Photography – The Amateur
I have been interested in photography since I got my first camera. I was thirteen years old and it was a strange thing with a disc (not a regular film as was the tradition). It was one of those things that didn’t take but I loved it. Later I got a regular camera, you know the one – it had a film and a button to take photos – nothing else, but it took really splendid photos. I think that’s when my interest really was awakened because suddenly the photos were good, sharp and the colours were very vivid.
I never sought out the knowledge however. In school there were photography clubs and you could learn how to develop photographs yourself but I never did any of that. I got a camera with a big lens (think it was a nikon, but I’m not sure) when I was around twenty. But I knew very little about ISO’s and lenses and how to…
I’m still an amateur. But the digital revolution has of course made the entire thing easier and then there was the camera phone. I have to be honest with you – I thought it was a ridiculous idea at first. Why would anyone pay money to have a camera in their phone? But I was quickly persuaded otherwise. It was a magnificent idea. I believe I was watching the add with David Beckham when I first realised the genuine genius of the thing. Not because I’d like to be able to photograph David Beckham in case I met him – but because my eye would perhaps be satisfied.
Let me explain.
Since my first photograph I’ve had this thought. It follows me around. It’s with me wherever I go. And it’s what I would like to call the Photographers eye. I see something swoosh by when I’m driving and I see a perfect photo opportunity. I sometimes count the lost opportunities during one day. And when I’m walking I stop, bend down, crawl into bushes (yes I’m strange, ok?) – whatever to get exactly the right angle. I do this sometimes even without the camera (although not the crawling into bushes thing, that would be weird;)) and now? Now I have a camera with me wherever I go! I can satisfy that eye a lot of the time – albeit not all the time because people start to complain. My family has even started taking pictures of me in silly, photographing, positions. It’s their prerogative, I guess with all the waiting they do when I find a leaf on the street or when the fog is enticing.
Last year when I turned 40 I got a real, big, fine Nikon D5200 system camera and a lens so I can take images very close up to the subject. And I can obviously take a lot better pictures with the Nikon than with my iPhone (I’ve been on instagram with an iPhone 4, 5 and now 6). But the beauty of the modern amateur photography lies a bit in the limits.
A couple of years ago I got a little handbook from a friend on how to take photographs with your iPhone. It was one of those little presents you get, more on the side than anything, that lights up your life. You know those? And I got a few tips there but the best tip was the one about limits.
1. Make use of the Limits
The idea is that the limits are what gives you the opportunities when it comes to photographing with a phone. It goes hand in hand with my idea of photography. And the reason why I never really sought to do it more “professionally”. You use the limits to make “bad” photos and then you enhance them, change them, muck with them so they become something they weren’t from the start. You create something new with the limits and the view you have.
I don’t like reality. I live it. I don’t need to depict it – I get very little creative outlet by taking photographs of things exactly as they are. It’s great when you want to preserve memories about family, children and what goes on around you. You take a photo, you put them in an album and you look at them from time to time to remember. It gives me next to no creative outlet but it’s fun in other ways.
I slowly learned to be a little creative with the camera. I remember one shot I was quite proud of when I got a picture of a few people from between two stones. So half the image was just stone. But when I read that book by Martina Holmberg I really got it. You can be incredibly creative with all the apps available. You can create images instead of just shooting what you see. You can transform them, make of them what you will. Write stories around them in your head…
I had mucked with photoshop before. I knew the drill but I really didn’t get into it until it was as comfortable as a click of a finger. I guess I’m lazy but again – the limits are what makes me creative with this. I am not out to take photographs as clear and crisp as those of the professionals – and I’m surely not trying to out-amaze (pardon my language) the photoshop geniuses.
But I can be creative in my little corner anyway. I can create something more than the reality I depict.
2. Tell Little Stories
And suddenly my little photographing-eye had evolved. I wasn’t just seeing the best angle for a shot but imagining what I could do with exactly that shot, exactly those circumstances – and the limits of what I had with me.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my Nikon. It’s amazing to be able to take the big photos – to have control in a way you don’t have control over the images on your phone – and I’m still learning. But this changed the way I thought about photography.
