Doc Diaries: Changes

The gentle drift and lackadaisical shuffle of the seasons is surprisingly irresistible.  Day by day, minute by minute, second by second, the year just moseys along.  Sometimes shifting a little more abruptly every now and again, and other times, holding onto a long, long pause that feels like it might never end.

It's like when you look upward just to find a clear, blue, monochromatic sky… a still, but still vibrant, green, timeless tree that seems to just dismiss any passing breeze… a hawk soaring on the winds is the only thing to remind you that time is still moving.  That the day is still advancing.  That this season is for now, but not forever.

Photography can be like that too, sometimes.

They say that it's good to live in the moment.  But you can go too far with that, also.  Sometimes you put so much effort into the season that you're in, you kind of forget about where you've been, or where you might have been going.  You forget about the spring and the fall just because it happens to be summer right now.

Sometimes you don't realize that you've been stuck in a rut until something jolts you out of it.  Until you look around at familiar places and… wow… things changed, huh?  Or maybe, things are following their natural cycle; you just got stranded for a little bit.

Okay, I mean, sure: "stranded" is probably a little melodramatic.  But sometimes you look upward, and it's that same clear, monochromatic sky, but night has replaced the day.  Despite how timeless things felt, that tree has started preparing for the winter.

Somehow, the idea of preparing feels… foreign…

One of the pitfalls of documentary work is that you can get sucked into treating improvisation — reaction — as the right approach to every situation, and you can lose touch with the other ways to do photography.

In the beginning, you get dropped into situations that feel completely overwhelming.  There's too much happening, you can't be everywhere or shoot everything, and it feels like the story is just passing you by while you struggle just to even tread water.

Inevitably, you survive.  And foolishly, it can seem, you dive back in.  You learn to think on your feet.  You learn to understand which moments you've captured, which ones you missed, and what to shoot next.  Eventually, you somehow start coming up with really good, cohesive stories out of incredibly confusing and chaotic situations.  Being able to do that (and especially with any kind of consistency) is an accomplishment, full stop.

But, like, when was the last time I actually planned out a shoot before diving into it?  I don't remember.

When was the last time I took photos on my schedule, instead of on an event schedule?  When was the last time I found the right scene, instead of capturing the scene that I found in front of me?  I don't remember.

I don't remember

…and it feels like I've lost a part of myself…

I've been doing such a good job at learning how to catch and to capture, that I feel like I've forgotten my ability to create.

I used to spend countless hours taking long exposures at night until I got just the right picture.  Until what I saw on the LCD screen matched what I had already envisioned — what I already knew was possible in that scene.

I realized while I took this photo of these leaves that I had forgotten what colors can look like at night.  I had forgotten how delightfully vibrant they can be.  I had forgotten the joy of seeing — slowly — in the dark.  The excitement of feeling so many reds and blues and golden hues tugging at my heartstrings.

I struggled with this post, at first.  I hadn't shot anything interesting lately and there weren't going to be any events before I had to publish.  Long story short, I just didn't know what I was going to write about.  I didn't know what I could share that would be meaningful.

That fit of desperation is how I finally realized that the seasons had changed while I wasn't looking.  I decided to pick a concept, to shoot new work to illustrate that concept, and to build a post that was meaningful not by chance, but by choice.

The concept: I wanted to capture… no, sorry.  I wanted to create the changing of the seasons.  I wanted to manifest it, by finding and capturing the right scenes for a concept that I had already chosen.  I wanted to show what it looks like, and what it feels like, to find yourself after you suddenly realize that you were lost.

I wanted to show that sometimes the seasons just change.  But sometimes, you can change them back.



Hey, it's me! I’ve been a documentary photographer for 17 yrs, software engineer for even longer, and plenty of other things in between.