Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Visual Stimulations - Daily Excercise for Photographers

Text and pictures by Eki Qushay Akhwan

Above all else, being a photographer, I think, is about being sensitive and acute to visual stimuli. Such sensitivity may be in-born in some people, but for the majority others, they are acquired skills. And, like any other skills, visual dexterity can only be maintained and improved through discipline and constant exercise.

Unlike pro photographers who have their skills honed with every project they have and who don't generally have to be concerned with making a living from a job other than photography, we - amateurs and photo enthusiasts - have to create our own opportunities to sharpen our skills and do have non-photography things to worry about, e.g. job, study, family, etc. Over time, these other life priorities and excuses can cost us our visual acuity, and make our mind numb, our hands stiff, and our camera bodies rusty - not to mention the accumulating dust and growing fungi in our lenses.

To a photo enthusiast like us, not making a photo over a long period of time is like slowly killing ourselves; the vigor of our photography, skills, and equipments will eventually be wilting and die with our sanity.

Of course, there are always options. After all, living things are made to defy (well, defer) death. This is what I do (and I think many other photography enthusiasts do) and would like to suggest to you:

SHADOWS OF THE STAIRWAYS copyrights Eki Akhwan

First, I always have a camera with me. It’s small, lightwieight, pocket Canon PowerShot A510, 3.2 mpx. It sounds pretty out of date for today's standard of 7mpx or above. But I love this camera and it has made many of my favorite photographs. It is reliable, has friendly controls and versatility that only a few other digital pocket cameras (DPC) could offer.

I am not trying to suggest that it is the camera you should get for yourself. In fact, I think, any cameras will do as long as it is small enough, light weight, versatile, and let you have as much control as possible in your picture-making. My camera (the one I mentioned earlier) has shutter and aperture priorities, manual overide, white balance control, and – last but not least – exposure compensation facility, which give me the controls I need to be creative in my photography.

DISTRACTED copyrights Eki Akhwan

Having a small and light weight camera has some advantages. It’s easy to carry around and it’s inconspicuous and does not attract attention in public places. It has its drawbacks too. The most serious is its shutter lag. But so far it’s okay with me.

EXIT copyrights Eki Akhwan

The second thing I do now that I always have a camera with me is I take pictures whenever I can. On the way to and from work, at work place, etc. True, in places that you are so used to, our vision may sometimes be blinded – everything seems to look ordinary and not interesting anymore. But that’s exactly where the challenge is. Trying to see the “extraordinaries” in the “ordinaries” is, I think, the best exercise a photographer can get. Look and look again. There are a lot of things that can really surprise you when you really look. The building, its details (windows, doors, walls, straircases), the people and their activities, the parking lot. I find no shortages of visual inspirations in them. All I need to do is look and really look, and free myself from the constraints of what other would think of my photographs. I just flow with my visual insticts and take pictures of whatever catches my attention. Some of the pictures I make may not be of the liking of my audience, but I enjoy making them and usually like them, a lot. I feel that my creativity is being honed and my freedom of expression released from the “caging” of unappreciative look of my audience. What’s best though is that with this, I practice (exercise) my visual acuity and sensitivity to visual stimulations that are all around me. Here I include some of the shots I made when I really am free to explore my visual instincts.

FALL IN BANDUNG copyrights Eki Akhwan

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