I like taking pictures, but I have never been particularly good at it. I don’t feel too bad about this now, because I have come to realize that most people with cameras have about the same skill level as I do. There are a few people who are really good, and the rest of us are saved by our equipment.
Photography, like many forms of art, can be in the eye of the beholder. When most of us think of “great photographers” (admit it: up until this article you had never once thought of who or what a “great photographer” might be), we think of Ansel Adams or, maybe … someone else. (I thought about looking up the name of some other great photographer, but then I thought, “Why bother?” Which, I’m going to say, says more about the general public’s response to photographers than about my own laziness.)
Looking at my book of Ansel Adams photographs, or the book I have of photographs by David Muench (I knew I could come up with a second name if I thought long enough or took the effort to swivel my chair around and look at the book case behind me), it’s easy to think, “Well, if I were standing in that exact spot, I could have taken a great picture like that, too!”
Well, maybe, but probably not. See, those guys not only have “an eye for the landscape”, they also studied things like composition and lighting and they know how to use filters on their cameras. See, I’ll go on vacation and take two hundred photos, of which maybe 2 will be of sufficient merit to be show to anyone not related to me. And it was an accident. I just happened to snap that picture when the light was just right.
I do like taking pictures, but I fight an inward battle. On the one hand, when I get back from a vacation, I always wish I had taken more pictures so I would have more of the vacation to re-live. On the other hand, while on the vacation I don’t want to spend all my time looking through a view-finder. The modern digital camera has been a great boon to people like me: a pretty-well-focused picture, easily taken, from a compact camera—but I am often too slow in getting it out and turned on so the picture I wanted has passed out of range. Instead of taking one anyway, I shove the camera back in my pocket and move on, thinking I’ll “take the next one” but not prepared when the next opportunity pops up.
But then, I learned that I have more in common with the pros than I thought. Out of the 200 pictures they shoot, they might only have 2 that are worth showing off. The difference is, they have the dedication to take 200 hundred pictures of the same thing, confident that—once they get to develop the pics (the really good photographers still use that stuff called “film”), they’ll find the one or two where the lighting, the filter, the composition and the etc. all fell into place.
This doesn’t happen to me because, as alluded earlier, I barely have the dedication to photography necessary to swivel my chair.
Oh, and Steve Tohari. He’s a good photographer, too,