Dispatches Redux

French Beach Provincial Park, Vancouver Island
French Beach Provincial Park, Vancouver Island

Welcome to the new home for an old blog that I am vowing to rekindle from the devastation of attention spans wrought by Facebook, et. al. I am as guilty as any of you, as my online attention to both posting and reading has been trounced by the quick dopamine hit of the Like syndrome. My ability to craft and consume cogent, long form, thoughtful writing has suffered. But I’m going to reform, I am, I am.

I was a proto blogger, writing online before the form was invented. When I was traveling in the 1990s, I built a modest email following for the essays that I wrote, particularly during my Ireland travels. In 2004, when I made the transition to digital, I wanted to document that sea change in my career. That’s when I started Dispatches on Typepad.

I was a prolific blogger back in the day. Over 900 posts over the duration. What interested me most was describing the process of image making. Not so much the technical bits, but the internal process of how an image comes into being, and the life of the photo. I am a technician in as much as I acquire what I need to feed my work, but I really don’t care about cameras and technology beyond that. But that internal state of how you recognize when a good image is in front of you, and how you work that—I didn’t see many people writing about that. I wanted to describe that process, and let people in on how photography works at a deep level.

As I tried to organize photo workshops around these ideas, it became apparent that there wasn’t a great yearning around that notion. Nor did there seem to be much of a readership for these ideas. I think I peaked in the low triple digits. Not that this stopped me. Same as the work I shoot: I’m not doing it for anyone else (except when they’re paying me, and even then, they wouldn’t be paying me if I hadn’t cultivated the work without that motivation). I photograph for myself. I write for myself.

So I’m rebooting, on a platform that doesn’t look like the latest cool thing from 2004. I’m aiming to reconnect with my inner motivations, and share information and insights that might help you understand the process. I have business motivations, in that I want clients and potential clients to understand what a thoughtful, committed practitioner I am. But I want to be a presence and an influencer for a slower, more considered, more thoughtful mode of image capture and image consumption, the camera as a mediating presence in becoming more connected with the moment. You’ll know that I’m succeeding if you see less of me on Facebook.

Staying Limber

Alldridge Pt, Alyard Farms entrance to East Sooke Regional Park, Vancouver Island
Alldridge Pt, Vancouver Island

A friend of mine, who’s a professional symphony musician, says this about her craft. If you don’t practice for two days, you notice. If you don’t practice for four days, everybody notices.

This idea is occurring to me as I’m teetering with one foot on a not-so-stable log on a boulder strewn beach, looking for the right relationship between these two shapes and textures beneath me. Every micro adjustment in the viewfinder makes me feel a little different inside, and if I could just get a little more of the light colored shape in the left of the frame to tip a bit more, but to do that I need to hover a couple inches beyond my shaky perch to pull it off, and I’m looking for alternate solutions. I’m also trying not to over think this compositional problem, which is frequently the end of the effort. If it’s coming from the head, the heart has a hard time following. So I keep checking in: how do I feel when I look through the camera? Better? Good. Click.

I make this effort daily. Wherever I am, I work the craft and I post the result on my daily photo blog, Today I Saw, like I have for the past 11 years. This week I’m in an extraordinarily scenic environment, southern Vancouver Island, and I’m a sucker for rocks and trees and water. Trite and well worn this photographic terrain may be, nonetheless, I cut my esthetic teeth on Weston and Strand and White, and I still find personal emotive juice in their groove. I’m not making any profound photographic statements. I’m just chasing photographs where they feel good, to me. It keeps me limber.

The next time I perform on stage, when someone’s paying me to do this work, it’ll be obvious that I haven’t missed the practice.