Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chasing the moment...

So I've been giving a lot of thought to why I like photography... why I love to carry that heavy piece of equipment around with me where ever I go... I thought this section from Joe McNally's book (The Moment it Clicks) summarized my feelings perfectly (not that I'm even close to experiencing what he sees/experiences):
“What you see on these pages is not about a particular place, people, time, or cause. It’s not about one type of picture or another. It’s not about sportsmen or fashion models or war or politics or the news of the day.

It’s about being a photographer.

It’s about the sheer joy of clicking the shutter…repeatedly! The sweet sound of the shutter and the explosion that occurs in your head and your heart when you make the shot. The deal is the shot, you know. You make the picture and you know something just froze solid in a shifting world. Something stabilized, for all time. You just hung your hat on a moment that otherwise would be gone forever, and now you can go back and take a look at that moment, be it amazing or ordinary, any time you want.

It’s about your eye in the camera as the light hits just right. It’s about the slight turn of your subject’s face that speaks the truth. It’s about holding your breath as you shoot. It’s about the nerves, the joy, and the terror of wondering if you got it. And then dancing about, punching holes in the air when you know you do. It’s about… the moment it clicks.” -- Joe McNally
It is exactly about that... especially that last paragraph that resonates with me. It is all about the moment that shutter clicks, nervous that you missed the shot... and jumping for joy when you capture a frame that you want... just the way you imagined it in your head. I remember my first real portrait session with a friend in Taiwan... it was at some restaurant near my house. Here are some photos from that shoot... please remember this was about a month or 2 after I got my SLR.... so they are far from good shots...

While these aren't particular good shots... there was something magical for me. It was really the first time that it "clicked" for me... The whole world around me disappeared... all I could see was my friend through the view finder. Nothing else mattered, all the distractions of the world, of life, it all went away.  It was as if all my energy was focused on capturing the perfect moment and then when the shutter clicked and the screen went black... time itself stood still. I didn't even need to look at the image on the back of my camera and I knew I caught a special moment... some how I just knew it... caught her smiling, caught her looking playful, caught her looking sad. Sometimes I miss the shot, sometimes I get it...  but all that mattered was for that split second, I was happy and I froze time. 

Since then, I've really just fallen in love with photography... everything becomes so simple... your view of the world is completely simplified and all you see is that tiny little view of the world and nothing else. A friend once told me that it's such a shame I keep taking pictures and can't enjoy anything... While I might have been able to enjoy it the same way, but to me, it is even more special. That tiny window to the world let's me focus on it even more, all the details of the subject, whether it is a person, beautiful landscape, brilliant fireworks... I feel closer to the subject, much more connected, as if I have a personal relationship with the subject. It just feels so much more intimate... This is especially true for portraits, seeing your subject smile... it becomes the most beautiful smile in the world and your whole world just brightens up along with it... you can't help but feel happy and smile back. Same is true when shooting weddings... while I do have some regrets for not being able to pay attention to the wedding and relax... I feel so much closer to the bride and groom... and then when the shutter clicks while they are smiling... that feeling is pure magic. It's a high that you can't help but want more of... that's why I can't resist the temptation of the camera... of that mirror flap... of looking through the view finder (and I think it is the view finder that makes it magical... live view or through the LCD just won't be the same). I can't help but keep clicking that button, repeatedly, even if my entire body is sore, tired, sweating, I will keep pressing the shutter. Nothing else in the world matters, I just want to see them smile... see YOU smile.

Lately I've lost a lot of that passion, that feeling. Maybe because I've just gotten in a photography slump where my images just has no impact. Too many bland landscapes, too many images that just says "yes I was there."  I'm not a naturally creative person, I don't see things the same way as some of the photog... they just get it. It might take me 10 years to do what they learned in a few months. Maybe I got a little discouraged looking at all the great photos coworkers take (I wear the photography mailing lists are full of pro photographers, not engineers). I've also recently met a few great photographers online through Picasa... they've been shooting about the same length of time, all self taught... and their image makes me FEEL. It's amazing what they do, and a bit discouraging. But then yesterday my friend sent me his blog post from awhile ago... Photography IS fun... it doesn't matter what I can capture... it doesn't matter if it's just a worthless assortment of bits on a computer hard disk... the fact is that I captured a moment in time that is special to me. It doesn't have to be special to anyone else... 

The past weekend shooting at the wedding really reminded me of that magical feeling again.... Especially right before the reception when a friend was willing to pose for me. Even though we didn't have time and only posed for a few shots, it was still special...

As usual, I started extremely nervous, filled with self doubt... "She looks great, can I really capture that? Can I really capture her essence? Her personality? How do I pose her? What if she doesn't like it?" A thousand thoughts screamed through my head... but as she slowly smiled, it all went away... as if sun shining through the storm clouds, a moment of clarity. Nothing mattered anymore and I pressed the shutter button... *click*. She reminded me of that feeling again, that magical feeling of pressing the shutter, of capturing a moment...  The nervousness when the view finder is black, scared that you missed her smile... and then wanting to jump up for joy, pump your fists and scream when you know you got something worth keeping, worth treasuring.

Was it a good photo? I don't know, you'll have to ask her. Did I capture something special? To me, yes... it made me happy. That moment is now forever frozen in time, a new memory is created from nothingness and I will never forget it (or at least I'll have proof of it). I guess this is what photography is about... creating something special for yourself first and foremost... if you are lucky, it'll be special to someone else. Maybe that is selfish, but that's the best I can do. In the end, I don't think I'll ever be a good photographer, but that doesn't matter. I just need to have fun... I'll keep shooting till I'm dead... I'll keep chasing for that perfect moment... the "moment it clicks."