Weddings!

•February 18, 2021 • Leave a Comment

Weddings! It is remarkable how many photographers enter into the field totally unprepared. I don’t mean technically unprepared. There are a lot of excellent photographers, those who know their stuff much better than I do. No, I am talking about being emotionally, socially, and physically prepared. You can be technically phenomenal, but unless you are ready for the distinct challenges of a wedding, more than just mental preparation for an onery mother of the bride, you will not last. I’ll talk briefly about emotional preparation.

Most of the time weddings are dull affairs for a photographer, with a lot of difficult people and hard physical work. You can memorize the groupings and couples shots quickly. You can know the light ratios and what turns a good shot into a romantic stunner.

The most difficult thing about the rudimentary tasks is making certain you don’t pair families or individuals who would rather drink acid than stand next to each other. I have made the costly mistake of pairing up people who I thought were together when they actually came to the celebration with someone else and then got together. Oops. Awkward.

I have funny/crazy stories. There is the repeat customer story: The bride, church, minister, everything including me the photographer were the same, just a different groom. I was flattered and perplexed.

There is the enraged ex-girlfriend story: She sneaked over to the reception area and attacked the wedding cake, which we had to rebuild and cover with flowers to hide the damage. The bakery had delivered the cake. They were gone. So one of the bridesmaids, another guest and I quickly learned the art of cake decorating.

There was the wedding at Emory chapel. I was not allowed inside because of all the bad experiences the director had with wedding photographers. I was forced to shoot through the windows from outside, in the pouring rain with my assistant holding an umbrella over me. All the outdoor photographs we had planned got washed out. The bride and groom reordered flowers, got dressed, and we staged all those photographs a couple weeks after they returned from their honeymoon, this time without the dictatorial director.

There’s the story of the bride who was missing a hand. This is neither funny nor crazy, but it was unusual. She did not have the common prosthetic hand, but instead had a metal hook – it was not as big a challenge as one might think. She had remarkable dexterity. It was remarkable to me, because I was ignorant of such things.

There were downright creepy weddings. The cult wedding: The groom had planted a field of plastic flowers in unnatural colors, around his house, because the wedding was held there in the dead of winter. The ceremony was creepy too. It was very “dark” spiritually if you get what I mean; very little joy or laughter.

I photographed teenagers getting married, retirees getting married, people on their second and third time around getting married. (Actually the ones on their second or third try, the dreamers, seemed to have the most fun.)

I photographed one couple in an 1800’s church in Cade’s Cove. The bride wore a green velvet dress. Velvet is the “black hole” of photography, sucking up every bit of light, reflecting none. I photographed weddings for 3 out of 4 brothers. I photographed different religions’ ceremonies, from Pentecostal to Jewish.

How do you prepare yourself emotionally to be a wedding photographer? Is it even preparation or is it more natural inclination? We’re all wired differently. Some folks are just naturally gregarious while others are much more reserved.

I believe this is the single most important trait of a successful wedding photographer; the love of people. If you are in the wedding business you must enjoy them. Otherwise your photographs will be like mannequins, well dressed but lifeless. I always enjoyed the weddings. I enjoyed the couples and I would try to find out their history: Where did they meet? How did they arrive at this point? It helps to know who they are.

There were sad stories too. For example, there was the mother of the bride who had multiple sclerosis. The mom was determined to make her daughter’s wedding dress, MS not withstanding, but she just could not finish it. The women at her church literally pinned the dress together at the very last minute, at the church. I watched it happen. The bride was stunning. Miracles occur once in awhile.

I vividly remember the wedding in the photograph below. I’ll call the couple Anne and John. I won’t go into details. The marriage did not fail, but it ended sadly less than two years later. How do I know this? Because I try to stay in touch with my customers through the years.

Obviously, some want nothing more complex than the single wedding transaction. That’s great. However, I still have some of them contact me, both for photographs and to “touch base”. I am not saying that you have to keep close in order to build your business, but I believe there has to be a relationship of some kind built very quickly, and sustained at least for a couple of years after the wedding, if nothing else than to encourage sales of the photographs. Repeat business is to take photographs of their children. Sometimes repeat business is to take photographs of their next wedding. The people you photograph have to trust you and like you. I enjoyed my customers first, and the money came in.

