Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Very Rare Sight


I rarely photograph sunrises, and this was really a sunset anyway. When I went outside I was amazed at the way the multiple layers of clouds both threw shadows and illuminated one another. The radial white streaks were lower than the horizontal red clouds, while a bit of black clouds, lower still, were already in the Earth's shadow. As usual, Kodak Gold 200 film with my 15mm Voitlander Heliar lens.

As each day begins and ends I'm reminded that those of us who've been around about forever owe it to the next generation to pass along what we've learned over the years. A lot of this is the so called "common knowledge", things so ordinary and everyday, so taken for granted, that it rarely ever gets written down, and at some point it just ain't there no more.

I remember an elderly wood working shop teacher who took great pains to show us the proper way to sharpen chisels and gouges to get a pefect sharp edge while maintaining the correct angle. He was very insistant that we only hit the handle with the heel of our hand, or just maybe with a rawhide mallet, but never with a hammer. "You want to feel the wood as you cut through it" he told us. He was in his seventies, still teaching part time, and still had his set of chisels, gouges, and spoke shaves that he'd bought when he was doing his own apprencticeship as a teenager all those decades ago. Some of them, he told us, he'd gotten from an older retired woodworker years before. Nowadays people work with power tools.

I've been a photographer for nearly fifty years now and I'm always amazed at the lack of basic knowledge, things that were once considered common knowledge, amongst the younger generation. They complain that the auto exposure screws up in certain situations, but without understanding the concepts of using an exposure meter, with no idea of how the camera judges light, they're lost. Auto focus is just as troublesome to them. They've been sold a bill of goods by the manufacturers: "Use our latest camera and your pictures will always be perfect!"

The days when a young photographer could hang out at the local camera shop are gone now, with no experienced pros around to explain things, or answer a question. Now you order over the phone or the internet and then you wait for the UPS truck to bring what you ordered. Instead of getting a correct exposure with good color balance the new mantra is "Fix it in Photoshop".

Sometimes you just luck out when a scene like this sunset greets you, experience guiding your fingers to set the controls for the correct exposure. This sunset is as rare a scene as the morning back in 1977 when a light dusting of snow covered the grass blades in my front yard. By the time I got out a roll of film and loaded a camera the sun had melted it. Now I always have a loaded camera within reach. Now I'm hoping for a sunrise like this, casting its warm glow on the light dusting of snow in the yard...


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