would use HD and that is 12′.

The important thing to remember is that the sharpest point is always where the lens is actually focused. So, the foreground distance and the background distance have a falloff. It’s not like the acceptable distance is sharp and then in front of that completely out of focus. It is a gradual falloff.  The smart shooter realizes that and uses that to create contrast or a focus juxtaposition.

This can all be performed on any camera that has manual focus and or manual exposure. It’s just not as easy or intuitive as a Leiva M. If you understand the process then maybe you can find a way to implement in your work. I know most of you know this stuff but my dear woman advisor Suzanne, wants me to spread the knowledge around.

Have a blessed week and I’ll be back soon with more stuff.   ….. shooter out …..

June 21st, 2019 … Ding McNulty … Saves Me Again … Leica M9

Ding said, slow down Don. It was a very hard suggestion for me. I was holding and viewing early photos from the FSA and I suppose I was excited. See, I always felt the photos, not just saw them. I could smell the sweat from the people, the sand, the dirty clothes. It all made me breathe photography more. Ding always told me to just slow down. flash forward to 2012.

Roger calls me and tells me he bought a few M9’s. I kinda remember he was in Germany at the time. I told him not to send it to me because I have a bad memory from the M8 and just wanna use my cameras. I was using Fuji and Olympus mostly. Roger was starting to have sensor issues and lost interest in the cameras. So, in 2016, he sent them to Leica and had the sensors changed, and the body cleaned and adjusted. He sent me one M9 packed in the box with the repairs done and told me, “Someday you’ll want this camera”.

I kinda chuckled because the M9 was a dinosaur when it was borne. I had Pen Cameras, Panny, all kinds. I was heavy into M43 and even was an Admin. I never thought about that silly M9. Time passed and Leica made the Mono, the M240 and other goodies. Still, I was not tempted to bring out the M9. I started using the M240 and it’s a fine camera. I spent over 18 months battling with the weight. Finally, I sent the M240 back to Roger. I made handsome photos with that camera and it’s a gem for a Leica, just too heavy for me. I’m lucky to have the Fuji X-Pro2, Olympus Pen-F, Ricoh GRIII, etc.

I fell to illness, Ulcerative Colitis. I spent very little time on the streets, or did I?  I was homebound.  I went thru some of my archives and it appeared that recently, meaning the last few years, I was going a little faster and deeper than I normally do or like to do. I’m 69 now and if I can’t see my work now, I never will. I am always happy with what I”m doin…..then I hear a sound in my tired brain.

I’m feeling a knock, knock in me poor head. I yell into my head and say…. what do you want and who the heck are you? The, then out of the darkness in my head, i hear a voice I longed to hear for all my life. The voice says, slow down Don, just slow down. Yeah, yeah, like you, just a voice know anything. Then, I start thinking and I do recognize the voice. It’s the voice of reason and the voice of pure understanding creativity. I can hear, use the force Luke… wait, wait, the wrong channel… this is Photography Issues from Philly, not Star Wars.

The voice was Ding McNulty. In my mind and heart, Ding is always with me anyway. It’s one of the reasons I go to a shrink. SLOW DOWN DON… JUST SLOW DOWN. Ya know, I need to slow down and smell the flowers. So I went to Roger’s house and into the Camera Vault. I saw my M9 on the shelf and took it home. I wasn’t really holding any expectations for success but I needed to give it a go. I put the battery in the charger and I remember about 3 hours to charge. I clean the camera the way Ernie from Leica NJ showed me. Then after some time, I put the battery in the camera, I put a card in and I use a slooooowwww 30mbps card. The camera gets turned on and I half expect this thing to be a paperweight. M9 boots up, I format the card….the battery reads under 50% which I expect is due to age. No matter. I go thru the menu and do my settings. Now, when I hold one of my cameras, my adrenaline gets to work. I am in a kinda hyper tuned mode. For some reason, the M9 is making me breathe and be aware of each breath. So, I say to M9, let’s try each other out. M9 tells me, look, shooter, I been waiting on the stupid shelf over 3 years for you to wake up.

