Monday, September 01, 2014

Seen



“Your heart influences your art.” 
Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

Two years ago last May, I  purchased my first full-frame  camera, a used Canon 5D Mark II.  A few months after that I bought my first Canon L series lens, a 24-105mm. It's the only lens I own that I bought new.  I still use the same gear today.  I was so excited about the camera but it took a awhile to collect the funds. In the meantime, I read the entire David Busch manual on the camera before I ever even touched it. 


Adding a second shift to get the extra money was easy, I knew I was committed to the art.

It may just be a tool but it's an extension of myself and I'm as meticulous about its care and safety as I would be for anything I hold of great personal value.  I'll never be someone who switches cameras like those who buy new cars every year. I love reading about all the new mirror-less cameras, super mega-pixal technology but it's like reading about how the "other half" lives to me. It's not my reality, I live vicariously through the gear heads.
I'm often sentimental about the objects in my life and I'm not sure why. 

I was shooting the Fall colors that year and was out in the enchanted forest (West Fork). The seasonal color changes in the forest are nothing short of spectacular.  I'd been a longtime hiker on the trail before I'd ever photographed there so I already knew many special of trail areas.  

Part of the trail meanders though some fairly dense forest and the canopy can often be somewhat dark especially in the early hours of an autumn morning. I was walking down the trail and peered through the dense trees and web-like branches to see the morning sun was illuminating the red canyon sandstone off in the distance. This was creating the most beautiful scene.  Warm colors of the fall leaves aglow from the back-light of the canyon at sunrise was something I'll always remember.  I stopped in my tracks, dropped my gear and started taking images. I was so excited to have caught this special moment. I found this amazing composition that I'd never seen before on any of my hikes. The color was unreal and I felt like I'd captured one of my best shots.  A beautiful abstract and it all made sense. 

Later that day, when I got home I uploaded my images into Lightroom and was so perplexed by my RAW files.  I knew I'd capture it but It looked nothing like I remembered.  It looked chaotic and dark and I couldn't make any sense out of it.  I never edited the images and put them aside.  Many of my other shots that day came out nice but I couldn't  help but feel a sense of disappointment that some part of my process had failed. After all, if I couldn't take my gear out and reliably return with what I was seeing, in other words, if I couldn't take my vision to fruition, what kind of photographer could I ever hope to be? 

I knew what I had seen.  The composition was there. The light was there. The color was there yet my RAW images where telling me a different story.  

Was it my exposure? Did I check my histogram? Did I just get too excited and rush the process?  The hard part was not knowing, what I didn't know.  I chalked it up to inexperience and did my best to learn what I could. Missing that beautiful scene had always haunted me. 

I carried on. My routine has been constant for the last 2 years.  I work to travel, I travel to explore, I explore because I'm curious  and I photograph to remember a life in constant transformation.  I create the artistic backdrop of my life and I find that exciting. Photography is the mechanism that keeps me interested in the world around me.  My reward is in sharing my work through imagery, writing and creating amazing memories. 

I come home from a 10 hour shift,  4 days a week and spend anywhere from 3-5 hours each day studying photography, practicing post-process editing, reading tutorials, blogs and magazines.  Anytime, I'm not working, I'm shooting or I'm learning.

Just by chance, perhaps feeling a bit melancholy that my beloved enchanted forest has been closed since the Slide Fire, I sentimentally returned to this RAW file 2 years later and low and behold the moment was found. 

I found that exact moment in time. Those warm canyon walls glowing through the dense forest just as I had seen it.  Like an unskilled musician unable to read sheet music at first, now I could suddenly decipher those sweet notes. I remembered immediately that morning, the coolness, the smell, the light, the color. I was there again. I did capture this, it was here all the time. Under heavy shadows and an unsimplified composition it waited.   Sliders askew, tones unmapped and curves disoriented, it waited. It was all coming back. My eyes welled and I got a little choked up.  I remember this, I remember seeing this.  This image is exactly as I had seen it and the process now came full circle. 

It almost seems a bit comical now but the reality is that I captured an image I had seen yet I wasn't technically proficient enough to render it.  I simply lacked the knowledge and experience.  My technical skills have just now started to catch up with the side of me that see and feels.  

Eventually, the mind and gear will work simultaneously and effortlessly but I'm not quite there yet and I suspect that this ongoing process will take a lifetime but for me it was a profound moment of catching up.  A huge relief to know that I had in fact captured what I truly had seen and felt in my heart. 

Music