Shooting with Josh down at Camp Pendleton was a lot of fun today. We hit up only 2 spots... some lake, the name of which I have already forgotten, and some dilapidated old building with some really cool looking peeling paint. Unfortunately, the peeling paint didn't come out well in my shots, but I got a couple shots from the lake I liked and a shot of a rat trap at the old building that I really like. I was hoping to do more with the reflection of the clouds in the lake, especially because the clouds in SoCal this week have been particularly fluffy and solid, unlike the usual clouds around here. They are more reminiscent, to me, of the clouds back in New York. Anyhow, here are the pics, my favorite being the rat trap:

The one of the leaf and sludge is also pretty cool, now that I look at it. I don't usually take such cluttered or colorful photos, I usually try for a more simple composition, but I like this one. For some reason, I really enjoy the rat trap one, though, something about it works for me. I am not usually one to really like anything of my own, so it's strange that I would like this one, but oh well. I wonder if it is actually a well composed shot and I have finally done something decent. Or, there is a good chance that I just like it for some unknown reason and no one else will share my enthusiasm for it. Either way is ok with me I guess.

Which brings me to a question... what makes a good photographer? To me it seems like really good photographs are made with about 50% art and 50% technical skill. Maybe more art, I guess, maybe more of a 60/40 relationship... but technical skill still makes up a big part of that. When I say art, I guess I really mean creativity, or whatever... Anyhow, what if someone is really good at the technical aspects of making a good black and white print. They have contrast, tonality, etc... down to a T, and can make any well exposed photograph come to life in terms of its appearance. If a person like this had no real creative skill, no compositional ability, wouldn't they still be able to go out and shoot like crazy and finally end up with photos that will work, then they print them using their technical magic and have masterpieces? I guess that would make the reverse harder, though... for someone to have great compositional skill, someone who could really choose their subjects and shoot at just the right moment, but who was an ass in the darkroom. I think you could have the most wonderfully framed shot and it would still look like crap if it were not printed well.

When I see a really well done photograph... and I haven't seen all that many in person... but when I do, it is always printed really well. That, to me, is one of the biggest factors in making a print look like it was done by a "professional" rather than an "amateur". Even online, when viewing photos on websites... the ones that were scanned well and edited in PS really well are the ones that look great and professional. I think that some of the photos that you don't even give a second glance to on photo.net or whatever could look great if only they were presented better.

So, what skills do I have, if any? Am I technically proficient? I don't think so. I know some stuff, but I certainly have no idea how to bring out rich tones in a print. I still use "auto contrast" and "auto levels" sometimes in PS, because it usually does a decent job for web display. I haven't spent all that much time in a darkroom, but when I did, I remember not knowing what to do at all... just trying to get the contrast right was pain enough.

So do I have great artistic creative ability? I'm pretty sure that is a no. One look at my "New Photos" section will tell you that. I know I am getting better each time I go out and snap some pics but do I really have what is so often referred to a the "eye"? If I do, it must be turned off.

I guess I'm trying to help myself realize that I will probably never be the photographer that I want to be, but that doesn't mean I won't be able to have fun while I'm trying. I'd love to make a living doing photography, but not mainly as a portrait photographer and definitely not as a wedding photographer. So are my dreams even realistic? I dunno. Maybe I'll have to try thinking about this again in a year or so, and see if I even stick with photo for more than a few months this time. I have already killed off any dreams of doing anything with music... what was I thinking? I have no musical talent... I guess I am just afraid that the same is true for photography for me. Maybe I will never really know...