Steve K. and his wife Laverne owned the photo processing lab where I had my film developed and printed. Steve was an excellent photographer himself. When I was just starting out photographing weddings, I asked him what I should charge. The prices in Atlanta were all over the place. He told me, “Charge whatever you want. The people you like to work with will find you.” Strange as it may sound, that was always true.

One of the saddest stories I had was of the bride whose father died the very day of the wedding. He had been sick for some time and sadly he could not hold on. His family decided to go ahead with the wedding! Now, let’s say you are the photographer. Uh, let’s just say I am the photographer. I walked in the door of the venue. The uncle of the bride took me aside and told me what happened. How did I handle it? The word “unprecedented” has been used to describe 2020, but never before, and never since that wedding did I ever encounter anything that would have prepared me for that, nor for anything in the future… except my core as a person. Put technical skill on automatic and try to focus all your energy on the couple, with empathy, on this the best day of their lives, and probably one of the worst days as well.

Empathy is a characteristic that separates us from animals. It is the reason we can appreciate suffering and joy without ever having gone through the identical experience as another person. Animals may express sympathy and grief. There is evidence of it. However, as far as we know, they cannot imagine what another animal is going through in the present or will go through in the future, in order to offer it comfort. Empathy is to express genuine understanding when you don’t really understand a thing. However what the wedding photographer should understand is joy, and sadness, and laughter, and our common humanity.

Sometimes I miss it. Sometimes I’m glad I am not doing it today.

Selah

It’s a Matter of Interpretation

•February 16, 2021 • Leave a Comment

Art is a strange land, filled with odd characters and personalities, gregarious party animals, solitary monks, the generous and stingy, and sometimes down right creepy. I have often said, it does not bother me fools on the road, but me amongst ’em. I have been called weird more than once, but I long ago accepted the label, and I rejoice in it. If God wired me weirdly, well, go talk to him about it while I enjoy it.

As a matter of legacy, two photographers come to mind, one famously generous and gracious, the other notoriously arrogant and worldly; that is, Ansel Adams, of the former, more gentle reputation, and Brett Weston of the latter. I am speaking of what they decided to do with their large collection of photographs and negatives when it came time to “shuffle off this mortal coil,” so to speak.

Brett Weston was the son of the equally talented, if not more famous Edward Weston, of the classic West Coast Photography school of ultra-sharp, large format photographs. Brett had very strong feelings regarding his negatives, and threatened to destroy them. Well, it happened. On his 80th birthday, in front of friends and family he burned his original film negatives, and the news was greeted with much sadness by many other artists and patrons who had supported him. He said that his prints were his legacy, not his negatives.

On the other hand, Ansel Adams decided to donate his negatives to the University of Arizona. He said that the negatives were like the original score of a piece of music and that they should be open to interpretation by subsequent generations of photographers. And yes, you can go to the University of Arizona and check out digital scans of an Adams negative in order to print it yourself, if you have the right credentials. Even in the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park, you can purchase Adams prints, but printed by another photographer. I have one of Vernal Fall hanging on my wall today, that was printed by photographer Alan Ross. His “performance” as Adams called it, is different, a higher contrast and darker image than Adams original print. Adams himself printed his negatives differently over the years. Thus his earlier prints will sometimes command higher prices than his later prints of the same negative. I could not afford an Adams original, so I bought the special edition print because I had climbed to the top of Vernal Fall in the spring, when it looked much like it does in the print, except I climbed it in color.

And I enter the picture. I don’t care about the fame, just the fun. Musicians do it. Artists do it. Ansel Adams did it. So I can do it. That is, I can reinterpret an image in an almost infinite number of ways and in very rapid succession using Adobe Lightroom (Lr). I’m going to give you three examples of Sweetwater Creek, from a single digital image, taken from a view I just really enjoy. I use Adobe Lightroom and Creative Cloud to manage my serious images; by serious, I mean the ones I try to sell as art and those I upload to stock agencies. Adobe Lightroom allows me to duplicate images and try out different tools. So here ya go. Which do you prefer? For me, it’s just how I interpret it.

