Sunday, November 6, 2011

Writing about making photos

Post #60
      For the first year of this weekly blog I have consciously chosen to focus on the place where I live -- northeastern Kentucky, in Appalachia -- and on what I learn from making photos here (and sometimes here and there.)  I haven't really given out my full name -- though it is not a secret -- or solicited fame and fortune.  
     However, now I want to share the essay I once wrote about making the photo illustrations for the book I mentioned in my last post, Counting on the Woods, a poem by George Ella Lyon.  This book was published in 1998 by DK, Ink, and our editor was the remarkable and risk-taking Richard Jackson.  I mention the risk part, because, back then, I was not a professional photographer.  I became one because of the learning I did while working those three months in 1997, which I write about in the essay.
     OK, so my name is Ann W. Olson, my web page is (which is in revision at the moment), and I do sell photos, photo note cards, and hardback copies of the book, which is currently out of print.  I have 100 copies left, but the book is in many a library across the country, in several text books and a big reader (though in an altered format.  Don't get me started.)

     The essay has six sections.  In keeping with my general goal of having these posts be short, I am planning to take six weeks to get the whole piece shared.  Today is the intro and section one.

     Snapshots of the work on Counting on the Woods

     All spring in 1997 I learned to see by taking photographs for a counting book for children, written by George Ella Lyon.  I spent dawns and dusks outside, I used a tripod, I discovered I could understand  signals from creatures and plants in the woods.
      Ever since then I have been trying to figure out what happened.  Amazing to me is that through the struggle to learn about depth of field on my camera I increased my inner depth of field.
      By the end of those three months, I was finding pictures that could only be seen through the lens.  What's out there didn't change, but I found the world had more possibilities.  Eyes first, then lens in addition, trying to imagine which vantage would interest a child.  What would work for the book. New ways of seeing. 

1. Uses of a Tripod 

      I never owned a decent tripod until April, 1997, yet almost instantly I became a tripod convert.  It is a wonder tool, a full partner in the photo taking process.  My tripod makes me look good.
      Its intended use is to prevent camera shake when light is low.  However, a tripod is a handy aid in many other ways as well.  For example, it provides a sturdy place to hang the clothes one is shedding in the heat of the morning; tree branches would bend and break.  Also, it affords an illusion of protection against snakes and bears and becomes a one time only expense in one's personal fitness program.
      Furthermore, the multiple levers and handles keep engineering and conceptual skills sharpened.  The tri this and tri that system actually makes sense after awhile, and the reward for more trying is that the tripod becomes less trying.
      There is no better way to be steady enough to allow light to work its magic.  This anchor is now what I miss most when I am away from home and can't take it with me.

      ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Notice my boot prints near the tripod -- as well as Canada geese prints.  (The camera is not my regular camera.)  Then there are those baggies on the tripod legs....

the cover of the book

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