CategoryPhotography as Art

Sharpening tools

Many years ago, I knew an old carpenter who had taken up preaching in a now defunct church. A kindly man, wise, and understanding. The sort you hoped would turn out to be a preacher. We’d talked about working wood, and about the proper use of tools, and many things, but rarely about much more. He asked me how I was doing one afternoon, and I expressed frustration.

I’d had it with my career at that point. I was rethinking everything I had ever done. I was burned out, and wanting a change. I was finding my day-to-day existence tiring and I felt like I was getting nowhere. It was making me a bit down, and he listened patiently to my frustration while he put away his pocket knife as he had just finished whittling.

After I was done, he smiled at me. “Time spent sharpening your tools is never wasted.” he said. He patted me on the shoulder, got up, and walked away.

Sometimes, things are just that simple.

I’ve been unsatisfied by what I am producing, and so I’ve gone back to sharpen my tools.

shoot-547I’ve had a consistent issue in my developing that has plagued me for years. I finally sat down and reread some books and experimented, and now I am well on the way to fixing it. I’m fixing another problem I have had with c41 at the same time.

I’ve been sharpening my literal tools as well. I’ve torn down and rebuilt my 4×5 camera. I’ve cleaned lenses, replaced glass, scrubbed, re-timed the shutter, and replaced a few parts. I’ll have it out soon, and perhaps this time around the results will be worth seeing.

shoot-549I’ve been shooting with new glass, and making other changes as well. I’m trying to look at things and see them differently. I’ve been in the back woods, decompressing, and straightening things out.

I think my tools are sharper now. Let’s see if that time paid off.

Realization

I hate going through negatives. I’m not much of an organizational person. However, I just received the best gift going through them. A realization that I have been working on a project without knowing it.

You know the realization. You like a certain type of image, a certain subject matter, and then you look though your shots and see a theme. You didn’t go out hunting for this type of image, but you found it anyway, and the theme just happened.

shoot-542In my case, I think I subconsciously knew I was doing it. So I was chasing the project before I knew what it was or what I was doing. But now it’s coming together.

It’s no secret I’m in love with the Inter-Mountain West. I moved 1,800 miles to be here and I consider that the smartest move of my life. I looked back through my negatives and realized, what I have going is a love story with the mountains.

By Wednesday, I’ll have a new pack, the last piece of gear I wanted before hiking and camping season. Since the high mountain passes start opening on Memorial Day, the timing is pretty good. I need to either get my Canon 7 CLA’d or get a backup body, and the repair guy needs to finish up with my Kodak Medalist, and then I can dedicate some serious time to the project. There’s going to be a lot of time under big skies and a lot of miles on foot and some on bicycle involved. And hundreds of frames, if I have my way.

shoot-543So I’m sharing this realization in an attempt to keep myself honest. I’ll need to work on it every possible moment I can. And if I tell folks about it, I have to go do it. So you should get some previews. These shots from a cheap plastic pano are the first step. The thrill of that realization should carry me the rest of the way.