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Mu-43 Book Club 1: The Passionate Photographer - Step One: Passion (main thread)

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by DeeJayK, Aug 31, 2012.

  1. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    Welcome to the kick-off of the Mu-43 Book Club. For those of you who haven't been following along as this "club" has been forming for the past few weeks, our intention is to read and discuss a photography-related book and share our results and experiences along the way.

    The book we have chosen for the initial read is The Passionate Photographer : ten steps toward becoming great by Steve Simon. As the title implies, this book describes ten steps which one can take to nudge yourself to becoming a better photographer. We'll be discussing each step individually, so this discussion assumes only that you've read the first section of the book. Please hold off any discussion of later steps or of the book as a whole for later. My current plan is to discuss one step each week, but the schedule is not set in stone and will depend on how the discussion progresses.

    In an effort to keep the discussion somewhat focused, I'm going to break off a couple of ancillary discussion points from Step One into separate threads. To allow everyone to find and recognize all these threads, I'll be tagging each with "book club" as also starting each thread title with "Mu-43 Book Club."

    Step one: Passion: an inch wide, a mile deep

    The book opens with the author describing how his initial interest in photography formed around gadget-lust for a Zenit 35mm camera he spotted in a photography catalog as a teen. A bit later he actually purchased his first camera and started his career as a teenage stringer for a small local paper. I thought this story was interesting and I'd like to invite anyone who wishes to share their own story of how they caught the photography bug in [thread=32362]this sub-thread[/thread].

    The author goes on to describe how he worked as a newspaper photographer for several years before beginning to feel as if he had reached a sort of plateau in his photographic development (no pun intended). At this point he decided to take on a "project" to help/force him to move outside his comfort zone. The project he came up with was to document the American states which border his native Canada, a project he titled "America at the Edge". He goes on in the chapter to describe several other examples of projects undertaken by other photographers.

    The main focus of Step One is to brainstorm such a project for yourself. Simon offers several ideas and ways in which you can approach this assignment. I'd like to use this thread to discuss the idea of the "photographic project", discuss any of the projects the author presented (or any you have undertaken yourself or read about or seen) and most importantly to brainstorm personal project ideas and help each other focus and direct those ideas. By the time this discussion is complete, I hope that each of us has a least one good, solid project in mind (or better yet, documented or underway).

    So at this point, I'll leave it to you: DISCUSS!
     
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  2. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    This was a tough way to start out this book! I read the first chapter and my first thought was "uh oh" :p I have yet to figure out what my passion is for photography. I find many different genres interesting and I'm still very much in my "experimental" phase of trying everything, so it's difficult for me to hone in on any specific area for a personal project.

    So far the only two ideas I can come up with that grab me are:

    1) 365 day project: the summer of photos challenge has been a great experience, and I would now like to continue it for a 365 day project. This isn't very thematic as my daily image has been anything from garden ornaments to portraits to wildlife and street photos, but it's a project :D

    2) Portrait project: it's been interesting watching my portrait work improve, particularly with photos of my wife since she's a frequent subject. I like being able to take photos that show people the way I see them, with individual unique beauty, and I am ever-improving as I learn. I am thinking it could be fun to do a (candid/impromptu) portrait collection of my family and friends. That could be difficult to share for purposes of discussion though since I tend to avoid posting pictures of my friends and family for privacy reasons, unless I have permission otherwise.
     
  3. rhoydotp

    rhoydotp Mu-43 Top Veteran

    609
    Aug 5, 2012
    Toronto, Ont
    rpamparo
    i had a few "projects" that I have been thinking in my head.

    1. street buskers & musicians (including the ones we see in our public transit)

    though this one gets expensive after a while. some don't take it well without a drop of a coin. and they're getting pretty good in knowing how much without looking :rofl:

    2. my kids' daily routines

    i've had some when they take a shower, brush their teeth and after dinner but not intentionally capturing it as a "conceptual project"

    3. day-to-day commute to work

    some of the common things i see in the subway, bus, street on the way to work. the hard thing is to have a camera handy while trying to rush to work :redface:

    looking forward to other ideas that people have
     
  4. MikeR_GF1

    MikeR_GF1 Mu-43 Veteran

    Some years ago, I thought I would photograph "flat animals," roadkill of small creatures that have been repeatedly run over. My wife convinced me that this was a gross concept.

