With Digital Files, you mostly only find what you are looking for. IF they are there, they are there in order. If you are diligent in adding appropriate keywords and other clues to your metadata, finding what you are looking for is faster and more convenient than ever. That’s a good thing. Mostly.
Today while looking for my accidentally misfiled negatives of the Martello tower in Dublin, I happened upon two totally random negatives, one of a dear old friend Ron,(which I promptly scanned and sent to him with a note), And one of my older brother Jay.
The one of Jay buckled my knees.
It was a poorly framed badly posed photo of him with a golf club, looking down at the ball in the high grass of the side yard of the Rockwell-esque house and street on which we grew up.
Casting a shadow into the frame, but revealed only by a shoe tip and one hand with a watch and the hint of a white short sleeved shirt is my Dad, to whom golf would have been as familiar and as attractive as curling. (He had only one game, and it was Bocce.) By any standard, it’s a poor picture, so why was it so powerful?
Jay was 8 years older than I, which is a huge gulf when you are 8 or 10, or a 15 year old with his first Twin Lens reflex camera, which he helped me buy.
Growing up, I was always enough younger to be a wet blanket for the activities of ‘The Big Guys’. He either took me along anyway, or changed the activity to one that would be appropriate for me, much to the chagrin of his friends Tom & Woody.
I’m sure he didn’t always take me, but my only recollections are happy ones. He was everything I wanted to be.
Years later after Illness forced me to leave my photography job, and after 8 weeks out of work, he got me a job (for which I needed a suit and tie that I did not own) He bought me 2 suits and a pair of wing tip shoes. Shirts & ties too,—-all for a temporary job on Wall St. so I could pay some bills.
I stayed 31years at that firm rose through the ranks and retired at 52, a job that has made my entire life possible and blessed. The skids had been greased for me by his sterling reputation.
He was a second Father. He was a confidant, a mentor, a collaborator, a willful and unreasonable optimist. He was the friend that people revere above all others.
More than anything else, HE was the person that I wanted to tell if I had a small success. He would magnify it, be happier about it than I was.
And when I failed, I went to him even faster,— there was never a lecture, only help and understanding.
I lost him almost ten years ago, and my first impulse when something good happens is STILL to call him.
I have a younger brother who I love equally, but I can’t be to him what Jay was to me. It doesn’t work that way. There is only one Big brother, and Jay was that to both of us.
I think the picture was so powerful partly because it was so unexpected, and being a physical negative, I didn’t see a file number or a reference, I saw HIM. The fact that it was so old, taken with a camera he helped me buy, set in the backyard of our youth did the rest.
If my unremarkable picture of him had been digital, I never would have found it.
I would not have been looking for it because I still don’t remember taking it. Or it might have been ‘Deleted’ as the poor picture it was. But negatives mostly come in rolls with good pictures interspersed with bad. We don’t excise the weak pictures because the strong pictures provide ‘cover’ for the weak ones, —just like Brothers.
The tangible nature of the negative is something we have lost. An object and artifact in and of itself, It has been replaced by wonderful new stuff, but that stuff is different and, if we are not careful, Fleeting.
So if you have old negatives, look at them, and take care of them,pass them along like the treasures they are, and, if you have a Big Brother, (or sister) ring ‘em up.
Many of us have ‘Special Places’ , places that call to us, draw us in, places that become such a part of us that when there we feel complete , and when we are away we long to return. Places we long to share with those we love .
For me, Montauk is such a place.
There is a quality about Montauk when it is at its best (which is often a collaboration between Montauk and Family) where one can fall so deeply into the moment, be so absorbed in the experience of ‘Being There, Together’ that the beauty of the place and the beauty of those you love, reinforce each other and Time seems to stand still, —at least in the sense that we don’t want the experience to end.
Reduced to their simplest and most concentrated form, Place and People become one, and the world for a time, spins on without us.
And when we rejoin the world, it is with a renewed appreciation for those things that are really important, and a resolve to keep them so.
Traditionally, birds have been photographed with telephoto lenses, for many good reasons.
They are relatively small, they can and do fly away when you get close, so mostly there is no other way.
Long telephoto lenses, like really wide angle lenses, tend to call attention to themselves, they have a signature look that identifies them before we even focus on the content of the picture. This is neither good or bad, it is simply the optical nature of such things.
To be sure, good photographers can and do use these signatures for effect — to alter the relative sizes of things, to direct our attention, to compress distance, or to isolate a subject for a stronger composition.
Lenses are tools that help us tell our story. Telephotos by their nature compress distance, and since most pictures of birds in flight are taken with them, our perception of what birds look like is shaped by them.
Thinking about this while watching some Gulls, I wondered about using a wide angle lens on a subject that we are used to seeing almost exclusively through long lenses. Might it impart a fresh perspective or a different look?
To be sure this is not a practical approach to photographing birds in flight but I decided to try on an ‘easy’ subject,—-Gulls.
Armed with nothing but a tiny Canon S-95 set as it always is at AF, f/2.0, 35mm (equivalent) I gave it a try.
For me at least, these are interesting, the birds seem to have more ‘birdness” about them. Portraits almost.
Impractical as the technique is, I still find it interesting.
I am reminded of Robert Capa’s famous remark:
“If your Pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not Close enough”
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