I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this. My usual response (especially for the ladies because I’ve heard it from them the most) is trust me, it won’t hurt a bit. The intimidation and fear across their faces usually gives away the fact that they don’t believe me, but I do what I can to ease them into it. 🙂
Alright, before you puke and click outta here in utter disgust, or laugh yourself into hysterics at the ridiculousness of the possibility, I’ll clarify. I’m talking about my favorite one-eyed explorer, the one where only brave men….okay, okay, it’s too easy. I’m talking about my damn camera. Yeah, it’s big and heavy, and the lenses are big, long, and heavy as well. And it’s intimidating, too. We dudes are always substituting for something, right? Anyway, the point of my prepubescent potty humor here is to get into something almost all photographers have to deal with at some point or another.
There’s nothing more flattering than when somebody compliments me on a photograph. It usually means it’s impacted them, or evoked some kind of emotion that they kindly express to me, and makes me feel pretty darn nice. I’ve said it before, I like to be liked! Like any artist, and some may be too cool to admit, but I’m an unabashed glutton for compliments when it comes to things I create; whether it’s a good photo, song, story or anything else that even I’m usually surprised comes outta my dense noggin and affects someone in some way.
That’s it, you ask? Yes, that’s it! Think about it. It’s like saying to a chef, “Mmmmm, that was delicious…..your stove cooks really good food.” Or to a master woodworker, “Your chisels make a really comfortable chair.” Or to a fashion designer, “Your sewing machine makes a really beautiful dress.” Or to an athlete, “You did so amazing….it must have been the shoes.” Alright, don’t mind the last one because Nike made a whole advertising campaign outta that. But you get the idea, I hope. You never hear those words from people about those things. So why do photographers hear it so often?
Maybe it’s because everyone has a camera these days. And most people have a pretty decent one at that. It’s a relatively new social phenomenon, but the fact is the creative mojo hasn’t caught up with the ubiquity of the tool. Moreover, anyone good at anything usually has tools that help them realize a preconceived vision of output, however that may look in the end….an excellent photo, meal, chair, dress, race, etc. But it’s almost always the case that everything starts with the person first and foremost. It’s their sheer determination to excel at something they usually love to do that drives the end result.
I know this is a long way to go to talk about something that’s completely unintentional in the first place. People who say that don’t realize how back-handed the remark is. But I just thought I’d make it a little more clear for whoever happens to be so moved by my photography to end up reading this now. I really appreciate you doing so and it makes me so happy you made it this far. Remember, I just want to be loved like everyone else! But in the future, if you’ve ever thought that, don’t say it! Just say plain and simple without the implied qualifier, “I like your style.” “That photo is great.” “I love that song.” “It moves me.” I’ll blush and probably say something stupid because I get so easily flustered, but really, nothing makes me feel better than knowing I have the potential to affect somebody like that.
So what does all of this have to do with hummingbirds? Thought I was gonna let that slide right by, huh? Well, these photos are just to prove that, yes, I do in fact have an awesome camera. These are photos your iPhone isn’t going to capture. (However, some professionals are exploring iPhone photography as a legitimately serious art form. See, you can do it, too! Go here for an example.) I’m shooting at really high shutter speeds with a long telephoto lens, and I’m using off camera flash, too. Sounds complicated, but it’s really not. And when you pull it off, it’s amazing what you can see. Personally, I like the ones in the trees the most. I mean, how often do you notice a hummingbird just sitting in a dense tree? But the feeder made it that much easier to freeze them mid-flight. There’s no way I’m going to get a sharp image of them in the air without it. Because you know when there’s a feeder around, they usually ignore the real thing and spend their time fighting over this little invention of ours. (A little side story….I once stood out on a back deck of a house in the San Bernardino mountains inching closer and closer to a nearby feeder to the point where eventually I was holding my hand up with my finger out and hummingbirds were landing on it and feeding. Pretty awesome!)
So yes, in some cases the tools do make the difference. Nevertheless, it all starts with a person having a vision, and subsequently executing that vision with whatever tools are at their disposal. In other words, yeah, you’ve heard it….wait for it…wait for it……here it comes…..it’s not the size of your tool, but how you use it that matters! Oh god, that never gets old. And thank goodness for this seemingly innate drive for humans to create and share. It seems it’s made all the difference in the world- from high art to the most inane of inventions.
“I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly. Because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.” -Robert Rauschenberg