If there’s one thing I excel at, it’s being average. I’m not trying to be self-effacing. It’s true. I “do” a lot of stuff casually but I’m not really good at any one thing. Except eating maybe. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who can consume bacon like I can. Pork products aside, I just don’t have the drive to master something and that pisses me off. Of course not enough to actually, you know, practice or anything.
It’s not that I don’t want to. I’ve proven that I can be focused and motivated in brief spurts. Recent highlights include:
The group weight loss challenge of ’14. Dropped to near high school weight and won the contest. Kept he weight off for approximately 2 days. I’m currently back in the comfortable sweat pants category.
There was a brief burst of photography promise. Won critical acclaim from tens of people. Now I only take blurry pictures of the dog with a cell phone.
This one time, I wrote a blog post about dogs and cats. Several people laughed. The zenith of my writing career.
This one time, I cooked up a really good batch o’ barbecue ribs. That was it. I really like ribs.
Why do I share this you ask? Because all these motivated people on the damn twitter and facebooks are really pissing me off. It’s a non-stop barrage of new year motivational challenges, positive attitudes, and ridiculous encouragement. I’m talking to you Rock with your 3:45am wake up and be “the hardest worker in the room“ attitude. Don’t get me wrong – I like the idea of it. I just don’t like the “doing” part of it.
This onslaught of be all you can be enthusiasm does work. I’ll verbally tell everyone that I’m re-embracing “rule number 5“ (NSFW) then go off and eat large amounts of cheese. Gym equipment, paleo instruction books, and an embarrassingly large REI dividend check all prove that I’m really good at starting something. It’s the follow through part that lacks.
My point? I don’t remember. Probably due to my ADD, lactose and gluten intolerance. I think I was trying to make a new year resolution without actually, you know, committing to anything. I resolve to keep my resolution from last year (or was it the year before?). To be motivated and get good at least one thing. I’m not sure what that is yet. My ’15 goal is to hear from someone who heard it from their non-gender-role-stereotyped cleaning persons cousin – “that troutdog dude… he’s a damn good <insert verby-noun that is at least more interesting than sudoku puzzle solver>”
Meanwhile I’m going to go organize my camera and sporting equipment. Maybe I’ll be inspired to use some of it. Or not. I think there’s a Walking Dead marathon on TV.
Once I came to grips with the fact that I wasn’t going to win American Idol this year, I had to find something else to do with my time. Lately its been taking pictures. Or, ‘capturing photographs’ if I want to sound all fancy. There is an odd side of me that needs to be creative. It’s a strange feeling since I have almost no artistic ability (except that diorama I made in 3rd grade – 1st place!) and very little knowledge of art. As the saying goes, “I can’t tell you what art is but I know it when I see it”. Or was that pornography? I get them confused.
Posting the pictures I take makes me feel somewhat awkward. On one hand, what’s the point of taking them if nobody ever sees them? Am I turning into a Kardashian-like creature desperate for attention and trolling for compliments? On the other hand there are 2.3 billion (approximately) other people out there doing the exact same thing. And a fair percentage of them are actually creating stuff that’s damn good. Heck, take a mediocre snapshot with your cellphone, slap an instagram filter on it and you’ll get a bunch of people on Facebook all liking it and commenting “wow, great shot!”.
So why bother publishing pictures to the various social medias du jour? I’m never going to be an “artist” (I don’t even own Birkenstocks and I’m not a fruitarian). I’m never going to be a professional photographer. Other than baby and wedding photos, I’m not even sure it’s an actual occupation anymore.
From a technical perspective I’m at about a 5th grade level in the photography world. I have visions of real photographers looking at my stuff and saying (always in a heavy French accent) “how cute, someone found a copy of Photoshop”.
So why do it? Because I can’t paint. I can’t draw. I can’t sing. I can’t carve wooden bear statues or ice swans with a chainsaw. Sometimes I see an image in my head and taking a picture is the only hope I have of getting it out. Most of the time they don’t match what I was thinking. But every once in a while… it feels like you get one right. And if just one person out there sees it and thinks to themselves “hmm, that’s sorta cool” then I suppose it was worth it to share that brief image I had floating around in my skull.
The problem I have, as a non-artist with limited brain cycles devoted to creativity, is that the majority of the images in my head are about bacon (don’t worry, I’m in a twelve-step program for my addiction). And bacon, while a delicious super food, doesn’t photograph well.
There’s a long list of things I’m not good at – gardening, polite chit-chat at parties, picking the shortest line at the supermarket, coordinating shirts and socks (Garanimals for men, please!), to name just a few. Let’s add paparazzi to that list. Ok, not paparazzi exactly. If someone uber-famous wandered by… like maybe Michael Bolton or Flo from that Progressive Insurance commercial, I’m pretty sure I’d be able to take a picture. But taking a picture of a complete stranger frightens the bejesus out of me.
You may be asking yourself, wait I don’t think this guy is a private eye so why is he stalking strangers and taking their picture? Yes there is a bit of a creep factor here, and as long as no one mentions it to my parole officer we’re all good. The real reason is that I’ve long admired the raw, unexpected, sometimes gritty images, that the truly talented street photographers capture. There’s something about real people going about their lives that’s just captivating.
I wanted to challenge myself to learn something new, something I was uncomfortable with. Poodle grooming is out so street photography seemed like a logical next choice. The problem is that I didn’t anticipate how hard it is to take a picture of a complete stranger – being relatively close and obvious. It just feels… invasive and a bit weird. Of course I could resort to one of those gazillion dollar lenses you see at sporting events and stand two blocks away, but that defeats the purpose. You can’t really capture emotion or the feel of something that way.
I’m not sure yet how I’m going to get over this irrational fear. And it is irrational. It’s not like someone is going to yell at me or chase after me. Even if they do, I can be pretty fast when I need to. I’m sure all that zombie apocalypse fitness training will pay off when that irate old lady gets all up in my face and wants to throw down.
So why can’t I bring myself to point the camera at a stranger and press the shutter? I don’t know. Maybe I need to print out a fake press pass? Dress like a tourist? Enroll in an expensive on-line course? One way or another, I resolve to overcome this fear. Sigh… maybe I’ll just go practice with more pictures of cows. They’re not too scary.
I find myself with some free time these days, so I may as well be productive. Photography is something I’ve always enjoyed, but never had the time for. I’ve started a new site specifically for my photo experimentation:
Taking a good picture is like my golf game – I’m always surprised when a good shot happens and I usually have no idea how I did it. I’m looking forward to figuring out what I’m doing and moving past the feeling of being such an amateur. I don’t know where the photo thing is going… but what the heck, it keeps me off the streets!
Went for an early morning hike on Christmas day. Took a few photos. I’m running into a problem with my camera batteries – in the cold they only last about 45 minutes. I need to find a way to keep the camera warm, yet accessible. The light was amazing later on in the hike, but those images are confined to my head since the battery went kaput.
Did a fun microadventure (new favorite term) yesterday. 15+ mile hike to Stack Rock, a secret lake, and a hidden, 40’s era backcountry cabin. Took a few photos. For the record, I have no knowledge of any trespassing. I firmly believe we were on Forest Service lands the entire time.
We had a pretty good snow yesterday, so I walked around last night and took a few photos. I made some serious rookie mistakes and have little idea what I’m doing. I’ll probably put the night-time photography off until I learn a bit more. I’m reasonably happy with the composition. Note to self – batteries only last about 30 minutes in 18 degree weather.