Month: December 2020

Why Small Towns in Winter are Perfect for Photography

Why Small Towns in Winter are Perfect for Photography

No Need to Travel Far Imagine this: It’s 14 degrees Fahrenheit in your quaint burg and you’re trying to find the inspiration for making pictures. For those of us in the Midwest’s finest snow belt, a decent pair of warm gloves and boots can be 

Why the 28mm Lens Has Become a Favorite

Why the 28mm Lens Has Become a Favorite

Most Important Though: Use What You’re Comfortable With Readers, my journey through photographic gear started many, many years ago. Gear can be the absolute kryptonite of creativity so what I’m offering here is a simple observation from my point of view. Take what you can 

Why You Should Visit Your Photos

Why You Should Visit Your Photos

The Story of Photos Over Time

As often happens, I sat down at my computer one morning—on the desk, a hot coffee to my left and Harriet, our 16-year-old Maine Coon, looking out an open window to the right—and decided to revisit photos I’d taken. It’s a rabbit hole I look forward to traveling down, every time.

Kaleva, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

Photos pile up, quickly. I try to download all the pictures from my phone at least once a month and back them up on various hard drives. My photograph-first-question-them-later-if-ever mentality has of course resulted in thousands of pictures.

Those photos are placed digitally, by month, alongside folders of all the other photos, digital and film, that accrue in one’s archive.

Many Photos, Many Purposes

Now, of course, photos serve all kinds of purposes: for me, some are pictures of a walk downtown while others are of snow tires I tried to sell on Facebook marketplace. Your photos will no doubt be a collection of images you took for various reasons and that is what I’m getting at.

Acme, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

Some photos are viewed, used and posted while others, are not. My suggestion to you is to take the time to look over images that you may have overlooked before or never did anything with. There could be lessons to learn from them and at the very least, they could provide you with a memory or escape to when the image was made.

While looking through some of my medium-format film photos taken last winter during a day-trip excursion to small towns, I came across numerous pictures that I’d forgotten about. I never posted them and they were only for my photo fulfillment but they mean something.

Memory Lane and Lessons From Past Pictures

By looking at the images, I was taken back to that cold day when the light was perfect and the roads were sketchy. I wondered what it was that moved me enough to make an image of the scene I made an image at. I wondered why I never did anything with the image. I wondered if I’d stooped a little lower, if the composition would be improved.

Acme, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

So, what I’m doing when I’m revisiting old images, is I’m editing and taking a trip back to when the image was made.

Now this is going to be a personal journey for you and everyone. Maybe you just don’t care about your old images enough to do anything with them. That’s fine.

Notice though, that there’s something to be gained from looking at past pictures. Whenever I study archived images, I’m also trying to find things I’d do differently. As a photographer, editing pictures—old or new—can teach us a lot. As you go through your pictures, you can make suggestions to yourself on how to improve upon your photography the next time you’re out.

It’s easy to become stuck in photographic routines, but, you’d be surprised at how handy those self-suggestions can be when you’re out in the field making pictures.

Your Pictures

Sometimes too, it’s just fun looking at pictures and thinking about the conditions of the day and appreciating an image you created.

Benzonia, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

Photos are a bit of magic in a way because they can change. The picture will be the same but with the passage of time, it can take on different meanings and feelings. You may be at a different place in your photography. Some images can be cringe-worthy while others can be amazing pictures that will stand the test of time in your collection.

Whether you have reasons or not for revisiting past images, it’s a simple activity to do and can be meaningful in different ways.

Blog Note: All of the images I’ve posted here are images that I’ve never posted anywhere. They fall under the category of ‘pictures that I visit from time to time’. I wonder to myself what motivated me to dedicate one of ten frames on my film roll to the subject I photographed. It’s fun revisiting the day but mostly I’m wondering about how I could improve the pictures and how I’d change the composition if I were to be at a similar scene. Whatever I come away with from looking at the images, I feel like I’m a better photographer for doing it.

