Recently, I went through some of the photos I’ve taken in the last few years and I came to a conclusion, one I think I’ve known all along but refused to acknowledge. I have lost my eye for photography. Perhaps I never really had an eye, but I know that the images I have taken in the last four or five years are decidedly less pleasing to me than the ones I took in years prior. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t really care too much that I’m not as good as I once was.
It’s like an era has ended for me.
For a while now, I’ve felt uninspired when it comes to photography and I thought that it was just because I was focused on quilting. And that might be a big part of it – while there’s still plenty in this world I haven’t taken pictures of, there isn’t a lot in my area that inspires me to go out several times a month and shoot. And gas has become so expensive, driving around to find things to take photos of is no longer a weekly occurrence. I’m lucky to be able to get out once a month to do a road trip even to look for interesting things to shoot. All of these things come into play in this situation.
But I’ve noticed lately that my photos just aren’t that good. Sure, I get a decent shot every once in a while, or at least I like to think I do, but so often when I blow them up to check the sharpness of the photo, I am sorely disappointed. Even with an auto-focus camera, my shots aren’t sharp. I use a tripod in low lighting. I never found a remote release for my camera when I bought it, so I use the self-timer to avoid camera shake. In many situations, I lock the mirror into the up position before taking the shot. And yet, my photos are most often blurry. I’m not sure if that’s a symptom of not shooting more often, or a cause.
Twenty years ago, I was selective in what I shot because film and processing were expensive and I did not have the money to shoot everything multiple times. I had to get a good shot in one or two tries, and I think I was successful more times than I wasn’t. These days, I can go out and shoot for hours at a time and come home with nothing. Yep, I was better when I shot with film than I am now.
But the thing is … I don’t care too much. I’ve got a lot of money invested in my camera equipment, and I use it often – for taking photos of quilts, and the kids and things around the house. My camera does get used often – so often in fact, it’s rarely in the bag. I think, though, it’s likely to be the last DSLR I will buy, unless something happens to it and I have to buy a replacement – which will likely be something much cheaper and not as “high end” as this (in truth, it’s considered a mid-range camera by photography standards, but by consumer standards, I think we can all agree that any camera that costs more than $1000 isn’t something the average person buys to take snapshots of their family BBQ’s). And frankly, I don’t see that happening unless I drop this one in the drink or something.
I’m not saying I’m going to get rid of my camera, or that I’m going to stop taking photos, because neither of those things will happen. But I think it’s a bit of an explanation as to why I haven’t been discussing photography here lately – I don’t have anything to share or say because my photography mojo is just … gone. And if I’m honest with myself, this has been the case for a while now; it’s definitely not a new phenomenon – maybe dating back to before I sold all my sewing stuff in May 2012 and used the proceed to buy the Canon 60D sitting here on my desk right now. I don’t know when it started, but I do know I did a lot of shooting after I bought the camera and most of those images were not ones I wanted to share with anyone because they were not up to my standards. I thought back then that it was a lack of knowledge about the camera, and to a degree that might have been true. I think, though, it’s time to own the fact that my eyes aren’t what they used to be, both in quality so I can focus well and in the ability to choose and frame a scene in an aesthetically pleasing way.
I tend to bounce between quilting and photography, with quilting winning out more times in the last 12 or so years than photography. Photography is my first love and I’ll never give it up completely. Lately though, the thought has been rolling through the transom of my mind – have I loved photography for photography’s sake, or have I loved photography because it gave me an excuse to get out of the house and take long road trips?
The world – and I – may never know …