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Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Grow Where You're Planted

I was an avid photographer from the time I graduated from high school in 1967 to about 1980 or 1981, when I got married, moved to our first house, and started raising a family. From that point until about two years ago, I took lots of pictures, but I had stopped being a photographer. All my "real" cameras had been by then sold, and I became a typical dad snapshooter, chasing my kids with a Canon Sure-Shot and Kodacolor II (... not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Looking back, I realize that for all but a few of those years during the '60s and '70s, I lived in or near Manhattan. Photographically, it was like the proverbial kid in a candy store. That city is running over with interesting things to photograph! I didn't have to work or sweat, it was all around me.

Even better, for seven of those years, I worked for an international division of General Electric, and got to travel all over the world. Even to some places I'd never heard of before, like Brunei. Of course, my cameras came with me, and I got lots of good photos. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

But then the suburbs, marriage, kids ... very important and rewarding, but visually interesting? Obviously, I thought not.

But then, in late 2001, I started to think about, to ache about, returning to being a photographer. It was really hard to start again, especially with the "what is there worthwhile to photograph" attitude I'd harbored for over twenty years.

It took the better part of a year, but slowly, I began to see interesting images around me. Now, I see images everywhere.

I've started taking my camera along to work a few days a week. The lighting in the morning and late afternoon is great these days. Sometimes I'll get an idea beforehand, based on something I've been seeing during my commute, and sometimes, I'll just notice scenes along the way.

Yesterday was a good example: I had been noticing this boldly-painted concession stand at the high school one town over from where I live. I'd been seeing it about 6:30 pm, and it looked great in the low-angle sunlight. So I thought I'd stop on the way home and shoot a few pictures.

Just before I got off the highway, I noticed some brightly-painted, new-looking trucks at a truck stop. That prompted me to make a short detour and see what I could find.

I couldn't get an interesting take on those new trucks, but I thought this hopper truck was interesting. I really liked the planes and angles across the bottom, and in my mind, I envisioned the highlights on the metal, shadows around the hopper, and the clear blue sky.

Here's the way the shot came out of my camera...
Hopper Truck Original
... and here's the picture after I Photoshopped it to fit what I had seen in my mind.
Hopper Truck

Then, back into the car before someone called Homeland Security to report a suspicious kook taking photos of trucks, and onto Severna Park High School.

I took a number of photos of the concession stand, but none of them were really satisfying. This is as close as I got to something I like:
Yellow Blue Corner
At this point, I started to head back to my car, walking around one end of the running track, still brooding about those bold yellows and blues. And I saw something totally unexpected. This end of the track just happened to be the part that has the sprinters lanes, and I latched onto the way the concentric lanes of the main part of the track were pierced by the converging sprinters lanes. Happy neurons firing again! I took a few shots of this scene, and fortuitiously, someone obligingly walked right into the right spot to finish off the composition.
Concentric Convergence


I realize now that you need to grow where you're planted. Another day, a decent image or two, right in suburbia. Life is good!

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