Yeah, so what…..? There is someone inside my body that is telling me to just get you to slow down.. Yeah, right. You’re just a camera, what ya think I am huh, huh…I ain’t no damn fool. M9 says, you talking to me, you talking to me. No silly Don, Dinero is not in me, Ding is.

Well, maybe youse don’t buy too much of this. Maybe, just maybe I have a life that includes dreams and fantasy but…. I have a Leica M9 that Ding McNulty will visit from time to time. Like it or not, I am willingly being forced to sloooow down

Have a blessed weekend and maybe, just slow down a little……

 

June 11th, 2019 … Analyzing Intent … Soul Shooter … Pt 1

…. aight, so then what about intent? Who the heck invented that anyway … and then makes everyone, well many everyone’s but not all everyone’s but enough= everyone’s to question the intent of the intent makers intent. I ain’t one to rock the boat, too much. Been married way too long and too many divorces to do that. So, I know how to escape and get outside and go make photos by myself. Ahhh, so maybe, just maybe it’s crazy but maybe that there being by myself is the issue of intent.

One of the residents in my mind talks about the here and now. I tried to find him but he’s hiding and watching me make a fool of myself. I know this. If you’re being a fool and being that unknowingly, you’re a fool. If you’re being a fool and your fool intent is working, you may appear to be a fool but your not.

Here’s what it has to do with photography.

I say it applies to photography but actually, it’s a life lesson. Let’s just deal with the photography part and maybe address the other parts later.

We all know about the here and now. If you’re just joining us, go back and find the there and then. Study it and when you feel you are ready, join us in the here and now. What exactly is in the here and now? I know, I know we all been taught that if you’re there in the here and now, your in tune with life within and without you. (GH) But what exactly is this element that we become aware of? It’s not the camera unless you connect to it in a most elegant manner. Your clothes are present, the air you breathe, etc. the YOUR is part of the key.

We might say it;’s our persona or perhaps it’s like awareness of all and also forgetting that all. I’m sure all that counts in the total of our life’s existence. Go to a funeral or flashback to the one you went to and remember the words….” May his soul rest in peace, this could also be, May her soul rest in peace.” That’s it, not kidding… it’s that soul guy I’m chasing after. Soul woman whatever.

THE SOUL

I think most get it wrong. We figure that a camera is a tool I never felt that way. I always felt my camera was a partner in my work and maybe a soul mate. I name my cameras. It keeps me in touch with what I am responsibly doing. The real tools are not the camera by any means, it’s the eye, heart, and mind. See those 3 tools are keeping you alive and able to continue. So then, if we all accept that and I’m sure you will, what becomes the driving factor of those tools. Two things. The medical profession sucking all your money to keep those tool working and the other is, your soul to use and love those tools.

 

So, my belief is kinda distorted because life always has it’s own opinions and sets them to my mind.  Perhaps, I’m talking about religion and spirituality.  Religion equates to the camera brand you use. It’s the part of you to operate within a guideline of life experience, past and yet to be realized. We may all differ on brands. Spirituality is the source of commonality between us all. It’s the SOUL of living and the SOUL of photography. This is an inescapable truth.

The essence of your images is a direct result of the experiences of living and making photos.

 

The reason I write this stuff is partly that I find that there needs to be a connect with the world. We are apart. like it or not and that very statement conjures up the notion that we are responsible and accountable for our photos. We are not politicians that get to keep the buck and not be accountable for any wrong doing. We are humans with a camera and that means we are accountable to our selves, our work, and our subject matter.

Getting tired again. I need to rest but will continue this tomorrow.

Be blessed, my friends

 

 

 

 

 

The Weeds and the Flowers

 

May 14th, 2019 … Thinking vs Not Thinking … Are They The Same?

