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Monthly Archives: April 2010

I recently came across a quotation from Galen Rowell that resonates strongly with my own photographic ethos:

I’m exchanging molecules every 30 days with the natural world and in a spiritual sense I know I am a part of it and take my photographs from that emotional feeling within me, rather than from an emotional distance as a spectator.

This is a statement akin to the notion of biophilia, an inherent sense of connection with the natural elements of the Earth, expounded by E. O. Wilson.  Such an awareness is what largely motivates my photography.  As I have previously written, nature photography serves to enhance my interaction with nature by redirecting my attention away from the self and out toward the environment.  Through the lens, I am reminded that there is no such thing as the mundane.

Yet, there are times when I find it difficult to achieve a balance between observing through the lens, and simply experiencing the natural world without a goal to make a good photograph.  This is especially challenging when I am under a clear night sky distant from by the glow of urban lights.  Shall I attempt to make a photograph, or shall I simply gaze heavenward?  Perhaps the ideal is to learn to follow both paths at once.

I made the photograph below with a Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro, an inexpensive lens by any standard.  Pixel peeping would undoubtedly reveal that the image quality would not be quite on par with the same photograph shot with Canon L-series or Nikon ED glass.  Yet, to most eyes under typical viewing situations, an online or physical print of this daffodil would demonstrate more than adequate image quality.

The point is expensive glass is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition of good photography.  Photographs that move us are the result of a synergism between knowing how to meet the light, what to do with your camera when you get there, and sometimes just plain chance.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of spring for me is the return of warmer nights that allow for more extended stargazing.  Even in my urban locale, where seeing is at best limited to magnitude 4 or so, it is still easy for me to experience a sense of wonder beneath the firmament.  However, there have been rare nights in Northern Minnesota and Northern California, far beyond the reach of metropolitan light pollution, when I have experienced the majesty of truly starry skies as witnessed by our ancestors for so many tens of thousands of years.  It is these special and unpredictable nights to which I look forward all year long.

Although I do not consider myself one of the Apple Faithful, I am a devotée of Apple technology and have been so since first being introduced to the Apple IIe.  I have even made pilgrimage to the Apple Company Store.  A few days ago, the Apple iPad was released for purchase.  I do not (yet) want one, but do think it presents itself as a potentially interesting medium as a digital portfolio.  Image being able to carry your entire photographic work in an 8×10 in display that weighs only 1.5 lbs, features beautiful resolution, and allows a prospective viewer or buyer to hold that piece of art in his or her hands.  The possibilities are intriguing.

Brooks Jensen, on the LensWork Technology Blog, just posted a brief set of comments on the importance of the lens as the ultimate arbiter of image quality.  The notion that the glass in front of the sensor is more important than any other part of the camera system (save for the sensor itself) is understood by almost every serious amateur or professional photographer who has read anything about photographic technology, or who has simply compared his or her images across lenses.  So, why do many photographers invest so much time, effort, and even money into camera bodies that feature incremental but always “remarkable” new features?  One has to wonder if the corporate tale is wagging the consumer dog.