Selah

It Was a Cold and Dreary Day

•February 16, 2021 • Leave a Comment

Leading up to Amicalola Falls. It was a cold and dreary day. Light rain fell. Sounds like the start to some cheap mystery thriller, but it was. My kind of day. The old tree stump next to the younger birch is kind of symbolic. I was not thinking of that when I made the photo.

I had already smashed my Nikon on the rocks near the creek, so I made the photograph below with my little Lumix ZS100, point and shoot (beefed up with a some weather protection), mounted on a tripod. You don’t need thousands of dollars in equipment, especially shooting nature, and especially if you are sensitive to watching your Nikon D7500 summersault over a log onto rocks. Big, fat, ouch! Yes, I was upset, but you can’t let a busted camera stop you. It’s in for repair at Camera Service Company of Smyrna, Georgia. They have been in business 68 years, and I’ve been a customer of theirs for 40 of those. I’ve smashed a few cameras. Nikons can take a fall and a bullet, as in this photo (click the link). I think there must have been considerable light leak after that incident. Thankfully Don McCullin lived to tell about it. All I do is hike in the woods, and toss cameras as I fall after tripping over stuff. Leicas can take it too. Oh sigh.

Expensive equipment and larger format will help with some images and enlargements, but mostly you just need to have any kind of camera you’re familiar with using, and be there. After that, knowing how to use photo editing tools really helps.

Selah

I Went for a Walk – The Way

•February 15, 2021 • Leave a Comment

What’s the difference between art and stock photography? Shutterstock, one of the top 4 stock photography sources, accepted the image below that I made of the old Dahlonega, Georgia Courthouse and now Gold Museum. Gold was discovered in Lumpkin County in the 1820’s and the area became the site of the first major gold rush in the United States. Traces of gold can be found in the bricks of the Courthouse. Gold in the area is the most pure in the world, almost 99% pure, naturally found without alloy.

The COVID “mask up” sign makes the photograph newsworthy. It’s not a photo I would hang on my wall to decorate it. It was accepted by Shutterstock today.

Sometimes the boundary between decorative and commercial arts isn’t as distinct. In my current career, in my daily travels, the camera accompanies me everywhere. I photograph whatever is there, in pleasant weather, or when it’s cold and rainy. I might go with an image in mind but most of the time I just let it happen.

In the same manner, The Way informs everything I do and how I live.

Selah

I Went For A Walk and It Is For Sale

•February 2, 2021 • Leave a Comment

When the pandemic hit and after the first shutdown in March last year, I had to get out of the house. The community center where I worked out was closed. I had some exercise equipment but not much. I really, really enjoy hiking. The definition of hiking is “Walking where it’s okay to pee.”

Sadly, in many cities across the nation, those social and hygienic constraints have been suspended. I suppose that even in the woods, circumspection and a sharp lookout are necessary. There are other physical limitations to how far I can hike. But I am going to go for as long as I have breath and legs, for as far as I can and as high as I can.

During those walks, I always carry a camera. Sometimes the purpose of my walk is to see what I can “see”. I developed a photographer’s sensibilities at about the same age I started formal music lessons, about age ten or eleven. Both are gifts from God. He is a poet and a musician at heart. If I respond to either one and try to share it with others, and just mirror it back to Him, like the moon reflects the sun’s light, they provide me some kind of meditational benefit, I suppose, and maybe some enjoyment for you.

Within the past few months, I discovered something visually. I said that being older imposed limitations on my hikes. I no longer like to trek with pounds on pounds of photo equipment. For one, it is risky given the terrain I like to hike. There are a lot of roots and rocks to trip over. I will on occasion, but most of the time now, I carry a tiny 1-inch sensor camera with a zoom lens. They are remarkably good, but they are limited in what they can capture and express.

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” So within the limitations, or maybe boundaries is a better word, I have found that if I present broad areas of tone, either color or black and white, and not try to get tiny details, that the tiny camera is really expressive. It is just a cool tool, so to speak.

I’ve spent the past year working, and now I have collections of photographs I need to do something with. I can look at them and enjoy them, but maybe other people would like them too. So I am offering three books, each a collection of about 20-25 photographs. The first is in color and the subjects are Cheatham Hill, Cochran Shoals, and Sweetwater Creek parks in metro Atlanta. The second is another color book of my city walks. The third will be black and white, and a little more eclectic. (BTW, I’ll be hanging about 20 of these photographs at Rev Coffee in Smyrna, Georgia, the entire month of July 2021.)