Accountability is the course for me. When I’m making photos, I am inspired by the simple fact that I was awake in the here and now making the photo. It gives me satisfaction and proof when I view the photos now and later. I’m not implying that anyone needs to follow in this manner. I can’t promise I will myself, and stay subject to change if needed or not needed. But on the issue of conscious accountability, this is it for me.

Giovanni stated in a chat we had, that he prefers to not think at all. I get that for real but I wonder if, in fact, that nonthinking state of working is any different than a thinking state of working? The old saying of “The proof is in the pudding” and it’s perfectly true. The thing is, there are many flavors and textures and taste of the pudding. So we all have the given right to choose and use the pudding of our choice. Do we taste our pudding as well as look at it and find it appealing? How about the scent? All these things and more come into play but are they conscious things or unconscious things and perhaps, crazy as it seems… a combination of all things.

What I find inspiring and exciting is, viewing my photos and that they in a way, draw me back to the experience of life. The experience of the moment of exposure. I think it’s more than the Decisive Moment, it’s more something of reinforcing the memory of life. Proof that I was there. So on the one hand that is very sweet and loving. On the other hand, it goes against the very essence of photography as I live it.  The photograph should live on its own merit and not have to draw upon the 3-dimensional reality for its value and existence. Perhaps this is not the only truth of photography. I mean, of course, memories are crucial to life and the validation of photography but the fact is, the photograph really is just a catalyst or tool to conjure up the lost memory or is it?

What about when you just want to work for the sake of saving your soul. I mean as art artform, (Stieglitz not so happy now) … Is the process the same for making photos as an extension of your soul as it is as a keeper of the memory. seems to me that making a conscious memory is a very important process. I never thought about just having a lackadaisical approach in making a memory.   I always tried to capture the best version of what or whom I was working with. We need to be awake and aware of the process and all of it’s intent before, during and after the exposure. We should desire to make the photo memory be all that it can be without the intrusion of anything in the way.

 

This has mostly been the Professional approach to making photos. It certainly requires attention and the absolute awareness of the shooter’s presence. There is a nobility in the very act of making photos. The usual situation of working for someone, money or not, requires a 100% concentration and awareness of being in the here and now. You need to satisfy the needs of your client, This is first and foremost. So that approach can and is applied to working for yourself. ultimately, working for ourselves is the step to working for a client. The pro shooter commits his/her vision to the project and makes the photos for the intent of the project.  (I am going to use a suggestive word and it applies to my thoughts even if it’s a stretch. The Personal Shooter.) The personal shooter has him/herself as a client. The photos made are for individual intent.

So in this stance, perhaps it’s ok to adopt a few ways of working. As Giovanni stated, he doesn’t want to think about things, just make his photos. I agree that this is a noble way to work and very fulfilling.  Maybe working that way has defined accountability but I like clarity. I’m not saying Giovanni does not like clarity, I’m merely stating that I like clarity during the process.  For me, there is elegant freedom walking around with my camera friend making photos and being in the here and now, regardless of where it is.

I believe in the principle of the Inverse Square Law. More is less and less is more. I see it like this. The more awareness I have the greater the freedom is born. I have very few intrusions.

The less aware I am of process, the more intrusions present themselves.  I don’t know anything as a landmark for reality. This I do know cause I live it.

When I was young, I was taught that a photograph speaks 1000 words. As I grew older, not so much wiser, I found that a photo spoke less than 1000 words. As time passed, I realize that my photos maybe speak a half dozen words and that’s given a stretch. I guess it’s that Inverse Square Law that has haunted my very essence for all my life. I view my photos and words lose meaning and become cloudy as the photos are borne.

There is a saying by a Doctor Murray Banks, It goes like this. “As you go through your life brother, whatever be your goal. Keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.

Be Blessed one and all.  Namaste’

 

 

 

 

 

March 30th, 2019 … From The Streets of Philadelphia … Ricoh GR III

There are times in our life that we must surrender to the forces of perfection. This is one of those times.

