While my camera was away getting cleaned and fixed up, I did a lot of thinking about photography. I will be the first to admit that I was a little melodramatic about my camera's absence, but it's really and truly part of me. A day rarely goes past in which I don't use it; I'm a little hard on the hardware, to be sure, but that's a trade-off I'm willing to make. (And! PSA: all those scuffs and dents you see in that picture? All part of my $5.99 UVA filter that protects the lens. If you don't have one... well, please get one.)
My parents let me "be a photographer" from an early, early age, so cameras have never been scary or overwhelming to me. I don't think I took a whole lot of actual pictures, but the act of being trusted with a camera definitely made an impact.
I think my photo philosophy can be summarized in three points:
1. Always try to take the best picture you can for the situation. I love taking pictures that are technically just right, that have strong composition, that are crisp and focused in all the right ways—and much of the time, those are the characteristics I want most. But sometimes the situation doesn't allow for technical perfection, good composition, focus... and I take those pictures anyway, because not taking those pictures would be a shame. I am not really concerned with sharing only the photos that pass the perfect photos test here on this blog, because I don't really care if all the photos pass that test. When I teach photography workshops I always hear from people who are really frustrated that their photo vision does not meet their photo reality, and this is, in fact, a valid problem—no one should have to experience constant disappointment from what results when the shutter clicks. But working to improve photo quality is one thing, and letting go the desire to be the perfect photographer, every time is something entirely different. Sometimes the best picture for the situation is the one that's beloved, no matter what.
2. The best camera is the one that's with you.™ I'm borrowing this one from master photographer Chase Jarvis. Before I went camera-less for 17 days, I liked this idea but had never lived it, really—of course I've missed photos over the years because my camera was at home, but I had never gone that long without my camera being accessible. It's absolutely, positively true, though—borrowing Maddie's or Gracie's camera or Matt's iPad meant I had to let go of a certain expectation of camera capability in exchange for the memory; a 17 day lapse in pictures during this year of Project 365 would have been a terrible loss, especially. It's a good reminder that the capture is the bottom line, and everything else is negotiable. Whether you believe in documenting life on a daily basis or less frequently, it still applies—take the picture without worry that the camera you have isn't good enough. It is.
The one and only time Matt or I have ever met ANYONE with the last name Dillow who wasn't related to us by blood or marriage was at the Loveland gymnastics meet two weeks ago. And of course, I didn't have my camera. But I sure am glad I didn't let that get in the way.
3. "I love playing with photos and making one picture speak many languages." This is a comment my friendly neighbor/neighborly friend Melissa left on a Write.Click.Scrapbook. giveaway last year—she might not even remember she said it, but it made a huge impact on me because it put into words why I love photo processing: photos might be handcolored or black and white, digitally enhanced for color or filtered for effect... whatever is done (or not done) to a photo allows it to communicate a certain feeling. It's why I don't sweat the whole Instagram/Hipstamatic trend too much, because sometimes I LIKE photos that remind me of standing next to my Grandma, Uncle George, and Aunt Alice. Sometimes I want my children to remember things through the same partially brilliant/partially faded point of view. Sometimes I can make a wonderful memory captured with a technically poor photo into something that feels like art, and sometimes I can remove all the color and just focus on the shades of gray. I know many people don't have the time for such frippery as listening to photos by the hundreds trying to get a sense of what language they speak best, but to me it's tied into what I want to remember. One picture can have a whole lot of stories in it depending on what you do to it. And of course, that's why I have a camera in the first place: it's my brain's backup hard drive.