Sunday, April 30, 2006

Flaming

My first camera was a Minolta XG-1 that I bought with the money I earned from my first summer as a lifeguard. Although by today's standards, it's a laughably simplistic design, it was a wonder to me the first time I pried it from its box and cradled it carefully in my hands.

Between its myriad dials and displays and its balanced heft, it was light years removed from the instamatic 110s that I had inherited from my parents. I learned to hate the limitations of those little boxes even as I became ever more fascinated with the possibilities of film.

Yes, film. This rapidly-disappearing medium of photography was my stock in trade for a whole lot of years before digital came along. In some respects, it remains a part of my photographic history, for it forced me to plan every picture, remember how I obtained the shot, then wait patiently for the folks in the photo lab to do their thing.

The first few years that I had my camera, I was often disappointed when I first opened the envelope. The pictures never quite seemed to snap or pop out at the eye as I had originally envisioned. Sure, I had dialed in the right settings and done all the technical things a photographer should do, but something was missing.

While the composition was pretty much what I remembered from the viewfinder, the prints didn't make me feel that emotional twang that I felt in the nanosecond before I clicked the shutter. I had failed to capture the tone or atmosphere of that moment.

Tone. It's the difference between a by-the-rules piece of work and one that stands out just enough to stick in someone's mind. It's the piece of work that helps create a response that is felt as much as it is thought. It's what allows the creator of said work to establish a unique style in the eyes and minds of everyone who reads and views the resulting work.

I started to ignore many of the proper lessons I had read in the years since I began to shoot. I tossed out a lot of the common sense advice like never shoot into the sun, always use a flash indoors, sharply-focused pictures are always better than soft-focused ones, etc. I deliberately ignored my metered settings and trusted my gut instead. And if I blew it, then I could always toss another roll of film into the camera and try again.

I figured I'd never get that snap, that feeling, if I didn't try - and fail.

I took this picture in Montreal earlier this month. My wife had just lit the Passover candles with our kids. They had gathered around her in silence while she lit the candles and said the blessing. Then they each leaned in for a hug and a kiss when she was done.

It was a soft, glowy moment that I knew wouldn't last forever. They're growing every day, and there's no telling how many more warm holiday moments we'll have before they begin to head off in their own direction and make their own memories.

I turned off the flash, deliberately soft-focused the image and crossed my fingers. The result takes me back to that one moment in time far more effectively than a technically-perfect yet emotionally-empty image would have.

Your turn: Please tell us about one picture that takes you back to one particular moment. If it's posted online, please paste a link here, too.

28 comments:

Courtney said...

The picture I'm referencing is one of my sisters and I as little kids, building a snowman. Although that particular day, I remember, this picture brings me back to those days when I would rush home from first grade, yelling, "where are my sisters?!" We still love doing things together, and this is one of hundreds of pictures of the three of us, posed together in some fashion. I should collect them all in my flickr set...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/10021142@N00/40509549/

Here via Michele, today.

Erin said...

Wow, Carmi - what a great post and a beautiful moment and photo. I love it!

A photo I love is of my fiance Dave and me a few years ago ... it captures how at ease we are when we're just lying around together. I took it with my outstretched arm and I love the way Dave's eyes are only half-open and we both look completely content together.

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/erinmichelle_82/detail?.dir=923d&.dnm=5f37.jpg&.src=ph

Better Safe Than Sorry said...

i've never taken a photo like that, i have a camera that i really need to learn to use, i leave it on auto and hope for the best. one of the best things about reading other blogs are the posts that you come across and the pics that you see, it opens my eyes to what is possible, something that can be learned. when i take a pic, i have a vision of how it will look, but i have yet to see the outcome i'm looking for.

Claire said...

I thought this photo was beautiful and then after reading your post it is even more so.

I've got a mental block with my photo's. I know there are photo's that take me to a certain place/time but right now I can't think of even one of them...how annoying!

Shane said...

Did the crossing fingers part work, or the non-flash? Touching post along with the nice shot.

Lisa said...

Great picture, as always. This one would be mine: http://happynap.blogspot.com/2006/02/almost-wordless-wednesday.html

It was such a beautiful day, we had a fabulous time at the park, the kids were getting along, and all was right with the world...

margalit said...