Andre’ the Ricoh GR III has been on the scene for about a week. I do mean my scene as your scenes may vary timewise. I struggled at first with finding the intuitive way to be together.  I suppose that any means to get intuitive would require an acquired approach. In my mind, I kept comparing the GR III with GR II. Maybe that mindset was holding me back some and I finally surrendered to the GR II and it’s differences to the GR II. So I set sail with the Ricoh GR III and we decided to form a bond and to get acquired information to become intuitive. It’s a fine replacement to the GR II. I can not overemphasize how perfect the SR = Shake Reduction actually is.  I don’t know for sure how Ricoh thinks about the camera but the camera itself is proof that thought went into it. The missing Flash is for sure a conversation many will linger on. I see it this way. If I can hand hold the camera and get a very usable photo at 1/5 sec, why need a flash. See, the majority of street shooters kind wanna be discreet. Not all but the majority. If your out shooting with a flash, your not discreet at all. So I figure Ricoh thought that way also and made the camera very capable of low light shooting. It is!

 

The way I like to use the GR series is like this. I set the exposure for 1/125 f5.6 This a good shade setting and if you like low ISO. I do sometimes especially on bonding with a camera. I set snap focus distance to 2.5m.  My fav is 1/250 f8. Anyway, I work like this until I want to switch to AF. Switching to AF I still work the same exposure because I use Auto ISO. What ya don’t want to do but certainly can change the f-stop. If you decide to go back to snap focus, you are already at the right f-stop for the set Snap Distance. The AF on the GR III is very snappy except if you’re in l o w  l i g h t and then it hunts for good contrast. I don’t use the touch screen and haven’t in any other camera either. My cameras are my family and not tools so no need to be critical or anal about that stuff.

 

So Suzanne asked me why I am posting these 3 photos. Good question. I feel that Andre’ the Ricoh GR III is now a part of my camera family. We have bonded and continue to do so in a rapid and efficient way. The first 3 days together and I was ready to send him packing. Then one night as I lay in bed relaxing, I got a telepathic message from Andre’. He said, ” look, shooter, I will do all that you ask of me within my abilities. In return you need to accept me as a partner and not a slave to your whims. I will adapt to you without fail but you, in turn, must adapt to me. Together we will achieve the ZEN we both seek”.

I thought that Andre’ was being damn ballsy and insistent about a 2-way relationship. I drifted off to sleep and visions of Andre floated around my tired brain.  I ran down to the kitchen and made a fresh cup of Kona. Back up to the office and I looked at Andre’ the Ricoh GR III. Ok, maybe I am exaggerating some but he had a smile on his uuum….lens face. The I knew at once it was time for us to leave the Grasshopper Office. Andre’ was right. I accepted his strengths and weaknesses as my own and we instantly had an intuitive relationship. All the I thought was wrong, (actually 1 single flaw) was in clarity and I am now at one again.

Andre’ told me that we are both responsible for this synergism we have created but…. if the photos suck, it’s my fault, not his….ever.

March 28th, 2019 … Ricoh GR III … JPEG Comparison

 

 

Just got back from my Doctor. She asked me what’s wrong and I looked around and whispered…. this is shot indoors, ISO 100 f2.8 and ummm… worried the funny guys will try to catch me…. it’s ummmm…. 1/5sec doc… it’s sharp and you know I have tremors but Andre’ the Ricoh GR III tells me not to worry.  Doc sits on her chair and leans back, I see Mr. Springer. She puts her hand to her chin and says, what else can this Ricoh camera things do?

Macro Mode  1/100  f2.8  ISO 100

So I started to tell Doc that I did a test and here are the first results. She looks at me….hmmm she says, please continue. So I looked at her cause’s my Doc and altho she takes care of my health issue, I was a seasoned shooter have the responsibility to show her some photos as a test.

