"If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you're not out there, you'll only hear about it." -Jay Maisel
When I received my first Canon camera, I searched for anything I could take a photo of in my house, the backyard, my son and all throughout the neighborhood. Of course at that time I hardly knew much about how the DSLRs worked and quickly grew frustrated when the lighting wasn't right or if there was motion blur in any part of the image. I would upload my hundreds of photos, open the basic editing app on my ancient laptop and pray that I could apply as many as possible changes in order to make the final edits look more appealing. Now I look back on these images and giggle. I attempted to make these captures more powerful or dramatic, when all I needed to do was highlight the moment as it was instead of trasform it.
One day I came across a photographer by the name of Adrian Steirn after seeing a piece he did on Kevin Richardson, "The Lion Whisperer". His images reflected so much of not only the souls of each individual lion, but of his own as well. The time and patience he put into capturing the animals was astounding to me. It was more than inspiring or moving. I immediately looked up his website to research his work over the years. At first I only followed his project in creating awareness of Hope, a rhino saved after her horn was removed, and the poachers in South Africa. What left me in awe was how I didn't need a description for every photo to understand the events which occured or the emotional distress it caused the animals, the vets, the guards, etc. His work told the story all on its own.
Although this story created a flickering light in my mind to pursue working with animal, that is not the gallery which kick started my adventure into pursuing photography full-time. It was his project, "21 Icons", which featured the last portraits taken of Nelson Mandela and a session with Philip Gould just before they passed. The breath was knocked out of me and tears creeped down my cheeks as I studied the details of their expressions, his use of shadow and light, and the angles which made these men appear larger than life because that's exactly what they were. It was after witnessing this work when I realized the type of photographer I wanted to become.
Also, I further understood what it is that I love so much about the photo my father took of my mother on the beach. I thought about how this man felt about his wife as he carefully observed her with her feet in the wet sand and letting the small waves crest over the tops of them causing them to sink further. Simply put, he loved her. The photo reminds me to "reset" my mind when I begin to feel flustered about not capturing the exact shot I initially envisioned. Most times, I captured something unexpected and pleasantly surprising. A moment which will live on in that photograph.
The photographer whose quote I used at the beginning of this blog is a perfect example of what I'm attempting to explain. He stated in an interview that the rules of photography do not matter because the photography itself can only be done well by the person taking the shot. It's not about following the "Rule of Thirds", the histogram on your screen or the countless other rules. It's about making the most of what you are experiencing in those seconds before taking the shot. The post-production of the photo is to do your best in sending your message to the viewers about their perspective of the subject and, if it applies, how the subject felt during that same moment.
Now as I look through my eye piece on my camera...I wait.