3 Tips to Improve Your Everyday Photography Right Now

3 Tips to Improve Your Everyday Photography Right Now

Tip #1: Have a Camera On You This should go without saying; but I must say it. If you don’t have any type of camera on you, something amazing WILL happen. A beautiful vista will present itself; an extinct species will be revealed; and/or the 

Why Winter is a Great Season for Photography

Why Winter is a Great Season for Photography

Let It Snow If it sounds borderline insane to appreciate the benefits of photography in cold and snowy conditions, I understand. Making quality images is hard enough when the weather is perfect. Once the temperature descends to freezing and below, operating a camera can present 

3 Simple Tips for Street Photography

3 Simple Tips for Street Photography

Chicago, Illinois

The gritty and storied streets of Chicago are only five hours away, by car and train, from our front door. Yet, it’s on the extreme other end of the spectrum as far as worlds go. Grit, characters, flashing lights, buildings—so many tall, beautiful buildings—honking and life.

Steam and smoke rise out of nowhere and everywhere. Then through it all people emerge wearing fashions that are 10 years away or more from our small town. It’s a lot to take in at first and it’s my favorite part about emerging from Union Station after we’ve exited our train and begin making our way to our downtown hotel.

It takes a second to process everything going on. It’s impossible to be a visitor and walk through downtown Chicago and without thinking about the history, the history that’s as thick and heavy as the steel you’re surrounded by.

A Photographer’s Playground

Chicago is a photographer’s dream come true. A person could spend a lifetime photographing the streets. The city was inspiring and influential for photo greats like Vivian Maier and Gordon Parks, to name only a couple. More importantly though, it’s been a city that has provided subject matter and creativity to countless artists who aren’t household names but are simply out there, on and in the streets, making amazing art.

That’s where you and me come in. A city like Chicago gets into your senses and that fuels creativity. Every block, street corner and foot of sidewalk can offer infinite possibilities for which to create. I enjoy watching a scene unfold before me, only have that scene change seconds later into something else.

Going to Get Coffee, Yet Still Photographing

One morning, I was leaving our hotel to get coffee. My camera was at my side and it was early. The light was beautifully subdued with some haze overhead. It was quiet on the streets and that’s about the only similarity to back home: early morning quiet streets.

Up ahead I saw a sign with the word ‘Park’ on it, in neon lights, in two spots. I made an image and moved on. Sometimes it’s nice to take the time to thoughtfully composes an image; sometimes though, it’s nice to follow your stream of consciousness, make an image, and move on.

Chicago, Illinois
Camera: Leica M6

This is going to maybe be different for you but there’s a sweet spot I’ve been discovering lately while making photos. It’s a spot that involves not thinking too much or too little about a picture, but right in between. It’s just something I’ve been paying attention to.

Back Home

When we returned home and I received my 35mm film from the lab, I was excited, as always, to see how the photos turned out.

Once the photo of the parking-garage sign and street scene turned up, I was so glad I made the image. The light and neon had a classic, yet timeless feel. This wasn’t for a story so I didn’t have any editors to impress, it was only for me, which felt freeing.

Photography Tips

I’m telling you this because there are some tips I have

One: I wouldn’t have been able to make this image without a camera on me. I could’ve walked out onto the streets and simply not wanted to be bothered with carrying a camera. If that was the case, there wouldn’t have been photos. It sounds simple but if you forget a camera even for a moment, you may miss out on an amazing photographic opportunity.

The joke that’s not a joke is that if you don’t have a camera, amazing things will happen. Don’t test this theory because it’s true, and you don’t want to miss out on photographic possibilities.

Two: Try to not overthink photography. It’s too easy to get in our own way of many things in life, photography included. Make the attempt to let go of internal dialogue because that an tend to obstruct or slow your process and decisions. I say this because I’ve done it and it’s an ongoing practice to not do it. Like anything, the more you practice at it, the better you’ll get.

Three: For an experiment, work on one image at a time. I used to get worked up thinking about all the photographic possibilities that lie ahead. This becomes overwhelming and can cloud the brain. If you take the opposite approach and only think about photography as one image at a time, you’ll find that at the end of your excursion, you’ll have a nice body of work.