From DNG  1/200  f5.6 ISO 100

JPEG  Standard Same Exposure as above

Monotone

Soft Monotone

Hard Monotone

Hi-Contrast B&W

Positive Film

Bleach Bypass

Retro

HDR Tone

All the outdoor photos are in the same settings. What changed is the JPEG in the camera. I won’t be using any of these not because I don’t like them but because I use DNG. I will have Standard color or Monotone B&W on the camera because I like to get a feel for the image I am making. I alter a lot in LightRoom because I want to feel my photos and not be responsible to answer to anyone.   If for no other reason than the Shake Reduction, it’s the best camera. I mean the sofa shot is in LOOOOOW light and I did it at 1/5 sec handheld and it’s very passable.  I have tremors and am confident that they no longer pose a threat to my work because of this camera.

The first few days I struggled with the EV and AF Focus box. I’m not entirely relieved of this but it’s now my fault if they activate or at least a shared mess up. Ricoh did a lot of work on the GR and produced a very fine camera. I’ll have more thoughts and findings over the weekend.

Be blessed all……

February 23rd, 2019 … Take It To Another Place … The Spirit, Not … The Religion of Photography

… ok, ok I know I’m a bad student and a bad disciple of anything. I have taught or suggested for years about the here and now.  I still believe that and still live, practice and teach that.

It was early in 1970, Chu Lai … Vietnam. We were working with some ARVN’s … The Army Republic of Vietnam. I became friends with an older man named Chin. He was a photographer for his Army and I was a grunt with a camera. We had photography in common.  When we were taking a break or just downtime, Chin would lay on the ground and close his eyes.

He wouldn’t move a muscle. I sometimes watched him and wondered what he was doing. One day I asked him and he said he was meditating. I asked, What is meditating? Chin asked me to sit and he explained. He said for him, he would meditate to leave the state of being he is in and place his heat and mind in a more tranquil place. To take it to another place. 

Chin died in October 1970. I took a photo from his pocket and it was a photo of his wife and son. That photo took Chin to another place. I still have it, bloodstained and all.

A few years later, my Brother took me to Lorimer Park. We climbed up the hill made of boulders and when we reached the top, we sat. He wanted to teach me meditation. I felt that he knew my soul was tormented and needed a way to escape. I didn’t press the issue but was very suicidal and maybe he sensed that. Maybe he still does.

Jerry had me close my eyes and breathe deep but natural. He told me to listen to the sounds around me. Well, there are many people doing many things and I can hear most. Then he said, listen to the water trailing down behind us. I didn’t hear any water. Lots of things but not, water. We left and just relaxed on the way home. A few days later, we went back and Jerry told me to just filter. I tried to grasp the concept but try as I may, I could not hear the water. I wasn’t frustrated as I also knew I lost a good percentage of my hearing in Nam. To this day, I still have not found anything lost in Nam, nothing.

I thought back about Chin. The way he tried to teach me a way to escape the moment and take it to another place. Was meditation with my brother the same or similar thing?

Ding McNulty had a way with me that is still working. He presented things and concepts to me and had a manner that got them in my head and heart, without realizing I ever adopted it. Chin, my brother Jerry, Ding all had a way to get me to take things to another place. It’s all a good way to escape the moment.

Well, for me, it’s all nice and I appreciate it all but it’s not how I live my life. My photography dictates that I be aware in the Here and Now. The reason for naming my camera is to have it be a catalyst for my work.  If I’m working with Mom the Ricoh GRII, I am in the here and now. I don’t want to take anything to another place. I want to deal with what’s going on in and around me first hand. Photography is my meditation. It is the single device that connects me with the here and now. I walk, I see a scene and make an exposure. I saw in 3-dimensional reality the trigger for the transformation that I search for in 2-dimensional reality, or called LightRoom.  The finished photo becomes a statement of my experience in that here and now. It’s a metaphor for my emotions and thoughts. It does not take me to another place nor do I want it to. It keeps me focused and aware and aware of my existence with a camera. Perhaps for me, photography is the greatest meditation in my life.

