I’m not a pro photographer. I’ve never had the patience or inclination to push my photography to that level. I like taking the camera out, then playing around until I can get an image that matches what I see in my mind’s eye. Sometimes it’s happened quickly. Sometimes it’s taken years to figure out what I need to do. In the last year and change I’ve started learning two different techniques. One is a post production technique called HDR. In this technique, software is used to help merge multiple images to increase the range of tones you see in an image. The second thing I’ve started working on is flash photography. Like a lot of weekend photographers, I spent several years insisting that “natural light” photography was the best. That’s a fancy way of saying I don’t know one end of the flashgun from another. In the last few months I’ve started working harder to understand how flash works, and how to use it to get pictures I like.
If you follow my Instagram feed you will see a range of images from kitten snapshots, to travel, to thought out and composed shots. I just like showing people the world as I see it. And yes, I do see a lot of cats these days. The fun in art comes from sharing it. At this point in my life, it’s more critical to share what I do than it is to make sure every thought or image is perfect. If I don’t share, the work never breathes, and I can never grow.
This remains one of my favorite images. Shot during the opening weekend of the World War 2 Memorial, this Vietnam vet haunts me. He was one of the many who lurk around the memorials, men still haunted by that war, by the losses, by the way the country reacted. It’s been a habit of mine for years to tell them thank you. This guy caught my attention. He was wandering around the memorial, lost in thought. I approached him, tapped his shoulder and he turned. I told him thank you. He teared up and hugged me. He ducked his head, replied with a quiet, “thank you”, and walked away, head down. His friend up to me and said, “Thank you. You’re the first person to tell him that.” Then he walked off.
I was deeply moved. A few minutes later I saw him again and grabbed a quick shot. He then vanished into the swirl of people. When I got home, I found an out of focus shot.
I was frustrated. Why couldn’t I have gotten a clean shot. As I stared at my miss, I fell in love with the shot. I don’t know his story. I don’t know of I was truly the first to thank him. I do know this shot represents so many veterans who’ve been forgotten. They move through our lives, quiet, on the edges, barely in out sight. Occasionally they intersect and we get a brief window into the world they live in. Then they move off again.