Like you, I started dong serious photography when I was young. My first camera was a Pentax that I bought with my babysitting money when I was a junior in high school. But unlike you, I learned how to print my photos myself so I could make sure that the tone was exactly what I wanted. I had a darkroom for many many years and finally sold it when it became apparent I wasn't going to have the time to spend working in the darkroom anymore. Yeah, those kids...

But there is one photograph that stands out for me. It is a photo of a salt marsh in Newburyport with the wind rippling through the hay, and the hay dipping in different directions as the wisps of wind bent it. It was like a dance of hay.

This was way before digital and I've never scanned it but maybe I should. Thanks for the reminder!

Here via Michele

Erin said...

Thank you for the nice comment just now, Carmi. Your words about my blog were very kind. :)

colleen said...

A camera was one of the very first things I ever bought myself once I had my own money. It was before 35 mm instamatics. I love to take pictures but am lacking in the hardware skill. I have a lot of trouble with the digital one I have as far as lighting goes. It's either too dark. or with the flash it looks washed out. Outdoors is okay. So I carry two cameras, which is a pain. My instamatic and the digital one each has the features I would like to have in one camera.

I took some shots today of a woman's tea party I attended. We drank and read poetry! I'll probably post it tomorrow. I had to cut all the faces out. I'm never quite sure of whether to post people I know or not. So far I just feel out who is open for it or not.

The photo of the lit candle was a welcomed and warm sight to come upon.

craziequeen said...

Yet another beautiful evocative photo :-)

The picture here is my brother and me....

Sadly our relationship has not survived, but I love this photo of us, and it's cut from a larger photo of the whole family - again, broken down.....but the 'instant' freeze in time shows happy children with happy parents....

http://craziequeen.blogspot.com/2006/04/not-friday-feast.html

cq
Michele sent me, Carmi.

keda said...

beautiful photograph and lovely post yet again carmi!

i believed for years that i was useless with a camera. but since i had the girls and got a digital, i have totally revised my opinion. i aint 'alf bad after all thankfully.

there are so many that i am pleased with its hard to pick. i also really like motion and blurring, which helps!
in that vein, i've chosen this one of the lets in the bath. they were pretending to be dolphins and making 'dolphin' noises and refusing to get out. i love the fact that its technically not perfect, but more beautiful because of that.

http://mamahog.blogspot.com/2006/03/back-to-belief-and-bathwater.html

its the last picture of the post. the 2nd one of the beach was also taken with the same very basic digital camera in madagascar last year.

here via michele today sweetie.

Grins said...

I remember my first camera as well. I was int he 5th grade and took it on a field trip to Canada. The photo that brings back memories though is of my sister going down a slide at our community pool. We spent so many hours living in that pool or on the adjoining tennis courts that summer it brings back tons of memories. Ah to be that carefree again...oh and to wear a bikini without the doubts as I did then as well.

Sparkling Diamond said...

A beautiful photo with a beautiful story behind it! I always get inspired when I come here.
I will have to think about that one special photo...would be a great blog post. :)
Thanks, as always for the opprotunity to reflect!
Here from Michele's!

mrsmogul said...

A picture I took when I was in film school. It was for a photography project and we had to shoot the streets. I thought I saw John F Kennedy Jr (RIP Bless..) in Manhattan and took a photo . It just reminds me of when I was a teen and still naive in school.

srp said...

Not here from Michele, just by myself this time.

This is soooooooooo hard to choose.
I think this one is my favorite of wild animals... the little fellow just exuded personality.

And there are the ones of my daughter caught in those shots that define childhood. One of my favorites.

I love the candle and some of my favorite pictures are those softly focused ones that have such an "out-of-this-world" feeling.

rashbre said...

I recently found a few reels of 35mm film in a cupboard. They have not been developed, but obviously have pictures on them becasue there's no film end sticking out.

I'll get them developed, but I suspect they will be little time capsules from the past.

And hi, Michele sent me. Time to get some sleep, here in the UK!

rashbre

Mike said...

My first "real camera" was a Pentax K-1000 that I bought used. I was taking black and white pictures and doing my own developing in my own crude little "bathroom darkroom".

My favorite photo was of a small 2 foot waterfall. It ended up looking much bigger in the photo.

kontan said...

The photo that came to mind first was this one but there are several in that set. It was not the best picture I've taken but I think it captures her fascination with the new sights and sounds around.

stopped from micheles today

Last Girl On Earth said...

I love this picture, Carmi, because it takes me back to my youth, and Passover, (back when I actually celebrated it with my parents). Beautiful.

