April is my favorite month (breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire, stirring / Dull roots with spring rain.)
That's not how that poem goes...
...But April is my favorite month in the Finger Lakes. It's so beautiful it can make me feel nostalgic for...Earth. (That's cribbed from my brother Scott; when his daughter was three, I asked him if he was enjoying being a parent, and he answered "I'm already nostalgic for now." A beautiful line.)
Today it's rainy again, and even a bit dull, and it feels almost like a respite from all the heartbreaking beauty. If that makes any sense.
The new-to-me used GX8 landed here in bucolic TOP Rural Headquarters the other day. I slapped the Panny/Leica 45mm Macro on it, one of only two Micro 4/3 lenses I had in the closet*, and have been happily out and about shooting farmland.
The picture above is a scene I've had a bit of a fixation about. There are hundreds of small farms around this general area, but I've tried to photograph that particular one about six different times, with three different cameras, from different angles, in different kinds of weather. Once when the corn was high. I'm not sure why. It's not like it's obviously such a great subject. It's just a subject I needed to understand, for some unknown reason.
I'd try to give a print to the occupants, but I believe they are Mennonite, and I've been told Mennonites don't hold truck with pictures. They consider them...what? Decorative? Or trifling. Anyway they don't approve. Or so I've heard. I might try anyway, we'll see.
If I did try to present them with a print, at least I might learn more about what they actually think, without relying on hearsay.
I'm getting a lot of blurry shots with the new used camera, even in good light, which I think I can ascribe to the fact that the firmware of lens and/or camera aren't up to date and aren't working together in sweet harmony like they ought. So that's another thing to do.
Having new-camera teething pains with the Panny is making me appreciate my Fuji a little more. At least it's dialed in. That work is behind me.
But I'm surprised again at how readily everything on the GX8 falls effortlessly to hand for me; using it is like hearing from an old friend. The older I get and the more cameras I use, the more I think people are best off using whatever camera they love, no matter what it is. Whatever feels familiar, whatever you like playing with and looking through, whatever gives you pride of ownership. It really doesn't matter what it is. It only matters how you feel.
When I took the picture above, the clouds were playing over the land, and I was able to try the farm buildings in shade or sunlight. In this one the foreground is sunlit and the buildings are in a band of cloud-shadow. To break my quirky little fixation on this motif, I'm not going to photograph this particular farm any more. The hardest thing about editing is picking the one; there's such a stern opportunity cost! This is the one means there are no others. I don't know if this was the picture I was after, but it's going to have to do. I won't be taking any more.
'Do Your Work' —David Vestal
Here's one of those sweet little ironies with which life is heavily laden: writing TOP has opened all sorts of doors for me. Most of them, however, involve me doing something other than...well, writing TOP. I've been asked to give lectures and run workshops and fly to conferences and give people private lessons in this, that or the other thing, write book introductions or articles or interviews, and of course go photographing—in Iceland or Prague or Utah in a cave up in the hills or what have you. The irony is that then I would be doing something else and not writing. Even going out photographing, if I do it too much, makes me neglect the website. And you gotta dance with who brung ya. For better or worse, it's this I do. It's probably what you want me to do, too, really. So after an hour or two of photographing farmland, it's time to get home and check comments. C'est ma vie. In April it's particularly tempting to chuck housework and the comment section and doodle around the countryside photographing all day.
Neat little Amish and Mennonite farms dot the countryside under our
turbulent, often spectacular skies.
How long does it take you to get a new camera set up and dialed in? It takes me a couple of months, because I have to use it to know how I want it to be. But I think I'm casual about it. Too casual, probably.
Is it just me?
When I taught photography I'd put up a "quote of the day" on the bulletin board every day—just something I overheard one of the students say, usually, that I thought was eloquent or on point. So I got used to paying attention to what people said. I would also put one of my own pictures up on the bulletin board every week so that my students could see what I was up to myself. One week I put up a landscape from Northern Michigan that included several farms. That week I overheard two girls talking about it. They didn't know I was listening.
First girl: "Whose picture is that?"
Second girl: "It must be Mike's. Only Mike would take pictures of farmland."
Made me laugh.
I hope you are enjoying April as much as I am.
(Thanks to SHJ and Bert)
*By the way, apropos yesterday, I keep this lens around because I like its bokeh. LOL!
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Eliott James: "Farmland is a good subject. Photograph it as often as you like. The scene will reveal itself to you at some point. I really believe that, as I have proven it to myself. It may not be the scene you anticipate, but one will stand out eventually."
Darlene: "I very much enjoy the tonalities and open space of your Farmland photo. When I want to get to know my new-to-me camera, I will 'doodle around the countryside photographing all day.' There is nothing like getting intimate with the new camera in my life. :-) "
T. Edwards: "I tend to take batches of pictures, obsess over culling/cropping/etc. for a while and then forget about them. I've returned to the same place for many vacations over the past 15 years and when I went through all of those photos the other day I found that I've taken many photographs of the same tree. Just a tree, in a yard, with phone lines running annoyingly through the top branches. Utterly unremarkable, yet I return to it year after year."
Mike replies: I think I wrote about that once. The subjects we all have inexplicable weaknesses for. I can't find where I talked about it, but I mentioned that for some reason whenever I see waterfowl I think I need to take pictures of them. Kinda weird.
Joe: "I think you should definitely approach the Mennonite farm owners. Worst case: they educate you about their beliefs, you make new friends I never lived around practicing Mennonites but I spent time around a lot of Amish (which I probably foolishly think are almost the same as Mennonites) both in Kutztown PA and the middle of Ohio, and I found them to be a friendly and talkative bunch, if I may generalize."
Mike replies: I've enjoyed meeting the Old-Order people I've met so far. They live a usefully different lifestyle that I'm jealous of in some ways (strong community, lots of company, and an orderly quality to life), averse to in other ways (you can't listen to music, look at art, or drive). As people I've so far found them—generalizing, as you say—to be open, frank, and friendly.
jim woodard: "Not to be snarky or trollish but I don't see any bokeh in this picture. Also wanted to say that I think you should take the time to do the things you enjoy besides writing TOP. Its your writing as a whole person that makes this such an interesting blog!"
Mike replies: No, no bokeh in a great many pictures. After John's reprise of his 'What Is Bokeh?' article, our friend Gordon Lewis sent me a picture illustrating what he called "the opposite of bokeh":
...Gordon likes to use pan-sharpness to help "flatten" a three-dimensional scene into two-dimensional graphic elements. You can feel the tension between the two in this shot. It's a strategy he has a particular feel for and uses frequently in his work.