I like fiction. I’ve always shied away from reading books about “real” things or things that are supposed to have happened. I don’t particularly like biographies (which makes the letter-books I’m reading these days kind of the odd thing out) and I hate movies that are “based on real events”.
Basically the idea of something being based on real events is bullshit of course. Because even the Amityville Horror is based on real events – just like the photograph I posted to instagram this morning is of a real thing. It’s the view outside my top floor window. It’s just gone through a process, just like the film has. So the line between real and unreal are a bit vague – and I like them that way. They say the world is an amazing place, and it is – and it goes through our filters all the time, constantly.
Let’s just say that I like things that are on the other side of “real”. When they’ve become distorted, re-imagined, creative and bring something back to you that you hadn’t thought of yourself by looking at the “original” object.
Lately I’ve been having a really amazing time with my two cameras. The iPhone that goes with me wherever I go sometimes captures shots that the Nikon has no chance of giving any credit (with my ability with it anyway). Then I imagine what I’d like to do with it and then I browse through the apps that I have (so many!) and I chose my favourite at the time or an old one that would suit my purpose with this shot. Sometimes I need to run the image through many apps to get just the feel I was going for- and sometimes the outcome is something completely different from what I expected or was going for. And sometimes I’m out with my Nikon before the kid has even had her breakfast and I’m shooting a straw in the backyard or a drop of dew and those too go through the phone, through the app process although sometimes it’s just something simple – like making a photograph black and white, and then finding the right tone for it.
But it gives me an immediate creative outlet without having to become a professional photoshopper. And I’m just one of many who do this – but it gives me something and hopefully people aren’t too bothered by me posting those photos.
3. Be Inspired by Others
The other way to grow in this “field” is following the photographers that do the kind of images you admire. I’m following quite a few people on Instagram. And many of them are amazing, to many to mention but there are a few names that keep popping up with photographs I admire and they create a spark in me that makes me want to get better at this hobby of mine.
Let me name a few people so you can go and take a look for yourself.
@521gemini who creates an atmosphere of mysticism and otherworldliness even when photographing simple objects like flowers.
@amayas with an amazing grasp for the black & white and does an amazing job at photographing people in a creative manner.
@crookedlilhouse who finds stories to tell in the big and the small and knows exactly how to make the light they have right.
@dariszcahyadi who really knows how to handle a camera and has an eye for exactly the right angle.
@ememess is the king of the grunge look and has a great eye for details and forms.
@eon_inf does amazing black and whites and to do that so well you need to fully grasp the potential of the light.
@itxxi who always challenges the angles you’d otherwise take and creates with it a completely unique perspective and feel.
@jesper_bulow with his beautiful colours and HDR photos.
@kaunisvaara with his HDR photos, wonderful landscapes and colours.
@kiccyomu who surely knows exactly how to photograph each flower so that it looks like a world of its own.
@salopalo with a simplistic, vintage feel and an eye for details.
@solavander who finds forms in anything and does amazing things with it.
@wisslaren who does amazing landscapes and plays well with form and light.
@_Gio71_ who rocks the black & whites and knows exactly when to splash in a hint of colour. His landscapes are mystic.
(Edit and here come a few names I forgot to mention)
(End of Edit)
There are so many more of course but it’s hard to seek up specifics on instagram. Take a look for yourself. Looking at pages with amazing pictures taken by professionals is good – and of course there are many professionals on instagram, for all I know all of the above are – but there is intimacy in the images people post there. These are glimpses from their lives. A moment of impulse captured, created. They are not showing you their “everyday” but showing you something that was captured and recycled into something more and that’s what I like in my instagrammers.
I like a lot of photos on instagram. I am generous with the “like” but I never “like” a photo I don’t like just to get likes back. I do however sometimes let my daughter like photos she likes (and she likes everything with cats). But the photographs I like have sparked something within me…
…and what more can I ask?
And here is a list of a few of my favourite apps because this wouldn’t be quite so easy without them:
Dramatic Black and White