I'm thinking of a photo that I took in France many years ago of a hidden, ruined chateau that we found by driving off of a 2 lane road and climbing a fence. We ignored the no tresspassing signs, and found the magic castle. I'm going to have to look for that picture and blog about it sometime.

utenzi said...

Michele sent me, Carmi.

My first serious camera was a SLR I bought specifically because of a trip I was taking to Greece. It was a Pentax ME which was full manual with the only gadgetry being a light meter. I loved the black color and solid weight of the camera. I eshewed the normal lens and just went with a Tokina 35-105mm which balanced perfectly with the body.

Pictures? LOL I loved the camera--pictures were purely an afterthought. My favorites were of a tanker moving away from Katala Bay. It was in midafternoon but I had stopped down to the point where it looked like sunset. The other was of an ancient castle on a hill. I think it was near Corinth but I'm not sure. Greece is very photogenic!

utenzi said...

Looking over the comments above, it appears not many folk know how to embed web addresses. Pity. SRP does though so I'll go visit her site.

Lisa said...

actually, my entire new post is about a day I hope to never forget! Lots of pictures will help preserve those memories...

kenju said...

Carmi, the pic that sent me back in time is one I saw 3 years ago, but I don't have a copy of it. It was taken one summer Saturday when I was 17, and on a swimming outing with my boyfriend and another couple. I had not seen that photo for 45 years, and I was instantly transported back to that day (when I didn't even have a conscious memory of it). Our brains are amazing, aren't they?

Michele sent me tonight.

deputyswife said...

You do know how to make us think about things, don't you Carmi?

It is a black and white of my sister and myself. I was four and she was almost 19. I have my dimpled hands smushing her face against mine. It makes me remember that she took me everywhere with her. Actually, the photo was taken in her art photography class in college. The story was is that I would have a fit if she did not take me to class with her. Yes, she even took me to some of her classes. That is how inseparable we were/are. 32 years later, there is not a day where I don't talk to my sister. (And I still occasionally throw a semi-fit if she doesn't take me with her...)

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh God, Carmi...what a Beautiful photograph...When I looked at it I thought it's either a Friday Night Candle or a Passover Candle! Realy spectacular...Like you, I've been taking photographs forever! I cannot remember what my first camera was, but I had a Poloroid camera...Back In The Day...before they had color...I took endless photographs with that camera...some very good..After many different camera's I finally got a "serious" camera. It was an Olympus. Small compact easy to travel with camera..Umpteen photographs were taken with that camera...A GREAT GREAT trip to France was documented with my Olympus...Then, I got my first Pentax. (I don't remember which one but I loved that camera)...I probably took 2000 pictures with it. Then maybe 6 or 7 years later I got a newer model Pentax which I still have and I took another 5000 or more pictures with that, probably 1000 of my garden, alone...THEN, I got myself a 'No-Think' camera...A Fuji...My London trips were documnted with that camera...And my garden...and now I have my digital baby. It's a Fujifilm 3800...and I love this camera, too! Eventually when I can afford it I would like to get The Pentax Digital because ALL my many lenses from the last Pentax will fit on this newer Digital baby. Now THAT will be a day! The Close Close pictures I can get with all those fabulous lenses...
I'm sorry to have gone on like this...THIS could be a post on my own blog! Maybe it will! (lol) There are many special special moments in my years of picture taking..I cannot pick put one...Maybe when I get to blogging about it all, I will find some of these "Moment" photo's and post them. Aren't you glad you asked, Carmi?

Here from Michele tonight!

CanEragon said...

Little light, of this flickering candle, illuminates the night like your spirit illuminates my soul....


Every time I look at this picture this song runs through my head...

Soon, I will be posting some of my favorite shots from my new camera.

cheers
Jeremy

Pearl said...

I've been enjoying the post and comments Carmi.

I am sorry to ahve missed what you said yesterday at my blog because my comments all went fluky.

You get great photos sometimes when you don't follow the rules. My picture that captures something of the moment of wind and vacation togetherness is http://www.pagehalffull.com/Brian_Niagara_Falls_June_2003.jpg

Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

Your words are well put, theydescribe perfectly the moment before the click...how does one capture the soul of the moment, the essence that separates the two worlds...Thank you for sharing and for allowing others to share their stories as well!
http://willows95988.typepad.com/tongue_cheek/2006/04/sitting_with_th.html