But, this works better if you’re doing street photography or simply making images for the fun and fulfillment of making images. If you’re working on a photo story of any kind, you’ll find it’s the other way around. For stories it’s important to think about all your photos and how they work with one another.

Conclusion

These are some thoughts I had as I reviewed some of my photos in Chicago. You can apply these suggestions to wherever you are though, so I hope you’re able to utilize some of these ideas and maybe even use them to form some better ones along your photographic journey.

Placencia, Belize: A True Caribbean Escape

Placencia, Belize: A True Caribbean Escape

Adventure, Rest and Everything In Between We were sitting in a plane, about to take off from a small airport toward Placencia. A pilot and co-pilot checked switches, controls and gauges while we passengers were facing a stretch of runway that ended at the sea. 

Why Quiet Moments in Photography are Important

Why Quiet Moments in Photography are Important

Location: Bad Axe, Mich. It’s one of my favorite stories about how a town was named; don’t settle in for it though, the story is quick. Here it is: A piece of broken axe was discovered in a tree at an old camping site toward 

Winter in the Mushroom Capital

Winter in the Mushroom Capital

Mesick, Mich

The temperature was hovering around 15 degrees Fahrenheit in northern Michigan; that’s not a bad temperature because it wasn’t windy, you see. So the question becomes: Where should I travel to for pictures?

Mesick, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

Most photographers would make their way to Lake Michigan, possibly to explore any of the nearby coastal towns or to trek the always-photogenic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Being an atypical photographer, I pulled my Woolrich socks up high, brushed the snow from my ’05 steel steed and made my way to Mesick, Michigan.

Mesick—population: around 400, and, named after founder Howard Mesick—is the “Mushroom Capital of the U.S.” and is an outdoorsperson’s playground. Every year in spring, before it seems like mushrooms have even thought about growing, there’s someone at the corner gas station, selling mushrooms out of their trunk. Also, every year, is the Mesick Mushroom Festival in May. Get there.

Incorporated in 1902, Mesick rose to prominence because of its location near the Manistee River and Ann Arbor railroad.

Mesick, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

It’s a sleepy town about 25 miles south of Traverse City. Why travel to this small town? Because it’s a real town. One of my favorite characteristics of Mesick is that there isn’t any fluff or facade. It’s simple and effective. It’s also not a place that many photographers travel to, which makes me want to visit it even more.

Why You Should Explore Small Towns

One of…actually, THE most appealing reason to explore a small town is that it hasn’t been photographed by everyone else. There are certain locations around that have been photographed thousands of times…maybe more.

Why walk around a small town and find the beauty and art there? It’s seldom photographed. Once you step away from common places and photographic subjects, you’ll find that you’ll discover sights and environments that are unique and fresh.

After parking my steed near the local grocery store, I crunched my size 14 boots onto the freshly-formed winter ice and started stepping.

Mesick, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

To say there wasn’t a lot of glitz in Mesick is an understatement of the highest order. Like I said though, that’s not why I was there. It was a serene winter day and after being coated with snow, the village took on a different, very Michigan, personality.

Like with anywhere in Michigan, when the snow falls, the colors tend to pop. I walked with my Leica M6 film camera simply to take in what the town had around each corner. Sometimes what was offered by way of aesthetics would be cars in a yard or a church steeple.

There weren’t many people on my photographic sojourn, except for the occasional person walking into and out of the town’s party store. Since there weren’t many people, my eyes and shutter button reacted to structures and yard scenes that I’d come across.

Mesick, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

It becomes an almost-meditative practice of walking, looking, stopping and photographing; it’s not always in that order, but, when you repeat these steps often enough, they make for some fulfilling photo adventures.

After my film was developed, I was pleased with the images. I’m thankful that I wasn’t making images that are made by so many people. Capturing a small town like Mesick felt like a documentation of a genuine village and preserving what the town looked like at a time, which is special.

Mesick, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

I urge you to travel about in the small towns that you may be surrounded by or are living in. If for no other reason than to take in what a certain, small, slice of life looks like at a given time. Sometimes, it takes only a quiet, small and slow step—as if you’re searching for mushrooms—to broaden the horizons and be exposed to something new.