    My current & ongoing fascination has been my "woodpecker" theme. I live in an area that had somehow escaped Dutch elm blight until just a few years ago. Once blight hit, within about 3 years all elms, some of them 80 years old, died. Standing elm snags rot quickly at the base, and are dangerous. However, I left one standing, and have been captivated by its role as a home for wildlife, many holes excavated by woodpeckers, occupied by other birds as nesting sites, and changing as smaller limbs rot and break away.

    I've made pictures of it in all seasons, all weather, some straight, others in infrared. If anything, other than airplanes and airshows, could be considered my "project," this might be it.

    I'm expecting my first eReader delivery today, Google's Nexus 7, and I think my first book will be this one. Once I catch up, I'll see if I can join in.
     
  5. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    I was honored to be interviewed by µ4/3, my story is here:

    Gary Ayala Interview

    Gary

    PS- I started a family and sorta hung up my cameras, (interestingly, children typically are a cause to take-up photography, children for me was a reason to stop, the exception being the tradition snaps of the kids growing up).

    I was using a P&S, the shutter lag was so frustrating that what little passion I had for photography was extinguished. Then a friend convinced me to purchase a 20D (about the time they were released). When I first grasp the camera, it felt wonderful, finally a 'real' camera, then I released the shutter ... the sound of the nearly instantaneous mirror-slap was like music to my ears. Then a rush of memories stemming from the camera just filled my entire being ... and I was back. The passion for photography I first discovered while still in grade school, the passion I thought was gone came roaring back like a wildfire. Now, there are times when I feel that the only way I will be without a camera, is when it is pried from my cold, dead hand.

    G
     
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  6. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    Thanks for getting the discussion rolling, Jay.

    I think those ideas are good starts, but you might want to consider narrowing the focus a bit. I hear your point about not really knowing where to focus, but I think the exercise is more about the journey than the results at some level. Just taking on a project will get you shooting and get you outside your comfort zone.

    The Project 365 is a good way to challenge oneself to shoot, and he hints in Step One that simply getting out and shooting is going to be the focus in Step Two.

    Can you think of a way to focus your portrait idea? Perhaps you can take 100 portraits of strangers. One way you could do this would be to go to a busy park (or street corner) with a sign that reads "Doughnut for your portrait" and offer passersby a doughnut if they stop for 30 seconds so that you can compose and snap a portrait. You can even offer to take their e-mail address and send them a copy.

    Or maybe incorporate both ideas and make a portrait of your wife (or some other willing subject) every day for some period (e.g. "99 days of Wifey").

    Anyway, those are just some ideas that might get you thinking of a way that you can narrow your project down to make it both more achievable and more meaningful.
     
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  7. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Your second idea was basically exactly what I first considered for a project, figuring my wife is fair game for getting a camera pointed at her and she's one of my favorite subjects anyway :biggrin:

    The more I thought about it this morning, the more I think I'd like to have a collection of portraits of my closest friends and family. I have a few of course, but I think I'd like to focus on capturing the people I care about the most, with specific intent. Hopefully while showing something about their personality or essence in the process. It'd also give me a reason to learn more about portraiture and do more people pictures since I tend to settle more on inanimate objects naturally.
     
  8. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim
    I've had a couple of possible projects tunneling through what's left of my mind for awhile now, but other life issues have occupied my time this summer. I've spent a lot more time indoors on forums than I have outdoors shooting, but hope that by mid-September or so I'll be back out and about.

    The first project requires more travel (or at least movement). I've noticed that fire plugs are frequently painted in different colors in different municipalities, and in some neighborhoods it appears that residents have made an effort to decorate the plugs. And, of course, not all towns use the most modern designs of plugs and commercial buildings sometimes have differing makes/models than one sees on the suburban streets. Older plugs in the country can be interesting looking.

