Photography…Or Not

Jazzfest 2013

This fabulous photo was taken by my friend Ted Carter at Jazzfest 2013, and does everything a picture should do. It captures the spirit of the moment.  It says more about Jazzfest and New Orleans than a thousand words could ever do.  Literally.

Back when I was into photography, my sister gave me a book from National Geographic about nature photography, which had a cliché sort of quote in it.  The saying is that the secret to taking good pictures is “F-8 and be there”.  For those of you who were born later than, say, 1992, “F” refers to F-stop.  That’s a complicated formula best described as “focal length”  But never mind.  Just buy the best digital camera you can get and go for it.  Just take my word for it that F-8 is in the middle of the range, and it’s kind of a photography joke.

Recently, blog friend Vanessa Chapman did  a post about how photographers are so mysteriously disdained.  They get compliments such as “Wow!  You must have a really good camera!”  Argghh.

Between F-8 and be there, be there is the most important half.  But being there is not enough.  You have to SEE it.  You can look at something without seeing it.  You have to see its possibilities.  A great photo captures one moment in time that will never happen again in exactly that same way.  You can take a picture of an immovable object like a statue, but even that will never be the same.  Because it will be a different moment, in different light.  Light is the essence.  When you take a picture, you aren’t capturing the subject, you are capturing light.

Instead of a statue, when you take a picture of a moving person or animal, now you are truly talking about something that will never happen again.  You could do the same dance and smile the same way, but your hip will never be in that exact same position, the scarf won’t twirl the same way.  Ted captured a moment in time that will never be repeated, and told us everything we need to know about Jazzfest and New Orleans.


15 responses to “Photography…Or Not

  1. Well said. 😉

  2. Thank you.. and just the other day I was showing a friend some of my Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest photos and he said “you really must have a good camera”…

  3. Well said Phyllis, a well taken photograph captures and defines the moment. This one does that perfectly and forget about F-8.

  4. but you cannot really forget about F stop – if you are shooting on a bright sunny day into a shaded area from a distance that makes the use of a fill flash problematical.. you need to adjust the f stop and shutter speed so your results are balanced.. and then the burning/dodging does not do damage to the photo ..

    • But if you’re using a digital camera that is doing all that for you, you really have to think…perhaps even more…about what you expect to accomplish or want to accomplish.

  5. Ha! You mentioned me! I don’t understand the F-8 thing, even after your explanation, but never mind, I just point and shoot with the camera on my phone and that does me!

    • That wasn’t much of an explanation, so it’s no wonder you didn’t understand it! And of course I mentioned you. If you hadn’t done the post you did, I might not have been so attuned.

  6. and mostly that works great Vanessa.. witness to that is the success of instagram. I have taken enough really good photographs by luck that I do not rule out the possiblility of excellence unawares….

  7. Very, very good description. I like to take pictures and in another life would be a professional news photographer.. I’m all digital now. When I went to Cuba 3 years ago, I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures(filled up 3 pretty big SD cards, but all the photos were very high resolution). The result was some interesting photos that accurately captured the zeitgeist of Havana in party mode. The pictures were mostly black and white with a few color. I selected 180 pictures and put together a little book of those pictures that I had a vanity publisher run 125 copies. I had lots of full page photos, and lots of half page photos. It was quite expensive, but worth it. People liked my book and were not offended with some of the pictures of hookers and transvestites I threw in to make it interesting.. I did not sell a single copy, I gave them all away, signed, and kept 3 copies for myself.

    • I vividly remember one of those photos. It was of a hooker standing by herself amid columns of what looked like maybe some government building? It was at night, and the stark contrasts between light and shadow were just stunning. It captured a feeling of loneliness that could not otherwise be described.

  8. That was the second or third best picture I ever took in my life. I’ll dig up the file of the pic and post it on facebook.

    • That would be wonderful, but you almost don’t have to. I can see it in my head as clear as day. That is the most incredible thing about pictures. Ted has taken many wonderful photos, but this one is the one I will always remember.

  9. I should say that he took a very good picture that captured the moment.

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