The books are hard cover, 11×8.5 inches, ebony linen, with photographs printed on archival paper. The paper surrounding each image is dark gray. It lays flat. Most of the prints are on a single page. I have a single, two-page spread in the book, also. I printed such a book, about a year ago. It is very nice. Because I am printing them to order, each book takes about a month to produce and ship. That also helps to explain the price; the books are all custom published, and they are priced at $120.00 each. I can send you photos of what the book will look like.

You can also get individual prints on Pixieset in a few days. Prices will be on the website.

Finally, I will personally print and sign a limited number of individual prints up to about 11×17 paper size, not image size. I limit the prints to no more than 20 per image. They are priced at $100.00 each, mounted on archival board. Matting and framing is additional. They are limited edition because I really get tired of printing them, more that it is me trying to get some kind of self-aggrandizing ego trip or establish an artificial scarcity. I try to keep it real; they are digital images and we all know what that means in practice. However, I refuse to destroy my hard drive once I reach 20 prints of an image.

Below are the images for Book 1, Sweetwater Suite. These images are in Book 1, only. I’ll publish the images from Books 2 and 3 later. Obviously there will be differences among what you see here online, what you see in the books, and what you will see in individual prints.

You can contact me directly at pacesmountainassoc@gmail.com, or leave a comment (nice ones preferred) and I’ll respond in a few days.

You may have seen these images before. These are the photographs in Sweetwater Suite. I have to add here, all content is copyright protected, (c)2020, 2021 by William D. Hunton, all rights reserved. I retain all rights to these images. I own all copyrights, and you do not.

Selah

Always Wear Protection

•January 30, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This is a brief pause from displaying my own photographs, to give you a couple recommendations how to protect your camera, especially your vlogging/point-and-shoot camera.

A very popular format for point-and-shoot cameras today is the 1-inch sensor type. There are a lot of brands. Almost all of them are great, and it is just a matter of features and price that separate them. However, there is one negative feature common to almost all of them; that is, the lack of moisture and dust sealing. The problem with that, of course, is the types of photographs the small cameras are made to take are found in the conditions that put them in the most danger from the elements. Most people will take these cameras outside, to the beach, on the trail, on picnics, to capture family moments and nature without the bulk and weight of larger format DSLR’s.

Despite the need, the camera manufacturers have avoided shock, dust, and weather protection except for higher end DSLRs like the Nikon D7500 and these lovelies at this link. At more affordable prices for the hobbyist and family photographer you have specialized cameras like the Fujifilm XP90 and soon to be discontinued, Olympus Tough TG-6. In this price range it is also a question of bulk. You could get a Pentax K-30 kit, with 18-55mm zoom, for not too much more, and get weather and dust protection. The Pentax K mount is arguably more versatile than the Nikon F mount. So many choices, so little money.

Two popular models of the 1-inch sensor cameras, both with very high ratings, are the Canon G7x Mark III, and the Lumix ZS100. However, both are notoriously dust prone.

I’ll offer you my solutions to the dust and weather sealing problems. I think they can really help and they do not cost much to add. However, please consider the cost. All together you’ll add just under $100 to the camera to protect it. You may be able to find a deal on a refurbished, higher end camera, which already has weather sealing.

Camera Case

First and most importantly, add a case, or at least a half case – that is the bottom cradle, to your camera.

You can find camera cases everywhere; at Amazon, Adorama, B&H Photo, and other camera and electronics stores online and in the shops, and at many different prices. The same brand and model costs the same no matter who you buy from, so pick your favorite store. I’ll spread these links out among the stores best I can.

Here are a couple cases by MegaGear. I’ve used them. They are not too expensive and provide considerable protection. Even with the cases attached, both the Canon and Lumix will fit in your jacket pocket. They do mine, anyway.