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Life becomes a beautiful mystery. We as photographers have the gift to see and make photos of the little mysteries. Meditation is not where you go or what you do. True meditation is how you live and how you reflect upon the life you live. It’s not where you try to go or place thoughts and emotions to another place. The gift is to be able to be aware and accept the mysteries of your life and live and love it in your here and now.

For men, the greatest mystery of all is…. how does your wife like your cooking?

 

 

January 9th, 2019 … Blinded With Clear Vision … or … Wake Up the Past to Find the Present

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… you miss the point and you miss and abuse the flavor of life. I will not entertain you with an argument, let me just say, you will never connect your heart to your photos. You probably don’t connect anyone with your heart and for that I feel terrible for your friends and family but my friend…not for you. You have the gift of life and take it for granted.

Sorry friends. You caught me off guard as I was in a discussion about the heart of life and the heart of photography. See, there’s many ways to make photos and many uses and or purposes for those photos.

Flashback….we are at base camp near LZ Liz. I’m sitting around with a couple troops and we are talking about the value we feel for life. Some guys are saying, they would fight to the death and die for America. I feel that way also and continue field cleaning my 45ACP. Spud a soldier from Idaho and on his 5th tour says to me, Jingles, you would die for your friends here and die for your country. I bravely and boldly say, damn right

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Spud knocks me on the head and looks in my eyes. The other troops are looking and trying to figure out what’s happening. Spud says so all the others can hear, Jingles, it’s easy to die here. It’s a worthy cause to die for your friends and your country. You need to find a reason to live for them and America and not die for them. You need to always fight for life, not death. If you survive, you must fight for life every day until you die. You must never surrender to death and when you die, make sure all the world knows it.

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I thought about the dichotomy of life and death. Spuds words resonate in my heart and mind to this very second and I often wonder if he was recognized as a ZEN Master. I asked Spud why he was here so long and he said because here, I am able to feel my life and in the world, I feel I am not worthy and will abuse it.

The thing about photography is, that it is a representation of our life and existence. There is a path to self discovery and for me it has always been with a camera.

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On this path to Self Discovery, we must realize that it is a lonely path and ends in our death.  This does not mean that we can’t share time with others but you’ll catch hell trying to get someone to die with you. That Landmark is strictly a lonely one. OK, so we can’t cheat death or life but what we can do and should do and simply put, must do is: Live our life in a manner that brings focus to our hearts and souls and honors those before us.  As photographers, we should make a worthy battle to maintain our integrity and honor our work as if it is our life’s worth..

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We need to honor our history. It is said that we should see things as if seeing for the first time. Such a simple virgin excuse. By doing so, we erase our history and neglect any value that the work had or has for us. I rather acknowledge;edge my history and maybe make a new photo of the subject but keep the history alive. You simply can not erase the history of your work. So, then, love it and see things differently and make a new photo of whatever you are doing.

Proof that I am not too crazy. We all do exactly as I said every time we make photos of our friends and family etc. If you make photos of a loved one, do you erase the history or embrace it?

I will write more shortly…. go in peace alls………

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November 30th, 2018 … Watching You Watching Me … Passing Time With Harry Bertoia

I was heading out to Harry Bertoia’s place in Barto Pa, and was anxious to talk with him. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Bertoia   Harry had a mind that was limitless in thoughts. He was expecting me and had a cup of coffee ready when I arrived. Harry was sitting and looking at some of his sculptures. I sat in the chair next to him and by the way, the chairs were sculptures by Harry. Harry looked at me and asked, “What do you see”? I know that no matter my answer, it would either be wrong or in adequate. I told Harry that I can only explain what I’m seeing that connects my heart. (If this is wrong, I don’t wanna be right) I said I see the light, textures, shapes and the physical things associated to each piece.

Harry smiled and said, what do you think the pieces are thinking as they look at us? My eyes kinda perked up and I was caught off guard. It’s 1976, my son Paul was born 5 months prior to this event. I hadn’t done any drugs in a long time, no pot, no alcohol either. Clean and sober except for photography. So I felt kinda trippy when Harry asked me that question. I never thought about my works watching me as I watch them. It’a absurd I tellya, totally absurd. That’s not the lesson he was teaching me.

