Volunteering as one of the water moms at marching band camp was a highlight of my summer. We kept 70 gallons of filtered water available at all times along with ice. The kids had frequent water breaks since camp was during the peak of summer heat in the dry high dessert. When our services weren’t needed at the water front, my friend Sue and I would take to the field with our cameras. Sue was a determined photographer. With amazement I watched from the sidelines as she would get right in the middle of the formations to capture the kids in action. My approach was very different. I would play, experiment, especially with light. I rarely took pictures in the peak of the day, because the results usually weren’t worth my efforts. I was always on the hunt for the artistic shot. Sue would shoot no matter the light. There were times I would put my camera away, only to see her jumping once again right in the middle of the battle. She always had this ability to stay one step in front of them as they marched. Fear kept me comfortably shielded in the shadows of the trees on the sidelines. As the sun began to make its way towards the horizon, I would abandon my post and begin my hunt. I loved to play with light. I’d place myself directly in the path of the sun with the band members moving between me and it’s brilliance. This is when I would have my fun! I loved to shoot into the sun. Playing with flare, silhouettes and all of the strange effects that would appear delighted me. Digital photography allows this incredible freedom to adjust the settings and dial everything in and then enables us to see the results in real-time. When The settings allow me to capture an image that gives me the look and feel of an artistic piece or painting that is when I am most satisfied with my efforts. The first night as we both came in for the night and reviewed our photos Sue approached me and asked,
“What were you doing shooting into the sun? That goes against every rule I was ever taught about photography. I want to see what you were capturing.”
I turned my laptop towards her and began to share some of my photos and found myself chuckling,
“You mean there are rules? I just love to experiment with light and love to dial in the settings to use the flare to my advantage.”
I then explained to her that I had no formal training with photography. I was a graphic designer and artist and had recently become obsessed with photography.
She simply said,
” Oh that explains everything, you are an artist. I was a photo journalism graduate from college.”
Now it all made sense to me. How she could just jump in and had no boundaries. Her training taught her to have none. My training was based on my experience and I was focused on capturing the images that reflected my intentions; art. I observed more carefully her approach to shooting everything and began to expand my attempts even at high noon sun. I recognized there was always a story being told, always an image waiting to be captured and if I chose to wait until the perfect light, there would be many missed opportunities. I found myself crossing the sidelines more often, not yet with the vigor or confidence of Sue, but celebrating the freedom and new-found vantage point I found there.
That evening as the sun began to once again take its graceful place along the western horizon, I dashed across the field to find my place to have my fun with light, only to find that Sue was already there playing. I captured the photo of Sue breaking the rules as she took her pictures into the sun. I knew then we had learned from each other and was truly flattered a graduate photo journalist found something I did as an artist worth imitating.