Back in 2009, Apple trademarked the sentence & concept There’s An App for That and the phrase was soon turned into a counter-culture joke. Fast forward to today, and in photography, as in almost any arena I can think of, the joke’s on the counter-culture. Because there really is an app for whatever you can imagine.
Sunset, sunrise, check. Frame lines, check. Exposure, long exposure, multiple exposures, check. Retouching, check. Presets, check. Sharing, check. Ergonomic tweaks, check. Noise reduction, check … you get my drift, check.
Next to this deluge of app-based functionality, we also have access to unprecedented information about the best places to shoot. Starting with the best guides ever conceived by Man, our very own InSight Guides (they are so good, they make me question the fact that we are really only human), and all the way to dedicated websites (shothotspot.com), other dedicated guides, apps, yes, more apps (OneOfAKind, Stuck on Earth …), literally billions of geotagged photographs in Flickr, 500px and other photo sharing social media, dedicated articles (Top 35 Places to Shoot in California …), and – if you’re the adventurous type – articles about scouting your locations (How to Scout Photography Locations, 5 Creative Ways to Find New Locations to Photograph …)
So, if you’re not finding the best locations, light conditions and settings for successful shots, you’re just a pathetic loser !!!!
Just like me 🙂
Oh, so this is just DearSusan being facetious again, right ?
This is about defending another worldview.
This is about letting go and, most importantly, about getting lost.
Right from a young age, we are taught how to prearrange our lives, our work, even our deaths.
What would you prefer for Christmas, a personal organiser or a free ride to a place you don’t know ?
Have you ever made the sudden decision “let’s go eat at XXXX’s tonight” only to find out that XXXX is booked 3 weeks in advance ?
Have you ever been tempted by a last-minute trip to the US to photograph the eclipse, only to find that travel and accommodation is not going to be that easy ?
Everything in our lives has to be defined, specified, paid-for and organised in advance. There’s tremendous security in that.
But getting lost, in many ways, is one of our few remaining shreds of true freedom.
What do I do during my hols? I get lost. As often as possible.
I stumble upon the unexpected. Sometimes crappy, sometimes glorious.
London, ironically, is still a wonderful place for me to get lost, after nearly 50 years of visiting several times a year. I cannot remember a visit where I haven’t discovered little alleyways, shortcuts, unexpected gardens inside corporate buildings, derelict abbeys …
This was also my main activity during a recent 3-day jaunt in the Alps. It’s actually pretty hard to get lost in a valley 😉 But the hills are full of little gems known only to regulars and locals. Such as this most extraordinary restaurant called Le Bercail, run by two uber-foodies in an unexpected 7000 foot-high paradise, rather than in a large city where official plan-your-food-life guides would rush to stick stars to the chef’s hat. Had I followed the map, I’d have not gotten lost. Had I googled it, I’d have seen the poor ratings this place gets from hurried ski-nuts in the winter-time, and skipped it altogether.
The same is true of many photographic opportunities that would have disappeared in the process of planning for shots that :
(1) may simply have never materialised, the weather not cooperating, for instance
(2) do not represent reality the way I see it
(3) bore the heck out of me
As all pastimes, photography can be considered from many angles : a tech race, a gas outlet, a hanging-out-with-buddies opportunity, an ego contest, a quality-maximisation process, or a liberating live-in-the-moment, agenda-free, process of discovery. The latter is the favourite, for yours truly, who finds himself in a distinct minority, here.
How do you maintain this process of discovery ?
My guess is there isn’t a strategy for that. Over the years, a mix of laziness and deliberate reflection has led me to this no tagging, no backup strategy, no preorganised route, no notes … approach. I mostly make photographs, publish some of them here, create a few family albums there, and move to the next trip.
I realise the horror this might be to those who cherish their shots and memories. Having lost many, many of my previous photographs (including almost all of those of my kids growing up) thanks to the lousy quality of early backup media, I realised you not only survive the loss but don’t really care all that much. There’s always another shot out there tomorrow, and the few shots that really matter, you print or save in a more professional manner.
So yeah, why not try photography differently ? I’m not suggesting you deliberately avoid anything described as worthwhile on a map. But, every now and then, why not accept the challenge of finding and losing, of capturing and letting go. It’s soo liberating. Really, I’m telling you in the kindest possible way, get lost 😉
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