Why Photography, Anyway?

When I was first trained on a Canon 20D ten years ago, I had no idea that I would still be in the photography game a decade later. Originally, I applied at the studio where I got my first experience simply to be a salesperson. I was in my first semesters of college and needed a job. My next-door neighbor in the dorm where we lived on campus was applying, and he invited me to join him. I got the job. We had some down time one afternoon, so an elder employee trained us both on the cameras. And we started shooting… and shooting… and shooting…

And a monster was created.

Yep, I’m talking about myself. Of course, “monster” is simply a hyperbolic term that I intend to mean that someone was created that day who obsesses over photography.

“Geeking out” would be another way to describe it.

And I reflect today on why I do it at all. Why not something else? Why is it that putting this metal box to my face really gets my motor running in the heat of the moment during a session?

And I’ve come to a conclusion…

I don’t think it has anything to do with cameras. I like them, don’t get me wrong. I’m fascinated by both digital and film, and I’ve toyed with the rather expensive idea of buying a box camera and experimenting with silver nitrate, glass plates, and all that fun stuff.

But that’s not really it. I mean, if it were, then I would just hoard as many cameras of as many varieties as I possibly could, much like I do with books (all those who know me well will be nodding heavily in assent at this point).

While studying photography seminar videos, which I do from time to time (especially if they’re free on YouTube), one of my favorite photographers said something profound with which I can relate, and therein lies the secret of my obsession with photography — why I keep returning to it over and over again.

In describing why he loves it so much, Australian wedding photography guru Jerry Ghionis said, “I’m absolutely obsessed with light.”

And it clicked.

I’m obsessed with light! Now, you may be wondering what that means, so let me allow you into my reflective brain for a few quick moments, and I’ll try to explain as best I can, with the hope that you’ll be coming away from this blog post being absolutely amazed by the world that God has created.

Our eyes — and all our senses, really — are drawn to beauty. I’m not going to go into the details of what beauty is or whether it’s objective or relative to the viewer, etc., etc. But what I will do is explain how God has not only created the sun, moon, stars, and fire in order to create a lit world, but He has also created the manner in which these lights illumine their subjects. There are perfect angles for creating moods, and there different qualities of light that change almost in an infinite number of ways to create different aspects of someone’s appearance. You can use harsher light close to the subject and just above the brow line in order to create an old-fashioned, “noir” look. You can use a plethora of candles on a table below someone’s face and get a yellow-ish orange glow that electric light simply can’t mimic. And despite what many photographers say about shooting outside, you absolutely can point someone’s face into direct sunlight, have them avert their eyes, and get a quality of light that you find produced in fashion magazines everywhere.

The possibilities are limitless, and I love exploring those!

But what amazes me even more is that even in our fallen state, God allows culture to thrive. And He has inspired individuals to use these tools — these qualities of light, these different types, different times, different angles, etc., etc. — to mold and fashion them into beautiful, artistic wonders. Michelangelo created sculptures that change their mood when the light around them changes. A simple iPhone portrait can be just another “selfie” (jeez, I hate that word) or a beautiful piece of art, depending on the skill of the person “sculpting” with the light. Ansel Adams would camp out and wait for that PERFECT moment to occur when the shadows fell in just the right places so that he could shoot just one amazing landscape that put the glories of God’s creation on full display.

Sure, you can take a subject outside and just shoot around to see what you can get. Or you can learn about how light works, and you can begin to take incredible photographs that you never knew were possible.

I consider photographers and artists to be explorers, in a sense. God has given us tools. We think, we feel, and we mold our surroundings with these tools. We explore the possibilities. And every time we do it, we put a little chunk of ourselves into what we make.

And for the visual arts, the secret lies in “light:” what it is, why it does what it does, and why it’s amazing.

It’s my desire to instill this passion for light in others. I want to teach you to use light to its fullest in order to transform a normal photo into something that you wouldn’t have believed you could create.

I’m exploring the possibility of teaching some seminars and classes on this, specifically. If you have a basic understanding of cameras, you can shoot. But if you have an understanding of light, you can really begin to take your shooting to a new level and create some beautiful pieces of art.

But I’m not sure how many would be interested in such an undertaking, which is why I’m exploring at the moment.

If you’re interested in learning about light and how to use it, shoot me an email at tmarsee530@me.com…

Comment on this post…

…or send me a message on my photography page on Facebook (http://facebook.com/timothymarseephotography).

I’m really excited to share this with you. I’ve been experimenting with it and trying to perfect it for a number of years, and I think I finally have something worth sharing!

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