January 19, 2011

Capturing Real Life.

After our summer travels last year I wrote a post for I Heart Faces about the value of shooting with a stopped down aperture (specifically f/8 or smaller, specifically for landscape/vista detail).

I'm now feeling an even stronger urging to use smaller apertures in everyday photography - for the specific purpose of INCLUDING life details that I've otherwise been blurring out on a regular basis. You see, I've been scanning old film pictures. And I've discovered some things:

1. I was NOT a good photographer.
2. I had zero understanding of depth of field and how to use it.
3. Apparently I wasn't concerned with good composition, either.
4. I did a pretty good job documenting life. And when I look back thru all those crappy, albeit beloved, photos, I remember ...



I remember that godawful, ugly, gold-colored Lazyboy from my own childhood that was super comfy. I remember the bedraggled dog bed in the corner by the fireplace. I remember that even from his earliest days, the Teen and I made regular forays to the library and greatly enjoyed all the books we brought home together. I remember all the blankets I draped over that not-very-comfy futon in a futile effort to keep the cat's fur off the furniture itself (see her peeking through, from behind the futon? she usually parked herself atop the futon, just behind our heads). I remember the kitchen clutter, always piled up on the corner of the counter by the phone, next to the bottled water that was always covered with an ugly towel to keep the water from growing algae. I remember the baby gates that defined the safe borders of Littlest Dude's world at the time. And I remember the purple REI backpack diaper bag that went everywhere with us, lasted thru all three boys, and still looked new at the end. (dang, that was a well-made bag!!) I remember so much and appreciate the tiny details when I look thru these photos.

And I desire to bring that insight into my photography this year. I will be intentional about allowing "distracting elements" into [some of] my photos. I will include some of my cluttered backgrounds. I want to capture the details today that I know I will forget by tomorrow (ok, or next year, cause I know the distracting clutter will probably still be around tomorrow and next week ... ).

Here's one of my recent attempts to capture the history of today ... a "before & after", if you will. This first image captures the book that I'm reading and LOVING right now:


This second image captures my context, my space, my stuff that I live with ...


This picture helps me remember:

1. That though my mom (hi, Mom!) raised me to daily, neatly make my bed, I rarely do so now that I'm all "grown up".

2. That I love the light that spills into my bedroom and wraps all around everything.

3. My decorating failure. Someday, when I'm not so clueless, I'll figure out an eye-pleasing arrangement to those canvases I love. And Big Dude has even agreed to re-hang them when I finally figure it out. :-)

4. That I always have stacks of books everywhere.

5. That Big Dude, who in all other ways is seemingly grown-up and mature, insists on keeping that Star Wars Lego ship-thing on his bedside table. I don't know why. And he is adamant about it not going away. This image will also remind me that Big Dude bought his own Nerf gun in order to personally arm himself for engagement in the dudes' Nerf battles (I don't count this as a check-mark in the "immaturity" column, but rather in the "good-Dad" category!).

6. That my window is wide open ... in January. Because here in SoCal, it seems January always has a freakishly warm week or two. This was that week. And I soaked it up in my favorite corner chair. In my bright sunny room. With a warm breeze. And my favorite book of this year (yeah, yeah, I know it's only 19 days into the year, but I'm pretty sure this book is IT).

7. Ultimately, it will remind me that on that day I could have chosen to spic n' span my space, but instead I chose to kick up my feet & curl up with a good book. As it has ever been, may it ever be ... ;-)

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laura said...

how refreshing is this!!! real life. i am right there with you on all of it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes! I did my first 365 project last year. And many of my detail shots were shot very wide (it was all about focusing on the subject). Good job, photographer.

However, for family shots I tried fairly regularly to narrow my ap and get the house, messes and all.

And guess what happened. We unexpectedly moved at the end of the year. It happened fast. But because of the intentionality of shooting the rooms in our house and capturing the context of our lives I now have a very detailed record of what that house looked like and how we lived in it.

Those shots are priceless to me.

Great post. :)

Amy said...