MegaGear Ever Ready Genuine Leather Camera Case Compatible with Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100, DC-ZS200

MegaGear Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark Ii Pu Leather Camera Case, Light Brown (MG953)

Tempered Glass Protective LCD Cover

The next bit of protection is a tempered glass protective screen for the LCD monitor. These are great! They protect the LCD screen from your greasy nose (if you have a viewfinder) and fingers, which after a while, build up a haze on the rather soft, unprotected screen. The tempered glass is a harder surface and easier to clean with a micro-fiber cloth than the bare LCD screen. They do not interfere at all with the touch screen functioning. I also recommend them for your smart phone. If you are careful, you have a clean screen surface, and you have a steady hand, they install easily. There are YouTube videos which help.

UV or Clear Filter

I believe these are essential in order to keep the dust out of the lens. If you read the reviews and forums before you purchase a camera, you will do yourself a big favor. You will be aware of issues and steer clear of problems. Better yet, read my blogs. I found out about the dust problems among these cameras on the dpreview.com forums.

I love the little Canon G7x Mark II for its image quality. I love the little Lumix DMC ZS100 too. Having said that, both have reputations for collecting dust that you cannot clean out and that may cost you time cleaning up in Photoshop or Lightroom. I thought digital was supposed to take care of the pesky spotting of film.

How do you keep dust from getting into the lens, between elements? You use a protective, high quality glass filter, either UV (ultraviolet) or clear. I recommend Hoya and B+W. They are pricey but they are good and do not affect picture quality at all.

How do you connect a filter to the camera lens when neither of these two gems has a filter thread? You use and adapter.

On the Lumix, I liked the small 40.5mm adapter by LingoFoto (odd name). It looks like it is part of the camera, and it fits inside the MegaGear case with a UV filter attached. That is important to have the camera ready to go when I take the top cover off. Rule of thumb: “An ever-ready (case) is never ready.”

How do you attach the adapter to the lens? By an adhesive. The LingoFoto warns you very clearly on the Amazon web page, “It attaches to the camera using a 3M dual-sided adhesive film which holds tenaciously.”

Carefully consider this before you commit to sticking something to the front of your lens. Some of the adapters have a so called, “easy” deinstallation tool. I chose an adapter that “holds tenaciously.” I don’t want it coming loose. Before you install it, make sure the lens barrel and flat surface is very clean. The adhesive will stick much better if you do. I used red so I can say I warned you.

Having warned you in red, I will say, I have had no problems. It was easy to install for me and I have steady hands. I can add any filter I like. It is important to put the best filter you can afford on the front of small sensor cameras because aberrations will be more intense than they will on larger sensors.

(I chose the Lensmate Quick-Change Filter Adapter Kit for the Canon G7x Mark II because it was designed for the camera. )

Here ya go.

How does all this work together? I store the camera in the case with the adapter ring. The Lumix ZS100 will fit in the MegaGear case with the adapter and a UV filter attached. The Canon G7x Mark II will also go in the case with the adapter and filter on it. When I am shooting, I remove the outer cover, leave the camera in the cradle, make sure the filter is on the front of the adapter, and I carry the camera around ready to shoot.

So that’s it. I say, “Always wear protection,” especially on your camera.

Selah

Miscellaneous Mooshie Mush

•January 24, 2021 • Leave a Comment

I’m stuck on mooshie. I just like the sound of it.

I worked in I.T. for ages for a large airline, before I went to a huge retail chain, to work in I.T., before I went to a consulting firm, to work in I.T., before returning to the same airline, to work in I.T. It wasn’t a circle as much as it was a spiral. You can figure out which companies, given hints. On my first interlude at the very large airline, on Fridays, if things were relatively quiet, which they hardly ever were, I’d go up a couple floors in our building to visit a good friend of mine, John.

This was years ago, again on a Friday, after 3 PM. Three PM is the kick back time, unless there was some emergency going on. I approached his desk. He’d kicked back in his chair. His feet were up on the desk. As I came around to face him, I noticed he was eating a banana.

I looked at him. He did not say a word, he did not acknowledge my presence, he just chomped away with a satisfied look on his face. After a very long, drawn out moment, without so much as a grin, with the straightest of straight faces he said to me, “I hate how they taste, I just like how they feel.”

Well, hilarity is a great way to end the week. Way too little of that goes on now.

I still like the word “mooshie”. Well I just like how mooshie feels.

Random and odd photos.

