Thursday, March 16, 2017
Blame it on the weeds growing in an old parking lot...
I’ll try to keep this organized and not a firehose stream of consciousness piece that wants to gush out of my head-but no promises.
Earlier this week I stopped by a large overgrown parking lot to take some pictures of the grass and weeds growing out of cracks in the pavement.
I’ve had my eye on this place for a while and finally just stopped by since the light was right and figured since the lot next to it had been taken over by a used car dealership, this old lot might not have much uncivilized life left and I wanted it as a record, and as a reminder that no matter how in control we think we humans are, we are not in control when our backs are turned on nature.
Nature takes its course, has its own way and does well what it pleases. We can mow, snip, trim, weed, burn, shovel, dig, cut and saw and pave our stinkin lives away trying to get control but as soon as we stop to breathe or take a break, the weeds, grass, trees, bugs, birds and little critters in the dirt keep on keeping on. And Hallelujah for that!
Where is this going? Let’s go back to the photo taking part.
With me, was my recently acquired Pentax Spotmatic F that came with a 55mm 1.8 lens. This is a good setup. It’s all manual and just works.
I have a big soft place in my heart for Pentaxes. A Pentax was my first real camera way back when I started freelancing for newspapers in the 80’s, so when a Spotmatic F and lens showed up for cheap, I plunged off into the deep...
The problem is when I was walking around the parking lot, looking at tufts and clumps of grass growing out of the cracks, I had to keep backing up to get more in the frame. I wanted to get as much in as possible to show how big and out of control the place had become.
No matter how far I stepped back, I wanted more.
More weeds, more grass more chaos.
Stepping back is not really a problem, but all of my photo making days have been spent with a wide lens shooting wide scenes.
Wide open spaces wide. That’s me right there in the wide open space standing in the middle of the road in the middle of nowhere shooting from here to Kansas. Like outer space wide too! You’ve seen my work.
At least 35mm often 28mm, and 22mm. Even wider with pinhole, so instead of stepping back, I’m more used to stepping forward.
Moving back to get more is a new thing. I didn’t think I would like the pictures. I thought I’d return on another day with a wide lens and redo them. And step forward like I’m accustomed and more comfortable doing.
I’m claustrophobic too. I don’t do tight, or pinned or confinement or street photography. It’s too busy and bound up for me to do and live to tell about it.
It’s why I don’t like zoos, or things locked up in pens….but that’s another story.
Back to the weeds and grass and stepping back.
The 55mm lens was not really doing it for me, but it’s what I had with me and I wasn’t going to leave the light and the weeds alone until I shot the whole roll.
I developed the film and realized I was happy with the photos. Surprised even!
Not about backing up to get more in, but to see and feel the grass and the texture and the crispy dryness of the blades rustling in the breeze. The scratchiness of the pebbles in the pavement, the bug crawling under the discarded coffee cup. The 55 mm lens did this for me and I didn’t realize what it had done until the next day while driving. An epiphany!
It was the realization that sometimes to get the bigger picture; you need to get closer to it.
Not necessarily macro close, I’m not ready for that and may never be, but instead of assuming I need to shoot everything wide to get the scale across, a little bit tighter is fine.
Maybe it’s the realization that refinement is good. A different take on the story is there too. It’s just not my usual wide story, but a story of scale no less. A narrower path for a change.
Where to go from here?
I’m going to use the 55mm lens exclusively for a while and get to know my favorite places in a different perspective. Just writing this kind of makes me anxious, but it’s going to be good. Not like using a vacuum cleaner instead of a broom good, but good enough that the end result is clean.
Here are a few sample shots from the outing.
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