Being a professional jazz musician for over 20 years before my photo career ( I still play, by the way ((drums), I tend to see numerous parallels between the two pursuits. Aside from the tools of the trade, the thought process or lack thereof and ways of not thinking and just reacting are remarkably similar.
When the Monty Alexander Trio would play at the Showboat in Silver Spring, MD, many, many moons ago, I would go. I was a huge fan of piano trio and, and in particular, drummer, Jeff Hamilton. I would put up Jeff in my humble abode when they were in town. As a “captive,” I would pick his brain about how he did what he did behind the drums. His style was deceptively simple, but not really. What he played was technically easy for me, but the essence of what he played, the feel and depth of emotion wasn’t there. Then, about 5 years went by and I was playing one of Jeff’s great calypso rhythms, and I felt like the beat became wide and deep. I was playing exactly the same thing, but it felt different. It appeared to just happen. After all that time of playing, and not quite knowing why my sound didn’t have the gravity of Jeff’s….after all that time, it just happened. After years of thinking, trying, analyzing, practicing…..instantly….there was depth, weight, and something to grab on to. I know this probably sounds esoteric, but recently, within the past two weeks, a similar experience happened in my image processing. At least, it feels that way to me.
In the past several years, a young crop of really great photographers have appeared on the scene. There are many: Joe Rossbach, Ian Plant, Richard Bernabe, Justin Reznick, to name only a few. All of the sudden, I saw a huge disparity in my processing and theirs. I don’t know if it’s the computer generation, where their software skills are much more facile than my generation, or whatever it was…..it was interesting to me and I was on a quest to figure out why there was that much of a difference and what I needed to do to elevate my processing techniques.
Immediately, I realized that it was the same paradigm as the aforementioned drumming story. So, I buried my head into masking techniques, layers, different plugins, blending techniques, etc., until my head was swimming. Just like practicing an instrument, I just kept processing images in my “spare” time, trying everything I could think of, fine tuning what appeared to work and discarding or modifying things that did not. It felt like I couldn’t quite get the look I wanted in synch with the look I was seeing in my imagination. Then, on this trip (before our Badlands workshop) I felt the same breakthrough feeling I felt as a musician. The image I was seeing in my imagination and my ability to process it snapped into registration. Now, I know that there is no “this is it” moment, as we and everything we do is a constant work in process, but it does appear that I’ve crossed a processing rubicon, and hopefully, will continue to evolve.
The lead image is a result of what I’m talking about. Has anyone else had a similar experience?
Constant circumspection and introspection, a sense of humility, self awareness, and a completely open mind is essential (I think) in one’s quest to create images that reflect a uniquely personal view to which we all aspire.
Here’s a pre-workshop gallery. As always, our personal shooting drops off dramatically during our workshops. We look forward to what is a predicted variable weather week for our group.
Have a great fall!
Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online.