REFLECTIONS ON THE BARN’S PHOTOGRAPHY
by Jnana Hodson
As I’ve previously confessed, I have no illusions that what I’m presenting as snapshots to accompany my posts or as my stand-alone Postcards category fits in with what I consider real photography. Point-and-shoot digital, in mind, is almost cheating, no matter how fine the results. No, real photographers have a knowledge of f-stops and become expert in reading negatives and skilled when it comes to mixing chemicals. They’re more patient, too. They even learn to move around in the dark, or something very close to it when you consider the “safe” light, usually dull red. Yes, that dates me, even if I am amazed at the quality of what people are capturing on their cell phones, bypassing anything even resembling a camera. You don’t even have to focus? Where’s the control or discipline that defines art?
Even after all of my professional experience with great photojournalists, back when I selected and sized their work for news stories and picture pages, blogging has added to my understanding.
For starters, it meant moving into some very amateur hands-on photography for the Red Barn and my related blogs. Yes, it’s digital and requires very little by way of training. Just about everything depends on the zoom in or out for composition, and then letting the camera “see” what it will. That is, sometimes the results differ from what I see.
The majority of the photos presented in the Red Barn were taken with an entry-level Kodak with a delayed shutter release. Often I found myself clicking and then moving the camera for the shot itself a second or two later. More recent photos come from a more advanced Olympus, with a hairline click I had trouble getting used to.
Shooting has increased my empathy for real photographers. I recall standing in the twilight at the Nubble lighthouse beside a man with a tripod and sophisticated camera while I held my Olympus in hand. He had just driven to the Maine coast from Albany, New York, for this moment and spoke to me technically in terms I didn’t understand. He had my full respect, though.
Shooting in the cold, too, is a challenge. Your fingers soon freeze and pushing the buttons is shaky. The pros suggest I wear golfing gloves or surgical latex.
Looking at results after shooting has its own lessons. The pros are expert at seeing obstacles normal eyes scoot around. The camera’s not as forgiving, as I’ve seen in a portfolio of New England autumn foliage – utility and phone lines drape along the roads, detracting from the colorful leaves I’d composed.
Both cameras have left me baffled by my off-balance horizons. I really do try to have them level. But lately, wandering through art galleries, I’m noticing how often landscape painters have wonky horizons. So it’s not just the camera.
When I launched the blog, I had no intention of making photography the component it’s become. But, in a curious twist, the blogging has stimulated my shooting. When I pick up the camera, I’m often thinking of ways to use the image.
Subject matter’s another consideration. The garden and loft of the barn have provided their share, as have favorite sites like the waterfalls downtown, the pedestrian bridge on the Community Trail, and the seashore at Kittery Point, Maine. And then there are the old mills themselves and New England towns, especially the nearly four centuries of architecture in my town, including its urban barns and weather vanes.
One thing I’ve largely avoided is people. When they’re present, it’s usually from behind. It’s not that I don’t find people fascinating; rather, after some discussions I felt convinced that blogging differs from news reporting and rather than have folks sign release forms, just in case, I’d steer clear. I might add, in general, when you’re in public, you’re fair game if it’s not for a commercial (advertising) purpose. Here, I’ll err on the side of caution.
And then there’s been the application of the work in blogging itself. My initial ideal was to use a single shot as a post, inspired by the covers on New York magazine when it was a section of the New York Herald-Tribune’s Sunday editions. Something laid-back, low-key, everyday rather than the more dramatic news photos in the rest of the paper.
Over time, though, I found that varying the sizes in presentations of multiple images could allow the equivalent of a picture page in a blog’s scroll-style format. And then that could be extended to multiple pictures within a text itself.
None of this is new, of course, but doing it was new to me.
Multiple photos in a single posting? Well, let’s try the gallery function! And that was fun. The slide show, meanwhile, was something we could never do in a newspaper – I find it mesmerizing. (Both galleries and slide shows are more likely to show up on my Chicken Farmer I Still Love You blog, by the way – they just seem to fit in better there.)
Add to that the ability to schedule far in advance, and seasonal shots from one year could appear in a timely sequence a year or two later. Though I must admit, with the climatic instability we’re experiencing, that’s become more of a reminder of what would normally be happening than what’s just occurred.
OK, so these are scenes of my life, mostly from the last half-dozen years, unlike much of my texts, which span nearly five decades of writing.