I'd love to shoot with with a smaller ap (the smallest mine goes is 8) but I would have to use such a fast shutter speed that it just wouldn't work. We don't have enough lighting in our house, and my on-camera flash is just not good enough... Love the lighting in your room!

Jessaca said...

Inspiring me once again. Thanks!!! I read and think about what you typed here and once again I will be taking your advice.
I will take that photo of all 3 kids at the table eating cereal not caring that the table is dirty or has dishes on it from last night.
Thanks again!!!
Have a good one!!!

Mrs. E said...

Love this post!
I need to do one similiar.
And is that a NERF gun to the left of your bed near the floor?? Now that's what I'll remember from a picture of details around MY home!!

Sarah said...

I love this Susan, every last detail. You know what has occurred to me lately? as much as I want to shoot the REAL, doing so requires me to "get over it"-- a lot. It also lets people into my private world in a way that makes me vulnerable and maybe a tiny bit uncomfortable. The details are there for us to remember but also in a way for everyone else to PEEK IN and sometimes that is tough. That blur sure pretties up life!

But life is not always pretty. Choosing when and when NOT to make it so is one more decision of the gal behind the lens, huh?

Life with Kaishon said...

Just when I think I couldn't possibly love you any more- you throw something like this out. LOVE it! Love it. LOVE it!

Tracy P. said...

This is awesome. I think I have the best-documented clutter in the universe. ;-)

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

Cool post and so true...we have to capture the good, bad and ugly to really represent out lives!

A Circle of Quiet said...

I think the presence of the Star Wars thingy on the bedside table is actually a sign of mental health. Seriously (-:

Love this post,

Heidi said...

Sigh. But, but, but.... Okay, I know you're right. But after years of crappy photos with all sorts of distracting backgrounds, I've tried so hard to take beautiful photos...now that perfectionist side of me can't stand the messy stuff. Right now I can't imagine wanting to remember it. :-P But, 'tis true. All the memories come flooding back when I see my old photos. I need to find a balance.

kt mac said...

LOVE those older shots Susan!!!

and a peak into the world behind what you usually capture :)

Ashley Gillett said...

and one of the best parts, that VIEW!

Anita Johnson said...

This was fun to read...Love the stuff, seeing your photography evolve...and a good tutorial as well! Now I'm thinking...would it be wrong to have your photo as my screen saver for just one day...to pretend that it is warm here (tomorrow the wind chill is supposed to be -25), and that I can see the mountains, and that sunlight is streaming in from the windows? Oh, fine. I'll put on another layer and appreciate the view of God's creation outside my window as well. (-:

Christine said...

What an amazing view out your window! I have been contemplating this very same topic lately and purchased a wide angle lens to get in some of those details. Thanks for the inspiration!

Tracey said...

1. We had the same coffee table "way back when".
2. Do I need to read that book? I just finished "The Mysterious Benedict Society". It's a tween book that we got for my son and I absolutely adored it. Couldn't put it down. Such a great little read. AND there's two more after it!!
3. Windows have been open in my house too. :)

Skeller said...

Tracey -
1. That ugly coffee table is STILL our coffee table (I've had it longer than I've been married, & in fact, it's the first piece of furniture I ever bought). It works perfectly for card games, puzzles, homework, meals ... it's ugly and all scratched up, but I can't see replacing it before the boys are older, or, all moved out ;-)
2. YES! You NEED to read that book. We all enjoyed MBS (not so much the sequels ... not that they were "bad", just so much the same).

gina said...

hi susan, just came here from i heart faces and enjoyed your interview. not only did i enjoy your open, real!!! images, but then this particular post...it is a reminder to enjoy the beauty and the moments that are given to us...instead of the many other things we must that really don't matter. i also love the desire to show it all. really, when we look back on our own family photos, we do just as you did...remembering all the elements surrounding our lives. i love it!

n8 and Aubrey said...

Wow I can't believe how connected I am with this post. Amazing mantra. You keep shooting the real life. You have beautiful work.