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Bob Wall, Photographer, Picture Taker or Image Capture Engineer? You Decide. - Part 1 of 3

Blog: #3 of 3 by Bob Wall

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July 19th, 2013 - 10:32 PM

While I do consider photography an art, I don't think of myself as an artist. I tend to be too analytical for that. I rarely shoot for feeling, but more often for something others might not see. Or just to capture a moment in time.

I like to shoot the objects you see everyday, but maybe from a slightly different angle. Or focus a little closer on something you might ordinarily overlook. Instead of the big picture, I might focus on the little things in that picture. Anybody can shoot a building; I want to shoot what is unique, or at least weird, about that building.

I have only been into digital photography for a few years now after many, many years (35+) shooting up lots of film. I am still scanning some of my old prints and thinking about buying a USB scanner that scans and converts slides and negatives to digital.

Using photography, I want to make you think. I want people to pay attention to what's around them. Break out of their box. Look at the knotholes in a tree; look at a rain-soaked parking lot; look at the shapes and colors in something as simple as an awning. Stand by the railroad tracks when a freight train goes by and look at the graffiti on the railcars. Some of it is really pretty good. Get up-close and personal with the bark on a tree. In other words, see The Galaxy In A Knothole (one of my favorite pictures). Above all, don't just look, but SEE. See what is really there in the details.

I also like to shoot the scenic shots that everybody shoots. If nothing else, it shows I was there. So, among my other pictures are shots from the Pacific Coast (I live in California), from the inland highways, to the cities, mostly of northern California.

A wise woman once told me "Find play value in all you do". That's a theme I try to carry into my photography; I don't take it too seriously. I do it because photography is my first true love. If I happen to make a few bucks now and then that's cool, but not why I'm doing it. And if I can make you stop and say "hmmm", even better. Let me know what you think, I love to hear from people who have looked at my work.

Expansions on my thoughts of photography:

As someone once told me, "anyone can take any old photograph"; which is why, with the advent of digital cameras and the software to exploit them, and the internet for showing them, I no longer even really think of myself as a photographer let alone an artist. More like an image capture engineer. It's hard to think of myself as a photographer anymore when anybody with a digital camera and access to the internet can call himself or herself a photographer.

Back in the old days, when it was all done with chemicals, film and paper, it was different. Not too many people were really into it, and those that were, were mostly into taking what I consider snapshots. You couldn't shoot up hundreds of pictures and hope for that one little gem. It was expensive, and unless you processed your own work (I did), you were at the mercy of photo labs to produce your work. You had to work at it. And me and my cameras worked at it. In fact, all of my film cameras have paid for themselves (my digital cameras are on their way). Back then, I thought of myself as a photographer. Now, the camera can do it all for you if you let it, and sometimes I do, although the "eye" is still mine.

Anybody can do it now. Some of us just happen to have a different eye. Others are very good with photo manipulation software, i.e. photoshopping. I'm not, so basically what you see in my pictures is what I saw when I shot it.

This is not to say that some of my images aren't art, but art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Some of the ones I really like, a lot of people just don't get. But other pictures that I have used as mere filler seem to really bring out the oohs and aahs in people. This happened with a couple of the images in my second photobook, Stuff in the Sand.

Most of my digital images have minimal processing done, no more than I used to do in the darkroom; a little bump in color and/or contrast, maybe a little cropping that I might not have been able to do when I got the shot. But, once in a while, I get a wild urge to play with an image and this is where software excels. As for listing what I did to a picture to manipulate it, mostly not much. A little bump in contrast and/or color is usually sufficient. If I do play with it, well then I just push a couple of buttons, select a couple of menu items, maybe toss in a couple of effects, rinse, repeat as necessary until I get something I like, then save it (hopefully I don't forget to save it). Listing those steps on a picture isn't practical as far as I'm concerned. I'm getting too old to remember all that stuff, and I'm still learning to use my PaintShop Pro software. Granted it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of PhotoShop, but I like it and it does what I want for now.

If you really gotta know what cameras I use, well, I have several old film cameras which still get used occasionally (mostly Nikons, but a Mamiya 645 too). Mostly though, I use my Nikon D90 (my newest toy) and D80, and for xmas a couple of years ago, I got a Nikon CoolPix S630. I wanted something I could take with me everywhere. I love my D90 and D80, but they're kinda big and bulky (you know, like REAL cameras).

As a professional Photographer (one who actually made a living taking pictures), I loved what I was doing and didn't really care about doing anything else. Then along came a wife, then followed a couple of kids, and I had to get a real job (being a Quality Engineer in the medical device industry pays much better money than I ever made as a photographer). For several years, my cameras either sat around collecting dust, or they were used for snapshot photography (kids growing up, travel, etc.).

Then along came digital. I fought the urge for a few years, but eventually decided to give it a try. My kids are grown and off on their own and I found myself with too much time on my hands, so, guess what. Yep, I have time for my first love again. I do it for the love of the game, but if I happen to make a couple of bucks here and there, that's cool too.

Digital photography still isn't up to film quality (unless you have thousands of bucks to invest in equipment, but it's getting there), and using a little bit of software manipulation to bump the color or contrast a bit is as legitimate as anything you can do in a darkroom. A lot of the photos in RedBubble, Flickr, JPG Magazine and other sites that I frequent go way beyond anything I ever learned to do in a darkroom (or even with software so far), and are thus pretty obviously photoshopped. I don't think they need to be further tagged.

More to come, but I don't want to bore you with too much at once.

Bob Wall, Photographer, Picture Taker or Image Capture Engineer? You Decide. - Part 1 of 3

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