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Alton as seen from the West Alton trail by Richard Keeling on 500px.com

I am happier than I have ever been with my photography.

That’s saying something because even in my earlier untutored days I always enjoyed taking pictures.

So what has changed?

Vision.

What do I mean by that?

The most obvious interpretation is simply becoming more aware of what I am looking at. This has happened. I see more. I look at a place or person and can place a metaphorical frame around that scene and can maneuver it into the most pleasing aspect. If I have a camera with me, I can capture that view.

But it’s more than that. I’m able to add many things to my photography. Some technical – – I know how to use shutter speed and aperture, focal lengths and focal points effectively. Others philosophical and psychological. It’s these latter qualities that are moving my photography forward these days.

I have an aesthetic. I know how I want my images to look and I know what I want to photograph. To get to this point I’ve had to unlearn much of what I had absorbed from prevailing photographic wisdom. I spent a long time going along with the crowd, all the while wondering why my results looked good from a conventional point of view but left me feeling empty and unfulfilled. Leaving this behind has meant that much of my photography has moved into areas that are not popular or fashionable. But it has become more meaningful. So much so that even when I produce the occasional popular image I regard it not as the apogee of my current efforts but merely as a point where my own and popular tastes converge, in the process neither elevating nor downgrading the photograph in relation to any others that I prize.

This is a very important realization. Perhaps the most significant factor in my currently very satisfying approach to photography.

The other major component working for me is a greater appreciation of process. I embrace the flow of my art, acknowledging that how I do something is just as important and enjoyable as the result. It’s no coincidence that my picture taking process, from capture to print, has expanded to take in not only the conventional digital tools, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, but also the chemical tools required to develop a film. I can make an image in a lot of different ways and each has its own particular pleasures. Currently I embrace digital and 35mm and medium format film photography. I have little doubt that I will expand further, into large format for example, at some point.

I know a lot. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m always trying to learn. My latest adventures will involve creative lighting as I’ve finally gathered up a portable high powered strobe – the Profoto B1 – and some light modifiers. If it’s like everything else I’ve done, embracing this will be slow and incremental but a constant pleasure with every step.

As a hobby, and I remain perpetually grateful that it will always be a hobby, photography has given me so much. I feel very lucky.

 

 

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