Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Be Yourself

Grandson Alex posing for his grandmother
Never do I ask people to pose for pictures. Sometimes my wife will request that I take certain shots of the grandchildren or other family members and I’ll oblige, but I much prefer candid photos. Some people love posing and others don’t like it any more than I do. Even when I’m looking at them from many yards away with my lens fully extended at 300 millimeters, they sense I’m focusing on them and turn their heads to look right back through the lens at me just as I snap the shutter. Pulling the photo up later on a bigger screen, I’ll see suspicion and a hint of annoyance on their faces.

Alex candid
At extended-family gatherings, they all know me as “the photographer.” While others may take pictures with their cell phones, I’m the one with the giant, full-frame DSLR hanging over my shoulder, and they’re accustomed to that. They’re usually at ease and I can move about shooting images of them, often from across the room.

Candid sunset on Kezar Lake
After a day or two of shooting landscapes and/or people, I look at the images on the camera’s LCD panel and delete the bad ones. Then I’ll download the rest onto my laptop, put it on full-screen view and go through them again. At that point, I’ll delete a few more. The rest will get closer scrutiny. With an editing program, I’ll sometimes adjust lighting, contrast, white balance, exposure, or color levels. Lastly, I’ll crop if necessary, but that’s rare because, with a zoom lens and enough time to frame the image while shooting, cropping isn’t needed — except to occasionally level the horizon if a lake or ocean is in the background.

This whole process offers me a closer study of my loved ones. Not only do I see and interact with them at family functions, I see still photos of them again and again while I go through the above-described process. I see aspects of their personalities that I wouldn’t otherwise notice. Just before Christmas, I go through them all again and save 400-500 shots onto thumb drives which I distribute to family members to whom I’ve previously given motion-activated, digital picture frames. My own frame is set up on a kitchen counter and it activates every time my wife or I walk by. A dozen or more candid shots of loved ones will present themselves — one every five seconds — until I leave the room.

When my twin grandsons were born five years ago, the obstetrician said they were identical. After a few months, however, we could see they were not but they’re still hard to tell apart. While they look very much alike physically, their personalities are as different as any two siblings — and those distinctions emerge in the many photos I’ve taken of them. After my wife allowed each twin to take a large frond from her hosta plants, one waved it around doing a happy dance while the other used it as a sunshade while in deep-thought mode. 

An old television show, very popular in the sixties, illustrated the appeal of candid shots. Appropriately called “Candid Camera,” it was charming because people didn’t know they were being filmed. They were being themselves — and that’s nearly always appealing. It’s true of kids in kindergarten, puppies, kittens, and almost every other organism. Genuine is endearing; disingenuousness isn’t and never was.

Some people, though, are as ease when a camera is pointed their way, especially if they’re genuinely happy about something. Others have a naturally happy disposition and nearly always look their best in photos. Still others are afraid of having their pictures taken for fear that whoever sees the images will be able to see what they’re really like. Then there are camera hogs who love to have their pictures taken. I’ve fallen into both latter categories at different periods of my youth and cringe sometimes while looking at old family photographs which are proof of how I used to be.

There are very few pictures of me from the past few decades though because I’m almost always the one behind the camera. I chronicle family history and what I’ve accumulated is invaluable. My children and grandchildren see pictures of themselves, their siblings, their cousins, their uncles and aunts every day, and it reminds them that they’re all part of an extended family.

Rarely do I take video, but I have taken some when they grandchildren were little. I’ve spliced and edited some of that and distributed results to family, but video requires another whole skill set of which I have only a little. Preserving all this digital imagery is daunting, and I’m glad tech companies are producing portable, affordable hard drives with storage capabilities measured in terabytes.


Uber_Fritz said...

As a photographer, you know I am interested in this blog. I started quite by accident when I was teaching in MA. The I did yearbook action for McGrath Studios, eventually bought out my LifeTouch. Moved on to Chestnut Hill in Seekonk. I am a Canon guy who was always upgrading equipment until our move north. Still have a superior Canon 1 DX with a couple of premium lenses. Offered volunteer service at Kennett and received no responses.

Same as you, I am not featured in many images because I am behind the lens. I even took pictures at my daughter’s wedding.

Anonymous said...

I have over 50 years of photos, slides, black and white, color, and digital. I comb through them every year and produce a calendar for family and close friends. The pictures include local animals, family events, the time we lived in Iran and drove to Denmark, local features, think the Cog and Conway Scenic. and not so local landscapes. I also produced a picture directory for Conway Journey Church. I sometime exhibit with the Mount Washington Valley Arts Association. Oops, got to get ready for the next show.

Anonymous said...

I asked a waitress to take a photo of me and three of my high school buddies today with a digital camera rather than a cell phone. We’re all in our late sixties now. She managed after fumbling a bit, but the photo, even though it was posed, meant a lot to all of us. None of us will post on it on Facebook. At best, we’ll circulate it to our family and a few friends via email. That’s good enough.