Selah

Mooshie Mushy

•January 19, 2021 • Leave a Comment

Mmm. Mooshie is a strange, funny word. I used it incorrectly for a long time, substituting the word mooshie for mushy, kind of as a play on words. In order to play you need to know the definition and usage of the words you are playing with. Today’s news anchors will misapply words accidentally. Bloggers misuse words all the time (a warning to myself).

The word “mooshie” has a meaning; “The absolute best of anything”. I could find no synonyms or antonyms for “mooshie”. It’s kind of like the word “orange”. However, there are additional, really cool meanings. In Chaldean numerology, mooshie equals 5. In Pythagorean numerology, mooshie equals 3. No surprise there. Many is the high school geometry student who curses his name, if they manage to say his name, that is, Pythagoras, and draw a right triangle at the same time.

Today, Pythagoras’ claim to fame is as a mathematician and scientist, but in his heyday (“Hey. Pythagoras!”), he was more noted as a religious philosopher and inventor of the Keto diet. I kid you not… much. The guy was buff, like a TV evangelist, and his religious philosophy was perhaps not so different compared to a few of them. He believed the cosmos was structured along strict moral and mathematical principles, and that it was essentially musical at its core. It is not so different from biblical passages, especially in the Psalms. It is comforting to know that God is a musician and artist, among many things, and that He has sympathy on us mortals burdened by the creative urges, whether we are actually good at art and music or not.

So applying the principles of Pythagoras, Vortex Based Math, and Fengshui, I’ll triangulate and spiral back to the photographs presented here. I’m enjoying photography like I haven’t in some time. Instead of pounds of equipment, I’m mostly carrying just a simple but high quality point and shoot camera, and a couple of filters. On a serious day I have a light tripod. Recently I had to buy a new phone, a Samsung S20, and I was surprised by the quality of the photographs from it. All to say, there is freedom in not carrying around a ton of equipment.

With freedom comes spontaneity. I can react. I can walk about unnoticed. Most people ignore old folks anyway. I can whip out a camera in a flash (there’s a pun, y’all), and grab a shot. (If you click the link and recognize Cleavon Little and the movie he starred in, you may get the reference.) Sure, the photos are not razor sharp with smooth tonal gradations, but if I want those qualities I know how to make them. I have found my mooshie.

Enough kidding around.

Tools and such: Lumix ZS100, Samsung S20, Photoshop Elements, Adobe Lightroom.

Selah

Sweetwater Suite

•January 15, 2021 • Leave a Comment

How to start. Stream of consciousness. Leads to a stream I have hiked many times.

Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, Georgia, is near my home. There are several state parks in metropolitan Atlanta, and this one is relatively easy to get to. It is interesting from both a nature and historical sense.

The centerpiece of the park are the ruins of New Manchester, and the textile mill destroyed by Sherman’s troops during the Civil War. There were several such mills around Atlanta, destroyed by Federal troops in their attack and siege of the city; Sope Creek Marietta Paper Mills, Ruff’s Mill in Smyrna, among others. I believe the New Manchester Mill was the largest, but I cannot find my source for that, so just take my word for now. It was three stories tall. There was a long and wide water course to power the wheel. It was set on fire July 9, 1864 upon General William T. Sherman’s orders. The other mills were burned about the same time in July. There are trenches and remains of earthworks still visible in my neighborhood near Smyrna, where I grew up.

New Manchester’s citizens, famously, were captured and sent north to concentration (Oh excuse me – “refugee”) camps in Kentucky and Indiana. They were all women and children. The mill workers were charged with treason. They were collected with other Georgia mill workers, about 600, first deposited in Marietta, before being sent north. Many starved to death in the camps and others starved to death when they tried to return home. In fact, very few of the women and children ever returned home to Georgia. The survivors of the camps settled in the north. On the flip side, the Cherokee were also violently removed from their homes on this same land, and sent packing to Oklahoma in the equally infamous Trail of Tears. Bet you didn’t know about those little atrocities, did you? People are so kind.

Today, several peaceful, blazed trails meander about the park, all doing their not so level best to contradict its violent past. A couple of the trails are challenging, with steep inclines and tree roots that will grab you and send you over a cliff if you are not careful. I’ve taken a few falls myself.

