Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Repetition Doesn't Mean Boring

Going back to the same location time and time again can lead to a series of interesting images with quite different results. Timing is everything – a few hours after this photo was taken, the hay rows were gone.
Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the result to change? Of course, doing the same thing countless times without variation leads to the same conclusion, even if we continue to hope for something different.

As so often happens to me these days, my mind goes back into the past and remembers long forgotten details. Many years ago, when we purchased our first computer we had one of those frustrating experiences that new technology often brings. Back then, setting up a new computer was a lot more complicated than it is now. We painstakingly followed the instructions and had no success. Over and over, line by line,
we completed all the steps on the sheet. Finally phoning our son for help, he walked us through what needed to be done. After a while, he patiently asked if we had hit "enter". No, we hadn't, because that wasn't detailed on the instruction sheet. His reply was that "everyone knows you have to hit enter". Well, we didn't know that. We expected the instructions to tell us everything we needed to do.

I recently purchased some new equipment and was quite proud because I was able to set it up all by myself, without depending on a phone call to my son to help install it. The process even entailed going into the garage and finding a button to push on a router in order to get the equipment up and running. Honestly, I think my success had more to do with the progress of technology than with my increased skills.
 
I frequently run into frustrations when I'm working with my camera and trying to figure out something new. Who am I kidding? These days, sometimes I have to reacquaint myself with things that I've already learned but forgotten how to do. It doesn't always have to be learning a new skill to seem new to me. But I digress.

As with many other skills, taking photographs with something more complicated than a point and shoot camera requires lots and lots of repetition in order for the skill to become ingrained so that we can accomplish it quickly and without thought. Practice might not make perfect, but lots of practice can help our skills to become something so natural that we don't have to think about it when we're doing it. Knowing our equipment makes it easier to capture that spur of the moment picture that rarely happens.

 The same two trees with a much different feeling, taken on a mid winter's day with a flock of birds soaring high in the sky. 
Repetition does have other benefits. If you're anything like me, you might have your favourite coffee shops or restaurants that you like to visit. Some people might find it boring, but there is something comforting about routine. You get to know the servers. You might have a favourite place to sit with a special view. Maybe you know the daily specials or often order the same meal. Adventurous? Maybe not. But repetition doesn't have to mean boring.

The same theory can be applied to photography. Some of the best images are taken when a photographer is familiar with the location. Going back to the same area time after time can yield very different results. Four seasons, changing weather, or various times throughout the day, can make very different images. Familiarity can blind us to the beauty around us, but making a conscious effort to see something new in a place we are intimate with can create some spectacular pictures. 


The same trees, on a winter's day with a stormy sky. A flock of pigeons took flight after a helpful neighbour waved them away from nearby hydro lines.
By revisiting the same location, we become aware of subtle changes too. It may seem that everything is the same, but when we take the time to look at the details things may actually be quite different. My husband can tell you a story or two about that. Several years ago, it took me two days to realize he had shaved his beard. Oops. Sometimes I'm not very good with details. I can be out all day with a friend and my husband will ask me what kind of car they drive. Usually I can remember the colour, but rarely know the make and model.

The same trees taken from a different angle on a gloomy day, and “two” become “one”.

With a camera in my hand, it's another story. A change in light, a lovely shadow. Shimmering reflections, subtle colours. When I hold a camera, I notice inconsequential details that many people wouldn't give a thought to. Maybe I should photograph my husband every morning. I bet he wouldn't be able to shave without me noticing if I recorded it with my camera. But there are other things to focus on.

1 comment:

Sybil N said...

I've often wanted to do this; take a photo from the same spot at different times and seasons. Each of your images evokes such a different feeling.