Play Time

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Back in the dark ages when I used to write the ed­i­to­rial for our sum­mer is­sue, I’d often im­plore work­ing pho­tog­ra­phers to take a break dur­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­days… by tak­ing more pic­tures. But for them­selves this time rather than for clients. Many pros were happy to put the cam­eras away on Christ­mas Eve and not go near them again for sev­eral weeks or, if they’d had a par­tic­u­larly good year, maybe for a whole month. It was just too much like hard work to lug them out purely for plea­sure… and then there was the rig­ma­role of pro­cess­ing and all that film stuff.

If you can re­mem­ber those days, you’ll also know that the dig­i­tal era has made it a lot eas­ier to take pic­tures when­ever the urge oc­curs. More than likely you have your work cam­eras and your ‘play’ cam­era. Right now my D-SLR kit is tucked up in its roller case, but next to me on the desk is my mir­ror­less cam­era, ready just to grab and go. And, since we’ve had a par­tic­u­larly colour­ful spring in the gar­den with blos­soms ga­lore, I’ve been snap­ping away at ev­ery bloom which has ap­peared over the weeks. I’ve no idea what I’m go­ing to do with these images, but it’s a nice lit­tle port­fo­lio and, re­ally, does it mat­ter if the only out­come is that I’ve just had a bit of fun (and some frus­tra­tion try­ing to make hon­ey­bees co-op­er­ate!)? As it hap­pens, I prob­a­bly will cre­ate a lit­tle AV with some suit­ably springy mu­sic and bore a few friends with my en­deav­ours, but I started out sim­ply as a re­ac­tion to the wel­come ap­pear­ance of colour af­ter a par­tic­u­larly dull win­ter. That’s all it takes and, of course, the beauty of dig­i­tal cap­ture is that you don’t have time to over­think it or, in­deed, be put off by any ‘lo­gis­tics’. And, in­ci­den­tally, apart from a bit of a crop here or there, and the oc­ca­sional tweak in Lev­els or Bright­ness/Con­trast, there’s no post-cam­era chores to dampen the en­thu­si­asm ei­ther.

So my – ahem – Christ­mas mes­sage is still pretty much the same. Keep tak­ing pic­tures, but dif­fer­ent ones and, if you haven’t got a play cam­era, it’s time to get one (Dear Santa, etc., etc.). A change is as good as a hol­i­day here… and even bet­ter if you make the change while on hol­i­day. Your play cam­era doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be some­thing new, but I’d cau­tion against drag­ging out that 4x5-inch field cam­era you last used in 1978… there’s a good rea­son why it hasn’t seen the light of day in all this time. You re­ally don’t want to work that hard at play­ing… and im­me­di­ate re­sults are al­ways a good mo­ti­va­tion to keep go­ing with what­ever lit­tle project has got you go­ing in the first place. Ac­tu­ally, I’m a bit re­luc­tant to use the word “project” here be­cause it im­plies some sort of for­mal­i­sa­tion and what I’m sug­gest­ing is en­tirely free form… you see, you like, you shoot, you like. If it leads to any­thing else, great, but the main ob­jec­tive is to recharge the cre­ative bat­ter­ies by do­ing some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent… and this means, un­like any com­mer­cial job, start­ing out with ab­so­lutely no plans at all. With­out get­ting too New Age woo-woo, it’s a case of wait­ing un­til the spirit of pho­tog­ra­phy moves you… and then go­ing whole­heart­edly with the flow. And a small cam­era re­ally helps here too (no, put that smart­phone down… it’s a work tool any­way). Re­cently I’ve taken more fun pic­tures with my lit­tle mir­ror­less cam­era than with any­thing else… but, though I say it my­self, they’re not snaps. I’ve got a cou­ple of lenses and, per­haps more im­por­tantly, I still want to have all the tech­ni­cal func­tions that I’m likely to need be­cause, in the end, it’s still about achiev­ing the re­sults that I’ve en­vis­aged… even if I am do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. It may be an im­pulse, but I still want some­thing to show for it… af­ter all, this is part of the fun too, and un­doubt­edly an in­te­gral part of pho­tog­ra­phy no mat­ter what or how you’re shoot­ing.

It’s about get­ting back to what got you tak­ing pho­to­graphs in the first place – be­fore there were any ideas about turn­ing it into a busi­ness and the in­evitable change in em­pha­sis that this brings. Rewind to that ini­tial en­thu­si­asm, en­joy­ment and ex­cite­ment… take pic­tures just be­cause you want to for the sheer plea­sure of it and noth­ing more. You will see things dif­fer­ently. Guar­an­teed.

All of us at ProPhoto wish our read­ers, ad­ver­tis­ers and friends a very happy, peace­ful and pho­to­graph­i­cally re­ju­ve­nat­ing hol­i­day sea­son.

Paul Bur­rows, Ed­i­tor

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