I’ve started trying to take some time on a daily basis to write briefly about what I photographed, and why, and what the results were. The rationale is this: when I’m trying to learn some technique or get fluent with some piece of gear, it’s easy for that to become the point of the work I’m doing, or to subsume the original purpose of it.
I spent an hour or so working with this piece of charred broccoli, two flashes, umbrellas and diffusers, different backgrounds, etc., along with the bits and pieces of Light: Science and Magic that I’ve been absorbing intermittently (and incompletely). And when it was done, I had a couple of images that are a bit interesting, and I had largely forgotten why I had started shooting that subject in the first place.
Almost immediately after I finished, I had filed the whole thing in the drawer of my mind reserved for technical exercises and shut it.
But when I sat down to write my debrief of the day’s photography, stuff started popping back up:
Today I shot some tabletop macro stuff with a charred piece of broccoli I noticed last night while trying to relight a pilot. It was unususal — for a bit of scorched food-stuff — in that it was fully recognizable and indeed had retained its structure down to a rather fine level of detail. The scorching created a fantastic effect — the surface was highly glossy, but color was still faintly visible below the surface. It was like some sort of beautiful, horrible demon broccoli from another dimension.
That moment of minor revelation — of pure seeing — in which I first noticed that burnt bit of vegetation was easily obscured by the clutter of all the thinking and adjusting and reacting that I had done in playing with the lighting. If I hadn’t stopped to write it down, then the thinking — and not the seeing — would have become the whole story of the thing. And within a few days, odds are, that story would fixed in my memory. Stopping that night to write it down gave me an opportunity to change that story.
I suspect that if I can keep this up, it will play an important role in staving off the disaffection that sometimes comes over me when I’m working instensively on black triangles (technical stuff), and keeping my eyes — as it were — on the real task of photography, which is seeing (and allowing others to see), not mastering techniques.