Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Challenging Yourself in 52 Frames

I've always loved to take pictures. A few years ago, I did something about it. I bought camera. I was smart. I went to my amazingly talented son-in-law and asked him to help me pick out not just a camera, but a good camera...and the right camera. For me, camera lenses are almost like gears in a car - more than I want to handle; more than I know what to do with and so Haim picked out an amazing model so below anything that he would use and so far above anything I imagined owning.

I tried to buy the model, but it wasn't available...and so I followed as closely to Haim's recommendation as I could, only just a little bit better. A slightly more advanced model with more zoom than I expected. The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. Haim tried it out and declared it perfect for me...and it is. He would teach me how to reach beyond...but I'm content.

Davidi fell in love with it and began testing it. He took pictures of things that are miles away, he focused in on the smallest things. I'm almost a little jealous of his ability to find these beautiful pictures but still, I didn't do too badly myself.

And then, a few weeks ago, I finally looked into this group I'd seen on Facebook. 52 Frames. A frame each week for a year...a challenge. There are some amazing photographers in this group of almost 500 people...and there are a lot of people like me who just go outside and look at the world a little bit differently than we did before.

The first week, the challenge was "from above" and so I asked David to go with me and we drove to a beautiful place overlooking the Dead Sea.

I took a picture of a boy walking a dog. I was standing up on our balcony...I took another with the yellowish mountains of winter and the old city of Jericho in the background and then I took a picture of the mountains and decided this would be the one.

The next week there was another challenge, and another and another. The man who runs the group encourages you to submit a picture EVERY week. The quality is less important, he assures us all, than the consistency, the going out there and trying to find the right picture.

And with each challenge, often comes a lesson. Concepts that I have never known. Rule of Thirds...I thought they wanted us to take a picture of three somethings and already was remembering seeing three flowering trees. I was so grateful that I didn't ask.

With the challenge came the explanation. Your picture should be divided into thirds - from top to bottom, from side to side.

Imagine a grid of 9 even cubes...and then I realized - my camera has those lines. I never knew what they meant and so the challenge was easy...or so I thought. You are supposed to position your subject on one of the side lines vertically and ideally at the intersection with one of the side lines horizontally. This way, the story you are trying to tell, continues into the picture. And so the runner is on the one third line, as he jogs into the picture. It's not a great shot, but I learned the rule.

I debated between the runner and the apple. I saw it sitting there in the middle of a parking lot, lost, abandoned...and took the picture. It isn't placed exactly right - it's on the third of the vertical lines, but in the middle of the horizontal ones and so I went back to the runner...even though that was the more predictable shot.

Another week was more unusual. "A line in a song." That was hard and I thought at first I wouldn't even try. I'm not really good with music and for some reason, the song "Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head" came to a country that barely has rain!

I thought of the line about the feet being too big for the bed, but didn't really figure out how to set that one up...and then, as I drove through my city in the week before the Purim holiday, I saw that my city had set up cute and funny figures and suddenly, the song from Man of La Mancha came to mine and there was Don Quixote.

Another week, it was easier. It was simply "chair". I took dozens and didn't love the one I turned in but some of the pictures in the weekly album were amazing.

Haim got hooked on the group as well - his pictures are stunning, mine remain predictable. And then, last week, the challenge was "negative space" and I was clueless again.

I took a lot of pictures and submitted to the challenge again. And once again, there were so many just like mine - flowers placed in a background.

I think I liked the lemon better, but somehow the flowers seemed to follow the rule better. And sometime between last week and this one, I realized a few important truths.

A challenge is something that you have to meet to the best of your ability, not someone else's. It isn't about beating someone, but about beating, or at least conquering yourself.

I go out each week looking for whatever the challenge is and that means going with eyes open and seeing the beauty of the world.

This week's challenge was "Magic Hour" and again I was to learn that this refers to that special light that happens as the sun rises and sets and so two days ago, I found myself awake and on my rooftop balcony waiting for the sun to crest the mountains.

I've also decided that as a relatively new photographer... well, no, I'm not a photographer, see, but as someone going out there to take a picture...yes, that's better...I'm being very predictable.

They say take a picture and I take the obvious one rather than the artistic one. But I also realized that this is okay because it's all about learning.

I took so many pictures. First before the sun had even broken over the mountains. Then slowly as it began to rise. Each picture told a story; each was a conquest, a challenge met.

I stayed focused on the is amazing how fast it rises. I focused, pulled back and watched the light.

Another limitation is that I don't yet have the ability to fully edit pictures, to bring out the best and filter out what distracts. Sharpen the horizon, Haim tells me, but I don't know what that means. I've learned to straighten the horizon, so that counts for something, right?

Then I get to look at the pictures and decide which one to submit. They don't let you choose two or three...only one. And that's hard too. But it's all part of learning. Pick the best picture you has to be this week; it has to be something that meets the challenge.

What it doesn't have to be is the best picture anyone can take...just the best picture YOU can take. You aren't actually in competition with anyone other than yourself.

So, as the sunrises and sets on this week's challenge, I click the submit button. It won't be the best picture of the 500 amazing ones that will be shot.

It won't be unique. There will be amazing pictures that use that magic light to shine on a face, on a unique building.

Those other pictures will be more precise, taken with equipment infinitely more complicated and sophisticated than my simple Canon camera.

But all that doesn't actually matter. All that matters is that I've challenged myself to take 52 pictures over the course of the coming weeks and months. I can't tell you on what. I can't tell you that I'll manage them all.

But what I can tell you is that I will see the world each week through the simplest of challenges. And that is what 52 Frames is all about...having fun, meeting the challenge...and looking at the world through the eyes of a camera.


Rickismom said...

Some nice shots here! Sometimes you won't even submit your "best" - rather one that speaks to you or that you labored over and thus feel more connected to it.

Marina Shemesh said...

What a lovely blog post Paula! I really like your photos of the sunrise.

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