    This might be a better idea for someone else - I travel little these days and our suburban area seems to use the same tired, repetitive scheme on fireplugs on all streets. Good for when the responders are looking for a hose hookup, bad when one is looking for a photo op. I've seen them decorated in rainbow colors, as dogs, rocket ships - but one has to search to find them.

    The second project under consideration is to photograph our local zoo. I've made a myriad of photographs there through the years but always in a haphazard manner. A more systematic approach, covering the entire complex, would be quite an undertaking; it is a fairly large facility covering 125 acres. Of course I would break it down into smaller segments ("mini projects") and shooting would have to be performed in all seasons because the zoo palpably changes its personality in winter/spring/summer/fall.

    The zoo project is attractive because it is only 10 miles from my home, and we purchase yearly passes so there's no additional cost to visit frequently. The bad news is that it feeds my desire for a fisheye lens, there are a couple of shots I've envisioned that would be a natural for one of those gadgets :rolleyes:. Other than that possible requirement (O.K., O.K., a fisheye isn't required...but the project makes a great excuse for buying one :biggrin:) I have the requisite gear.

    There is no zoo management prohibition against cameras, lenses, tripods, monopods, or flashes. Of course if one gets in the way of zoo visitors one may receive a mild dressing down by security staff, but if one is reasonable and courteous the zoo staff grant considerable leeway for those making photographs.

    This gets me out of my comfort zone - I dislike shooting in inclement or cold weather, avoid making photographs in crowded conditions, and rarely plan a photo shoot, being more of a snap-shooter. All of those conditions would need to be met in order to complete such a project.

    I've purchased the requisite book for the club (the Kindle version, hopefully it will suffice); I can't guarantee I'll be able to follow through on any project until completion but I find the club a fun concept and if I find that I am still house bound in a few weeks I can at least tag along on the forum.

    (Macro shooting indigenous insects, or "a shot a day for a year of my back yard" type of projects don't interest me, I'm afraid. I need more of a fillip for my mare (to coin a phrase from Rex Stout) to get myself interested in a photo project).

    Regards,

    Jim
     
  9. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    Lots of great ideas here already. Below are a few that I came up with. Some of these are just seeds of ideas, and I'm hoping that maybe you all can help me flesh them out or that they can inspire you to think of something similar.

    • I am lucky to live in a very diverse community (some say that my postal code, 98118, is the most "diverse" ZIP code in the US, although I'm not sure that's really measurable), so I thought it would be fun to try to get as many shots of people from as many different countries, ethnicities and backgrounds as possible all within a mile (or some other set distance) from my home.
    • My neighborhood also has a fair amount of gang-related crime (an acquaintance was recently shot and killed as a passerby to a street shooting). So I thought that maybe putting a "face" to the areas in which this crime takes place would be interesting. Maybe I would go (during the day) to each street corner where a shooting or other violent crime takes place and document the location and the people I see there.
    • On a lighter note, I've recently taken an interest in documenting interesting signage and in that quest have noticed a fair amount of signs depicting horrible things happening to stick people. Maybe I could do a project where I document as many of these "Stick People in Peril" as I can find.
    • Finally, I had a thought to try shooting in the style of another photographer, trying to capture images that resemble the output of someone else. I'm not really sure what this would look like, but I think it could really push me technically.
     
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  10. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    I like this one the best - though I think the set distance part isn't strictly necessary. What would be cool though is to make it so that each photo tries to show something about that person's background or culture. A series of environmental type portraits would be really neat with this theme.


    Hahaha... that immediately made me think of this:
    The Deadly Follies of Stick Figure Warning-Man and Family
     
  11. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim
    YMMV, but I would be cautious in such an endeavor. I'm from Detroit, live in a "shall issue" county, carry a Colt auto and I'm still careful in certain areas, daytime or no.

