see2think

thinking with pictures


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You are what you carry – size matters

Attending a young friend’s funeral, I offered to snap some overall scenes for the mother to keep with her memories. I chose my shirt-pocket-sized Canon s110 rather than an APS-C camera, both for the silent shutter release and for the palm-size form factor. Others have written of the (intended or unintended) consequences of carrying a professional-looking kit: others label you, impose expectations, fears, assumptions, and so on. But a (high-end or simple Point-and-Shoot) small camera raises few eyebrows. And in the age of selfies (and over sharing) to rely on a phone’s camera of your own, or one you borrow, even fewer people may notice or feel intrusion, obstruction, imposition of the lens onto the event.
So while lens surely shapes the compositions that one forms in mind and perhaps executes, the camera’s form factor (space it occupies, weight, name brand -if not blackened out, and recording technology -wet plate vs. dry vs. roll film small, medium, or large vs. digital) may be equally important in affecting one’s visual horizons; if not the actual creation of a photographic result, then in determining one’s engagement with the social environment, cultural landscape, and physical conditions where one is shooting. Consider how streamlined one can move through an event with a small point-and-shoot camera vs. Polaroid instant color camera vs. something mounted on tripod that involved film holders and chemical post-processing.

camera choice alters what seems worthy to shoot

camera choice alters what seems worthy to shoot

There are circumstances that call for one camera instead of another; or indeed of carrying a few different photographic recording devices simultaneously. The image of a worker’s toolbox comes to mind: with just a hammer, all jobs look like opportunities for pounding. But with a full set of tools, the available responses for solving a problem or overcoming a challenge is much wider, carefully considered, and artfully produced in the end. Supposing that “you are what you carry,” the question to ask of yourself is: who are you? Do you traverse the visual landscape in a vehicle that is massive, micro, stylish, or non-descript? Perhaps all of them will carry you across the ground you wish to cover, but some can also go places the others cannot because they are too light-weight, or the contrary, they are too heavy for the surface.


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Seeing it in a different light.

Seeing something in a new light or a different light is a figure of speech that means the subject is perceived with different face or complexion due to the shift in contextual frame, circumstances, or additional factors. But there is a literal meaning to this expression, too.

composite of 4 photos

Seeing things in a new light

The play of shadows, the angle, intensity, and temperature of the light affects the viewing experience and emotional response or resonance to the subject. Is the ability to infer meaning from the quality of light specially tuned to primate visual cortex (up to 25% of brain volume among present-day humans), or do other vertebrates also have emotional response to the character of light they see? It is not uncommon in the elementary grades for teachers to cover the overhead banks of fluorescent lights with fabric or paper to affect the color of the light and the amount of light. A more dramatic non-verbal signal to young students to hush comes from turning off the room lights.

So “seeing it in a new light” means reconsidering or seeing all-over again with fresh eyes the things one faces. And so the next time a problem seems unsolvable or subject seems dull or flat, then alter the lighting (literally or in the figurative sense of shifting its contextual frame, the color and angle and temperature and amount of illumination.