Harry was teaching me about perception and how it applies to others seeing me. Harry said that my work is stronger than any mirror image. Look at your self in a mirror and you may adjust yourself as you see fit. When you look at your work, realize that it is looking at you and can’t be adjusted. You just need to accept the fact that it is you and another way of seeing yourself and being seen.

Minor White had a similar concept about viewing work. He felt that it was a 3 way process. The photographer, The work and the viewer. All 3 are as one and not one part shall be excused from the others. I agree with these Master of course. I also like to add that there are other elements involved and even as the work is created. The idea of money or paid work, regardless of the original intent, will most certainly effect the outcome.

The intent of the photo is now maybe divided upon the shooter and the shooter’s client. The photo that’s looking back at us maybe is in the hands of a client and those eyes are watching us intently. Who or whom is our work satisfying now? I think Harry had a getter grasp on this than Minor. Harry made and sold a lot of work. His Sounds Of Sculpture is an amazing recording. I got to play some of those sculptures in his studio. Harry gave me a small mushroom sculpture and I still have it. In fact I was looking at it a short time ago and it told me to write this blog post, so I did,

 

 

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December 6th, 2017 … The Excellence of Being

Of course this is a loaded topic but nonetheless, I want to get into it some. There are times that when I am working, something comes over me and I am totally aware of my being.  Some may call the the ZEN. Perhaps it is. I read a series of books that has effectly altered my thinking and feelings about being. This was in the early 1970’s. The author was Carlos Castaneda.  Many say he made everything up but who cares. The world is made up and all we do is choose the parts we want to believe and love.  Anyway, it’s basically about Carlos and his relationship with a Native American mentor named Don Juan.

I think Don Juan had a more focused outlook on life than even the Zen Masters. Different for sure but extremely focused.

 

Some things Don Juan taught Carlos and me by reading, was that…Death is always on your Left Shoulder. He also taught that if you are doing something, it must be worth your death. If you are in the middle of anything and death comes to you, you must not have wasted life but embraced it and your death. Death must be worth you life and you are able to feel as a warrrior not only thru life but thru death.

 

What does this have to do with photography? Well, I believe that photography is a cause for going on. So, that being the case, what attitude should I have when working? What frame of heart and mind shall process what my eyes present to them? What is the switch that I can hit that makes things lighter and less important? I have never been able to answer these questions and more. I found that it is better to live the answers than to try to verbally define them.

The independant state  of being is attached to the breathing of photography.

I had a friend for a long time. His name is jack. Jack was a successful commercial photographer. He made a lot of money and was in demand in DC, Phila and NYC. We met at Oscar’s Pub years ago and chatted and each expressed our views on photos and stuff. Jack said I was too serious and asked how much money I made with my camera. I felt kinda second class and told him I had to leave.

It moved me about the thought of equating satisfaction and success with money. I really felt  kinda out of place. Life went on and cameras and photos came and went. One day I was at Logan Square and sitting on a bench. All the sudden, Jack came to me and sat next to me.  I said, Jack, it’s been a long time man. He said, yup,12 years and 2 wives.

I asked Jack what he was making photos of and he quickly stated that he gave photography up cause the money well dried out.  I asked him if he did personal wotrk and he said, never. Then Jack asked me if I still was making photos. I looked at him and said, Jack….if you need to ask that question, you don’t know me at all.

I shook Jack’s hand and got up and walked away. I never saw him again and yet I never wanted to either. The excellence of being is not absorbed from others but born inside of each of us. We all have the ability to produce a life with photos that teases our death. We can’t escape it but we can live the moment of excellence of being so that when the time comes, we depart with a peace that is undescribable to those that do not heed the warnings or the flavor of life.

I don’t expect many to agree with me or even like this post. That’s not the issue. The thing is, now you have an understanding of where I’m at.

So, tell us where your at?