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A Thursday Walk

Posted by Tom Benedict on 20/01/2012

In an earlier post, I mentioned a mental roadblock I’ve been running into with kite aerial photography and with photography in general. I’ve been struggling with this for the past year or so. Stepping away from KAP just seemed like one more brick in the wall I’m trying to get past. It wasn’t a happy post.

One of the biggest issues I’ve been having is that I’ve really lost my eye. Looking back at the photos I’ve been making, they’ve been getting more and more stilted. Compared to stuff I did even two or three years ago, there’s a spontaneity and effort at composition that’s just not there in my recent stuff. Except for a couple of sessions here or there, I haven’t even been that interested in picking up a camera. It’s like the thing has become my nemesis. It just isn’t fun any more.

So when my younger daughter suggested we leave home a little early every morning to do some photography before school, I wasn’t sure what I thought.

Let me back up a little…

My younger daughter had a birthday earlier this month. She asked for a camera. My wife wound up getting her a really nice little compact. It’s waterproof, it’s impressively shock proof, and there’s no protruding lens barrel to get smashed when someone bumps it. She hasn’t put it down since. Every chance she gets, she grabs her camera and goes. It’s only her second camera, so she’s still in the phase of taking pictures of everything that can be described with a noun or verb. But it’s tough to beat that kind of enthusiasm.

The first couple of times we went, it was rough. I saw stuff. I tried to photograph it. But it was horrid. The exposures were horrid. There was no composition. No choice of elements in the scene. As time wore on I got more depressed even as she was getting more excited. I wanted to quit. But she didn’t.

This morning I tried something different. I took off the kit lens that came with my camera and put on a 100mm macro. It’s the older version Canon made of this lens, but it’s still a really nice optic. I grabbed a tripod and my cable release, and the two of us left the house twenty minutes earlier than usual.

It was still rough. But for the first time in a long time it started to feel like fun. I wound up thinking a lot less and feeling my way a little more. If I saw something in the frame I didn’t like, I’d tweak it. A stray blade of grass, a bright pebble that draws the eye away from the subject, or just the angle of a leaf. For the first time in a long time it felt a lot more like making a picture and a lot less like taking one.

The results aren’t stellar, but I’m pleased with them. The compositions are all very basic, but it feels ok. It’s a start.


Study in Green IA Study in Green I

The wind was really blowing too hard for photographs of vegetation, even down under the eucalyptus trees where we were. After getting frustrated trying to photograph a pretty and somewhat diseased looking weed, I saw this little ivy just below. It was sheltered by the other plants, so there was almost no motion when the wind blew. I composed the image, focused, and used live view to zoom in on the tip of the leaf on the left. At 1:1 pixel size, I could see when the wind slowed down enough to give me a solid photograph.

Study in Green IIA Study in Green II

After looking at this in the camera I intended to crop it to vertical and lose the right hand side of the frame, which isn’t critically sharp. During editing I got so wrapped up with exposure I completely forgot to crop it. Not my best work, but it’s fine as-is. I might come back tomorrow with a pair of tweezers to do a little cleanup on this leaf in order to give it another go.

Signs of LifeSigns of Life

The stream bed where we walk is littered with old coral rock. I don’t know the story on this stuff, but the stream runs down off of Kohala Mountain. Some time in the past there were some pretty serious tsunamis out here (we’re talking hundreds of thousands of years ago). As a result there are coral deposits up on the slopes above town. It’s entirely possible this chunk of coral is quite old. It’s equally possible someone got some crushed coral from the local stone yard to line their driveway or rock wall with, and it wound up in the creek. I just liked how it looked next to the red leaf.

Stop Go DeadStop / Go / Dead

The composition on this one is almost identical to the one above it. I arranged the previous one, but this one is just the way I found it. The funny thing is I did the previous one before this one. Complete serendipity. By the time I made this photograph it was almost time for my daughter to be at school. So I had already been ruminating about photography, her enthusiasm for it, my current burnout, and the enthusiasm I hope I can reclaim in the not so distant future. The coloration of the leaf looked so much like a mix of red/green stop/go that the metaphor was not lost on me. When I saw the blackened leaf sitting next to it, my heart skipped a beat. I don’t want my interest in photography and in kite aerial photography to be dead. I want that enthusiasm my daughter has! It’s just not there yet. But maybe some day it will be.

– Tom

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