Thoughts on Photography, Self Portraits

I am slowly pulling things I packed two years ago up from the basement, going through boxes, wondering why I kept some stuff.

Yesterday I pulled out my box of photos. My father gave me my first real camera, an SLR, when I was in third grade. In junior high and high school I had a bit of reputation as “the photographer,” and was even written up on the back page of some school board newsletter that was sent out to city residents.

I took both semesters of photography in high school and signed up for a third semester as independent study. But I’d never weeded through most of my photos.

Yesterday it was time to toss, toss, toss. I sorted through, pulling out so many out of focus, grainy, underexposed, overexposed, poor photos. Sometimes I’d had doubles printed, so I tossed out entire second sets. I found photos of ex-boyfriends, too, and shredded them as I am a relationship-evidence-destroyer.

The only set I didn’t weed out in any way? My very first roll, where not one single photo was in focus. Dad has told me that I was so excited about having taken a photo that after hitting the shutter (hitting, not squeezing), I’d drop my arms very quickly, and yell, “I took a picture!”

I didn’t know that added shake.

It was interesting to see how my photography has changed over the years. Not just the fact that now I can focus the majority of the time, but learning rules of composition and interests. It seems like I’ve always been interested in photographing people. In high school I went through a range of process interests: sponge printing, solarization, pinhole photography, double exposures, scratching the print, cracking the negatives. Now I’m interested in near-infrared photography and Mother bought me a LensBaby (and since JPG is running a special, I also got the macro/wide angle conversion kit at no cost—아싸!).

I was hesitant to switch to digital. In fact, I only got a digital camera because a then-boyfriend bought me one for Christmas. I liked how easy it was to email photos to friends; I hated the point-and-shoot limitations. Buying a DSLR in South Korea reignited my interest in photography.

But then I had to learn a whole new skill set: digital processing. I am not very interested in digital manipulation, for the most part. I use Lightroom and I’m really happy with it, though I’ll use GIMP when necessary. In my single-girl apartment in Atlanta, I had dozens of photos on my wall. I hope to do the same again.

Since I shoot RAW, I had to learn to backup all my files in one place and then ruthlessly delete them from my computer. Yesterday I was saving all of the negatives and ruthlessly tossing.

Either way, I tend to be picky about what I shoot. But once I start shooting, I shoot many frames. It’s the way I was taught, “Film is cheap,” Dad said. (Jennifer’s boyfriend, Sung Hyun/Gym Guy, kept asking to see my photos from Jejudo. I had over 500 to sort through. He looked at a few and said, “But what are these three the same?” Bracketing is useful.)

Further, I try to be picky about what I post here. (And what I send in email. I can’t stand it when people send me 45 photos of their child at the park, all the photos taken within a ten-minute period. Psst! Show me fewer photos and I will look more!)

I am even pickier about what I get printed.

***

Since I moved to Korea, my parents moved to a farm. I went out today to shoot a windmill, framed by deep blue skies, puffy clouds…and a giant pile of dirt they had delivered this morning.

Windmill

I also experimented with infrared. I was exposing for 30 seconds, so I ran to the front of the windmill, slowly counted to ten, then ran out of frame.

Infrared Windmill

Infrared Ghost

My parents have 20 sheep that I haven’t officially met yet. About a half dozen of them were very interested in watching me, but as soon as I pointed my lens at them, they ran off. All of them. Like sheep.

Sheep

Metal Tag?

Windmill Well

Dandelion

Self Portraits

I also ended up doing some self portraits. I used my 50 mm lens, and I tried to not center myself. All of these frames were hand held, no tripod or timer used.