In the last entries, I have shown examples of some of the different “What If” ideas that I have followed that had some level of success and which had more distinctive “visual” outcomes. But for each of those, there were probably a 100 or more other “what if’s” that I tried. Often, these were just small things like trying some darkroom or Photoshop technique with something other than what it was designed to work with or maybe it was trying to figure out how someone created a type of lighting or other visual effect. Sometimes these attempts were “failures” (didn’t work as I thought or hoped they might) or led me down some other path. Many times these were just paths that led to a greater knowledge about the processes of photography and not any new visual results. In every case they were about learning something I hadn’t known before I tried them, even if it was that something didn’t work, essentially they were my own efforts to “put more parts on the (my) table”.
As I mentioned in my last post, sometimes we can have one of those “What If” moments but we don’t have the tools to do them yet or to do them successfully. In the book I mentioned in my last entry, YouTube was cited as an example of this. YouTube completely changed the way the web could be used but had it been introduced in the early 90’s, when we were all still using those slow dial-up modems, it would have been a complete failure. For photographers, we might view this with reference to digital vs analog. Many of the tools we had 30 years ago, as a film/analog photographer, are gone while digital has opened up a whole new set of possibilities. One of the processes I presented in part #1 of these examples is now impossible as the film doesn’t exist–yet, we can approximate the “look” digitally but not some of the “organic” idiosyncrasies. But there are still some processes that have disappeared altogether. I don’t know that any of the examples I presented in part 2, facilitated by digital, couldn’t be done, in some form, with film but the amount of work involved would be prohibitive to most (still involve lots of work) and the results would not be the same. I could see the results, knowing what I do know about analog processes, being completely unusable in some cases but what might have been discovered along the way, we don’t know.
In the case of the work presented in this post, it was a tool–a piece of equipment–that became the catalyst to trying a new “What If” and then to expanding its application.
For some time now I have had the desire to get a higher vantage point for some ideas/projects I wanted to explore–unrelated to those presented in the last entry. I have used ladders with my 9 foot tripod and have put platforms on my trucks from time to time. Of course, I have done a fair amount of aerial photography as well. None of these really solved the problem and my wife hasn’t been too keen on my getting one of those “bucket” trucks! So, I thought I would get a drone–and have a new toy if nothing else!
I got a pretty advanced one but it wasn’t perfect and while it could work, it wasn’t ideal for creating the types of photos I had contemplated. But I was really having fun with it anyway! So, while learning to fly it and trying some different things with the camera, both still and video, a light went off–a “What If” moment–that was related to the visual ideas that I presented at the end of my last entry. I tried it and luckily, my first attempt was extremely successful both aesthetically as well as in how the result transformed the subject.
Since I was flying every day to improve my control and understanding of the characteristics of drone flight, I kept trying different subjects and then it hit me, why not try it from the ground as well. It worked but there were issues–I couldn’t use a tripod and it was very cumbersome, awkward and limited without one. Then I remember an older piece of equipment that I had for one of my medium format cameras. With some modification having been made to that,with a hammer, my current dslr and lenses fit and I had a tool that facilitated making the images. The video above is a sampling of various images I have made over the last several months, including some of those first “tests” as well as several created on my recent travels around the country.
The process was right there before me but it took that new piece of equipment and finding a “proper” use for it to “discover” it. I put several “parts” together and created something new and maybe unique as well. But whether it is actually unique or not, I have several ideas for its application that I am excited about pursuing and I recognize it is the result of decades asking and exploring those “What If’s” and having access to all of those “parts” I discovered along the way. While it is my current focus, I know that it will probably lead to something else over time. It has allowed me to see things in a different way.
As I said in the first “What If” post, before the examples, while we might not feel we have the time to pursue our own “What If” thoughts, especially if we are unsure of their outcome, we really don’t have the time to not pursue them. We learn more from going to new places and even failures than we ever learn from doing what we already know. It is in those unknown places where we find the opportunities for creative growth.