I have seen small herds of deer and flocks of wild turkey, giant blue heron, and all kinds of reptiles. Beaver and otter play here, but I have not met them personally. The deer are the most social, gracious and graceful of the beasts, and I suppose they understand they are safe in the park from hunters. It seems they observe me with casual humor, before the thought crosses their minds that maybe I cannot be trusted, and they amble off into deeper woods.

There’s a large lake you can fish if you have a permit, and canoes you can rent. You can hear gunfire occasionally because the East Point, Georgia Police have their shooting range on a private section of the park. I imagine to control the deer, there is some kind of hunting authorized at certain times, but I have never checked into it.

My dad and his brothers played in the creek before it was a state park. I’ve been hiking the trails around the park for decades myself, and brought my own kids here to play. Oh! Here ya go: I am not kidding. This is the truth. My son would stand on the bank next to the lake, and tell jokes to the flocks of coots in the lake. They would respond to each joke with coot quacks in unison, sincerely offering their approval without so much as a cue card from off camera. I still do not, to this day, understand how he could get a flock of water fowl to respond to his kid jokes, but it was hilarious; old coots laughing at my son’s jokes. I wish I had videoed it. No one believes me when I tell them.

Back to photography. Like I said, I’ve been hiking here and photographing here for decades. All that time I was trying to interpret or translate what I saw with black and white photographs. I had a 4×5 view camera. I had all kinds of medium format cameras. I had my Nikon cameras. I tried and tried. I spent hours in the dark room. I was trying to Ansel Adam-ize my Georgia landscape. I remembered something he said about Georgia when he took a cruise down the Intercoastal Waterway back in the mid 1900’s. Not quoting here, but you’ll get it, that the landscape here is hard to express photographically.

Well, dang! You think that I being a disciple of his, would have picked up on that little gem. A true teacher always feeds you more from his crumbs than you get helping yourself to the dinner plate, that is, if you are paying attention. But like most people, I was focused on the buffet of technical details and not upon the soul of the meal. I was successful at black and white, having practiced the craft for years. So, if all you have is a hammer, as the saying goes, everything looks like a nail. It was the wrong tool. My black and white images from this land were almost always unsatisfying. They looked like oatmeal. For example:

Sweetwater Creek Shoals (c)2021 William D. Hunton

Now this photograph of Sweetwater Creek is not a bad photograph at all. In my opinion and at least one other person, it is very good. It has sold. I took the photo with a Mamiya twin lens reflex and a standard lens on 120 roll film of some brand and speed. Someone put it in their bathroom, I’m sure. That is where all my art ends up. It is full of detail, nice cottony water, rocks and trees, but to me it is not a great photo. It is representational but not illuminating. Here’s your landscape, but where’s the story, and the feeling? Maybe it pulls some emotions from you, and maybe not.

Okay. I am aging. My knees are no longer limber. I don’t amble over rocks, roots, and ravines like I used to. I cannot carry 40 pounds of equipment and myself with anything near the ease I used to. I started carrying small cameras into the wild years ago. Nikon is wonderful. I have lenses. But lately I started experimenting with truly tiny format cameras; APS-C and even the miniscule 1-inch sensor cameras. You absolutely cannot mimic an Adams large format landscape using a 1-inch Lumix camera. But you can do other things.

I’ve been learning Lightroom by using the tools. I discovered the brush tool, sliders for the various controls. You learn by doing, by taking the tools to their illogical, unintended consequences and I discovered some things. My personal epiphany occurred when I went to the extreme, far away from my Ansel Adams, F64, Galen Rowell training and biases. I recall the physical discomfort I felt. “This cannot be right”, I said to myself. I won’t give you the details, just the philosophy: At some point in your life you have to grow out of yourself. I don’t care what area of life that is, but it is a fact.

Back to photography. I think I may be onto something. At least I like it. Maybe. It fits Georgia anyway.

Selah

I Went for a Walk in 2020

•January 1, 2021 • Leave a Comment

Many people get all sentimental with the passing of the year. This year, 2020, has been more like daily indigestion. Some may be sad to see 2020 go, and certainly there is a lot of sadness to go around this year, but my casual observation is that most people are just happy to see this year be gone. However, one of my friends darkly queried, “What if 2020 is just boot camp?” I do not want to go there.

Looking back before I look forward, and before I consign 2020 to an auxiliary storage device, I have gone through all my folders of images and some things stood out.

