Sharpen Your Vision The world is a curious place; Physicists who study the subatomic world know just how curious it can be. The atom is comprised of three basic sub-atomic particles; Protons, Neutrons, and Electrons. Protons and Neutrons are large stationary particles that comprise the nucleus or center of an atom, orbiting at considerable distance from the nucleus is a cloud of tiny particles called Electrons. Most of the space occupied by an atom is empty, yet in the macro world objects comprised of atoms, as we know, are ‘solid as a rock.’
Electrons are very strange little entities; when observed they sometimes behave like particles sometimes like waves, they have even been observed to disappear and spontaneously reappear in an entirely different orbit. In 1997 some physicists at the University of Geneva took a pair of Protons and sent them in opposite directions, when they were 7 miles apart they started to mess with the path of one of the Protons, at precisely the same instant the opposing particle reacted in the opposite manner.* It seems that the closer humans observe the world the stranger the world becomes. I would not want to live in the sub-atomic world. I have spent over 50 years struggling to understand the rules of the larger world I don’t want to have relearn everything now.
Studying photography is similar to studying the sub-atomic world. What works at a minute level of pixels, airy discs, and lines of resolution, sometimes has nothing to do with what we perceive when we look at the photographic image as a whole. I have seen photographic images created with 4 or 5 megapixel point and shoot cameras, cropped and enlarged to 12×18 prints, that are more compelling apparently sharper than 8×10’s created from 21 megapixel state-of-the-art DSLRs. While I don’t mean to imply that the above referenced images were shot at the same settings simultaneously, I do mean to imply that many times the quality of the mechanism used to capture the photographic instant is superfluous when measured against the content of the image. There are times when photographers get hung-up on the minutia, when they should be looking at the whole image and asking themselves if they have created something that matters a hoot to anyone else.
Photography at its core is communication, communication of an idea, thought, or feeling that originated in the photographers mind or heart and is translated through the medium of photography to a viewer. Therefore the end result is only as refined as the original thought or feeling. Like most disciplines definition of a message comes with practice. Sitting around thinking about how you would like to make images that are clear and to the point does you little good unless you act on those thoughts.
It is a working process that requires both reflection and action. It is this combination that I love. The reflective nature of printmaking allows me to consider carefully the images I create. Which images are successful? Why does this image hold my attention while others don’t? What could I have done to make the image better? If I spend too much time reflecting on my images I can lose a connection with what I am trying to communicate in the first place. I also need to be in the field regularly to reinvigorate my vision.
(*–Source: “A Short History Of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson.)