Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Photograph?

Every now and then, I ask myself some basic questions, trying to get to the bottom of reasons for doing what we as intelligent beings do to make us tick. Yes! Tic tock tic! We must tic! We are all clocks, ticking at different times. But, what makes us different is why we tick! I hope that makes sense. But, the cynic in you will then ask, “ Why is it important to be different”.  Man, dont we want to be unique and leave behind a legacy. Or maybe something just as simple as being known as someone who lived life to the fullest with better tics, faster tics or tics with greater intensities.

So, with that perspective, I ask myself, why photograph? I have to understand what generates that passion for photography? And, whether the final product, the photograph is an effort worth expending the countless hours of input-the tic toc tic! Ha! Now time gets a certain quality. Certainly, photographing is a time well spent. It starts with an idea which ignites a certain amount excitement and gets your adrenaline flowing and the mind works overtime trying to figure out how it might be implemented. The idea is a thought combined with a vision and both, have multiple dimensions. A lot of hype is generated by the old time photographers that over simplify, photography as the capture of light. That is just one dimension of it and if light is white then what is black. You need black in your images and to beget black, you need no light. So, there goes the theory that photography is only about light- it is also as sinister as black. And, one can also move beyond the light spectrum and shoot in infra red. Many speak about photography being as good as what the eyes see. Ace photographers see the world in a different way, they see more and they see more penetratingly. Bull! We all see the same. It is just that our photographs see differently. The reason, I say that is because photography is more than what meets the eye. For example, in low light situations, the colors are richer and more vibrant because photographs capture more information than the eye. And, that my friends is the essence of long exposure photography, a technique that exploits the world of darkness, as in night photography or shooting landscapes with light absorbing filters, the notorious one being the ‘big stopper’ or the ND 1000. Artificially barricading light with such a filter enriches the color in the photograph as well as smooths out motion due to the long exposure times.

And, for those with the stomach for details, we can dissect the photograph for all its worth. Composition, balance, color tones, foreground, background, depth of field, motion, subjects, ambient light and artificial lighting are some of the ingredients that constitute the photograph. I will leave the details of photography gear and acquisition technique for the pros. Luckily, we have plenty of excellent avenues for learning on the internet highway from youtube videos, photography web sites & blogs, photography communities, gear manufacturers and the post-processing world. Take your pick and start your education. Some recent sites such as Creativelive are at the cutting edge of photography and one can learn a lot from these e-mentors. The best part is that, all this education is for free.

One of the most important aspects of photography is post-processing. The RAW image of digital photography needs to be processed with the veneers of the soft ware brushes. The end product is a composite of different layers of adjustments that we, as artist apply on our canvasses to make the images pop out and appear more appealing to the viewer. There is an ocean of soft-ware editing programs available but we all use the same fishing rod of Photoshop for assistance. We may apply additional baits such as plug-ins to help expedite our work flows.

So, my friends. The field of photography is open to all for its reaping. How you harvest it is your journey in this field. You can tread on it lightly as amateurs or plunge in headlong to become pros. The choice is yours to make. It will open your minds to a new world, the world as seen through your lens. You will be an author or poet reciting your stories in your photographs. You can treat your pictures as a canvas and let the artist in you come forth. You can be a journalist and document news stories and contribute to history. You can use your images to send social messages. Or, you can simply capture portraits of friends and families. Whatever you do, you will experience a thrill of creating something of your own. And, the best part will come when you sign your name on the photograph in one corner, permanently stamping yourself in the picture!

Chandru Jain, MD

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