Photography to many is a form of expression, something like, “I would like to share with you my personal observations.” Now sharing personal observations may be profitable, except that most of us, if we are honest, are more interested in people liking us and agreeing with us than we ever are about learning about their ideas or about their observations. It takes a great deal of effort to come out of our personal orbits to listen to someone else. I’ve determined it is worth the time.

In this case, I am looking back, and I am wondering if I learned anything worthwhile in the pursuit of this art I’ve assumed. Couple things in 2020. First, I didn’t so much learn this as become more comfortable in it, that after those early years of picking up a camera and trying to photograph like an Adams, or a Bresson, or someone else, that I’ve got my own view of this whacky world and I better show it off, or it’ll be gone. It boils down to this minor epiphany I had: Photography no longer just a representation of the world, or even much of a reflection of it, but what’s my oddball view of it.

Photography is representational, and you definitely want it to be close to real if you are ordering off Amazon. But I’ve learned that photography is much about memories. No one looks at photographs and says, “Oh that’s real.” People will stare at a photograph sometimes for a long time perhaps remembering someone or something. Some things I want to remember with great clarity, while others are more like a dream. Paul Simon’s song/poem Bookends comes to mind. He also wrote Kodachrome, so he understands the power of the photograph to emote. The lyrics to Bookends go:

Time it was

And what a time it was

It was a time of innocence

A time of confidences

Long ago, it must be

I have a photograph

Preserve your memories

They’re all that’s left you

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel,
Bookends, from the album Bookends, 1968,
Columbia Records, Sony Music Entertainment

(By the way, Jamie Windsor has some pretty good Lightroom Kodachrome presets.)

Several of my latest photographs have a decidedly soft look. “Fuzzy wuzzy” I call them. How do you represent a memory? How would a photographer dare try, like in the movie Inception, to plant a memory in the viewer’s mind and have them think, “Yeah, I’ve been there. That’s mine,”? I’m not quite sure myself, but in Lightroom I started playing around with extreme controls; that is, just simply moving the sliders of a control (a control being contrast or clarity, etc.) all the way left or right.

With film, I’m going for grain. Know who does not like film grain at all? Shutterstock! Some things work. Others don’t. Some things sell, others don’t. I don’t much care. I submitted a fair amount of photographs to stock, in 2020. Know what? They hardly mean a thing to me. It’s the photos of friends and family that mean the most. Always have. That’s not a 2020 discovery. Maybe with the virus and lockdowns, just trying to hold onto a real moment has become harder, so my efforts intensified.

Sometimes it was a specific subject that held my attention the entire year. Besides my granddaughter, there are two subjects that I returned to repeatedly in 2020. One is a pear tree in a pasture along the Cheatham Hill trail where I often walk. There used to be house there. The foundation of some building is still there. There are other fruit trees as well, but it’s only deer and raccoons now that enjoy the fruit. I ate one. Not bad. (The pear, not a raccoon!) We had a couple pear trees like it at the house where I grew up as a little kid. Mom would make preserves from the fruit. But I don’t think that is what I am trying to get at.

The other is a stream and a collection of rocks and a tiny gurgling cascade off the same Cheatham Hill trail. During the week it is very quiet. No hikers. The deer show up. I’ll need to be careful soon, because the doe will go into heat and the bucks can be aggressive, even with old human codgers like me. I can pull out the tripod legs and maybe look like a big deer if I hold them over my head.

Why do I keep coming back to those two subjects? Heck if I know.

Other photographs in this odd collection cover the gamut; the pandemic lockdown of things like a playground. Give me a break! Kids need to be outside. We have never in the history of the world treated any virus like we have this one. Politics with a putrid, public safety icing.

I have hundreds of photos I took while going for walks to deal with the lockdowns, plus photos of family, friends, photos experimenting with film and developers again. In my published folder, for 2020, there are 2,055 photographs. The ones here may not even be my best, or your opinion of my best if I allowed you to review them all.

Enough. I’ll just present the photographs of 2020 in summary. These are the ones I selected from the 2,055, that meant something to me at the time.

That’s a wrap, as somebody says.

Have a blessed 2021. We are all hoping for better days ahead.

Selah