a good shoot

Sometimes, when I go out to shoot pictures, everything goes wrong. I start by forgetting I had the camera in self timer the last time I was shooting, so I miss the first picture. Then I get off a couple frames, and realize the ISO is also set to eleventy-million. Then the autofocus hunts when I’m trying to get a picture of something fleeting, like someone walking slowly through the frame; I realize the focus point has fucked off to the corner of the frame somehow.

Once I get in a funk like this, it’s important to realize that nothing good can happen and I should just stop; but “can’t stop won’t stop forgot how to stop” isn’t just my twitter bio. Sometimes such a shoot can be redeemed by stopping, taking a break, perhaps a shot of whiskey, and moving on. A reset for the mind.

W. Eugene Smith, when he was shooting in steel factories for Time Magazine (when Time meant something, that is), would stop in the middle of the damn place, have his assistant produce a portable record player, and sit and have a whiskey, if the shooting wasn’t going well.

All that to say, sometimes, a shoot is the opposite. The camera is always ready; the light is at the right angle, and I’m on the right side of the street to use it. The modes are right, the autofocus does its job and gets out of the way.

More than that, though. I’m seeing clearly and responding to what’s in front of me. When I compose, I remember to glance at the frame edges and think about what’s there, at least a little bit, to make sure I’m not cutting anything off accidentally (doing it on purpose is fine). I’m adjusting depth of field to fit the composition. There’s a kind of focus of intent that spreads out to all the different factors you have to manage to make a good picture; on the good days, it feels like I’m doing the one thing I was put here on earth for.

Or maybe, sometimes, it feels like nothing. Last sunday, I had the good kind of session. I was just walking and found a groove. I wasn’t reviewing images as I shot, except to check exposure occasionally. I had a feeling I was doing pretty well, but years of shooting film (which was really two decades ago now, jeez I’m getting old) sort of burned out trying to guess if the pictures were good while the shoot is still happening. Sometimes there is a good vibe, though, that you don’t look too closely at, for fear of scaring it off.

Then, you get home and you’ve shot 80 pictures, and 20 of them are good enough to blog. you know how wild that is? Normally a 5% hit rate (one or two per roll of 36, in the old days) was good.

I don’t know that there’s a point to this, other than to mark how wonderful it is when it happens. I don’t have any secrets for accessing this higher plateau of art making. It’s mostly a matter of doing the thing and being there when the time comes.

Photography (and painting, and sculpture) is a business of millimeters and milliseconds. Writing probably too, especially poetry (“For he’s the super realist…”) Either you’re at the right place at the right time or you’re not. The margin for error is brutally small, and the photo, in the end, is binary: either it works or it doesn’t.

On the best days, I am a gambler with loaded dice. All the chance elements turn my way, and I come by at just the right moment, with the right lens on, and make the pictures.

Posted on 2022-07-11 07:13:41Z GMT

Pride lasers

Went down to Embarcadero last night, just to check this out. I’ve rented a camera for the next week, a Fuji GFX 50sii, trying to figure out what’s next. It’s surprisingly good at what it does. Slow. Big. Bonkers high ISO performance though; some of these are at ISO10k and pushed three stops, and looks totally decent. 50 megapixels. Not sure I need ‘em, but it sure is nice.

Unfortunately, it’s a little slow. Not as bad as the z7 I rented, although I’m becoming convinced that it was broken or configured badly in some way. Still, a little too slow for my tastes. Perfect for this kind of work, though. Mostly static, easy to lock focus on. We’re going to Yosemite later this week, which it’ll also be great for.

Posted on 2022-06-26 20:45:05Z GMT

Kawan and Sophie, skating

Still in last yeah, just wanted to throw something up because I haven’t been posting. My quick collection overfloweth, and this starts to bring down the numbers. Also, I’m playing with Robin’s new protocol. It’s interesting, but there are some rough edges. It doesn’t natively support images, and you might be thinking, Matt, why would you play with something that doesn’t support pictures? I’m working on getting that in, that’s why.

It’s friday, it’s late, I’m gonna push publish and go to the bar. Enjoy the photos.

Posted on 2022-06-18 05:24:21Z GMT

the optimistic period

Still trying to get used to this new keyboard. A keyboard.io model 100. it’s pretty nice, but I feel like i’m typing uphill. sorta weird. anywho…

Took these photos late last summer, when I found myself downtown a lot, for unspecified reasons. ask me about it over drinks some time, if we ever can have drinks together again. the optimism of the end of summer 2021 really was foolish in hindsight, but can you blame us? we were cooped up inside for something like 18 months. by that time everyone had had at least one scare pre-vaccine where they thought they might’ve gotten it. The accumulated stress of it got to be too much. of course, eventually the varaiants came for us and just completely squashed that optimism.

For a while though, maybe 6 weeks, there were bright, sunny days, where I got out and rode my bike almost every day, where I took my camera on lunch walks to see the blue sky. I gotta say, it’s something I really miss, so much so that I’ve considered getting a co-working desk downtown, just so I can go a place that isn’t my basement to work. As it is, I spend a lot of my hours in the chair I’m in right now. It’s a nice chair, but I can’t stand up all the way. The ceiling is 6 feet, and I’m 6’2”. But, there’s the ongoing pandemic to consider, and I don’t really care to go somewhere where I’ll be accumulating more risk.

anyway. next time, I promise I’ll talk about something more upbeat.

Posted on 2022-06-03 08:25:00Z GMT

over the desert southwest

Took these flying home from that trip to OKC last year. Honestly I’m still processing all the shit that happened in 2021, and 2022 is half over. 2022 is definitely a rebuilding year; take apart your bones and put ‘em back together. Make a new life out of the parts on hand, maybe. So much is broken, but we’re still here. Now I’m just rambling free associations.

That’s all, except to say I never really noticed just how much falloff this lens (my 50mm summilux) has. Maybe I went a bit too far with the contrast expansion? ah well, it’s a blog, who cares? As the blogfather said, “hit publish and forget about it”.

Posted on 2022-05-30 22:45:15Z GMT