    Not that it can't be done - but discretion and respect would be the passwords of the day.

    Ya'll be careful now, y'heah?

    Jim
     
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  12. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Bob
    After reading the first chapter I had pretty much settled on a sign project. There are lots of interesting signs out there that folks pass by every day. I took some sign shots this summer and I think I'll continue for at least a year.
    I won't make it a 365 day project, I've tried that twice and didn't finish either of them. They were interesting and fun while they lasted, but became something of a chore when life interfered. I'm simply going to be on the lookout for interesting signs and compiling a collection. Maybe in the end I'll do a book at Shutterfly or somesuch site.
     
  13. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    Thanks for sharing this, Gary. I actually thought about some of the parallels with your stories as a newspaper photographer and the stories Simon shares in the book. I feel like your experiences are a fount of knowledge just waiting to be shared.

    How about project ideas? Do you have any story ideas that you shoot in your journalism days that were interesting? Ever undertake any photography projects for yourself like those described in the book? (I guess your adventures in Southeast Asia could probably fit the bill to some degree.) Have you come up with any ideas for a project you might like to undertake?
     
  14. makoti

    makoti Mu-43 Regular

    44
    Aug 8, 2012
    Virginia
    I think you got this backwards. It's "Passion: An inch wide, a mile deep". The other way would be sincerity. :biggrin:
     
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  15. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    You are obviously correct. Funny thing is that I just copied and pasted that mistake directly from the book's WorldCat entry, and obviously didn't put much thought into it.

    I've fixed it in the original post now. Thanks for pointing it out.
     
  16. oldoldold

    oldoldold Mu-43 Regular

    130
    Sep 24, 2011
    Broomfield, CO
    Joe Milan
    Lots of good ideas.

    I really liked the first lesson, but I struggle with this kind of thing on two levels. I've spent so many years as an engineer that I sometimes feel that I don't have an artistic bone in my body. Secondly, I will have a difficult time getting really passionate about something. I love to take pictures, but selecting a theme will stretch me.
     
  17. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Bob
    I think that this is the strength of this book - it will help discover/develop those artistic bones. Maybe something related to engineering. My son-in-law is passionate about bridges, especially covered bridges. Just a thought . . .
     
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  18. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    This one could work, but you're right that you'd want to be sure to contribute if you take their photo...that's sort of an unwritten rule of busker etiquette. Think of it this way, though: as they are helping you develop your artistic ability, you are supporting them in developing their's.

    This one strikes me as a bit limited, but I guess there's no reason that these projects need be epic in scope. It's certainly worth exploring.

    I think this idea has promise. You might have to add some padding to your commute time to give yourself the luxury of slowing down a bit and discovering the photos all around you. If you try it I think you'll be amazed at all the photographic opportunities that surround you every day.

    Thanks for participating. Please feel free to provide feedback to any others whose ideas you can add to or comment on.
     
  19. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    While it might be a little morose (and perhaps a bit gruesome in some instances), I wouldn't totally dismiss this idea. There's something sadly poetic in the way that these creatures are killed and then simply left to decompose.

    The woodpecker/elm snag theme seems like it could be interesting, but at least part of the point of the project is to push yourself to do (and photograph) new things or things in a new way. If this snag is a subject you have already explored, you might want to come up with a new approach to it.

    The Nexus handsets are great, so I think you'll enjoy the tablet. Definitely get the book and join in, you're definitely not too late to catch up since we'll be discussing it in a deliberate manner.
     
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  20. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    That sounds like a good project because it will move you to advance an aspect of your photography you already know you'd like to develop and you'll also get a nice end product of a bunch of portraits of those closest to you when you're done. It would be nice to print those portraits out and hang them together in a hallway or wall in your home that you see on a regular basis.

    Now the next step is to boil this loose idea into a tight statement of your project's purpose that is "cogent, concise, journalistically realizable and visually translatable." You'll also want to think about how you can add a written element to help tie the project together. For example, perhaps you can pose a similar question to each of your subjects and document their responses along with your portraits.
     
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