Monday, July 27, 2009

Storm's coming

London, ON, August 2008
About this photo: It's elemental week, all week long, here at Written Inc. Click here to get into the elemental groove.
The first photos I ever took were stark black-and-whites using a simple - and simply bulletproof - manual-everything rangefinder camera that my grandparents might have been comfortable using. I was at camp, and the leader of the photography unit handed me the camera and told me to come back in two hours with no more pictures left on the roll. With 36 scenes to capture and a nearly empty stretch of green mountain terrain north of Montreal, off I went.

First lesson: no color, so I couldn't use it as a crutch to make an otherwise lousy composition seem interesting. All I had was basic light and basic composition - and absolutely zero ability to master either.

I long ago lost track of the photos I took that day, but I do remember willing myself to keep it simple, to not get too ambitious, to keep the scenes in my viewfinder from overwhelming a camera I didn't know, film that was color-blind and a newbie-photog's sense of...well, nothingness.

To this day, I remember what it felt like to strip it all down to the most bare of essentials. I had no choice, of course, because I may as well have been flying blind. But these days, with equipment that would seem Star Trek-ian to the teenaged me and a few years of making mistakes under my belt, I still most enjoy those moments when I get to boil it all down to its lowest common denominator.

Your turn: Simplicity is...?


Anonymous said...

Awesome photo. Simplicity to me is a simple smile on ones face said...

Love the photo and love the story, I dont know if you guys feel the same but each time I go out and finger ready on the shutter It scares me silly. When you were talking about going off to do those photos I could almost sense your fear or whatever it is we feel. I never really had many cameras before digital so cant really remember what it felt like to wait for photos to come back or be developed.

I often wonder what it would be like to go over to film and test the water there.

Mojo said...

I love this story... wish I'd gone to camp where YOU did. What a great exercise... sent out with one roll of film, one camera, one lens and everything reduced to black and white. On the surface of it, that's simplicity, but it also complicates things in some significant ways. Mostly it makes composition harder. Exposure is probably simplified though, because there aren't any colors to keep "true". I've salvaged many a weak color image by converting it to black and white. Even when the light sucked, you could get away with it in mono because it didn't show that the light was a pale, jaundiced white. But composition? Good or bad, your light is coming from somewhere meaning there are shadows ... somewhere. Should you keep them out of the shot? Can you keep them out? Will they occlude your subject or enhance it?

I wouldn't mind trying this experiment myself.

Meanwhile I have my final Elemental offering, sort of along the same lines as this one, is not black and white... but it sure looks like it is.
Thematic Photographic 59: "Elemental" v.7.0 - "Full Color Monochrome"

Unknown said...

ooo...I love pandas.
Here I bought a cuddly panda bag (L) that I can hardly put it down!
I believe it is a GREAT find for every panda fanatic!
Flor (

Unknown said...

Simplicity to me is catching a girls eye only to see a wedding band on her left hand. No, just kidding.

Simplicity is for me the laughter of children who are happy and well!

awareness said...

I can see you in this story, motivated and determined to create using your camera and the gifts you have to frame a photo.

Simplicity? Nothing to do with Pandas I must say... :)

Simplicity is in the silence of the end of a busy day.