Since I almost always have a camera on me, I’ve become the default family event photographer. This is often a neat position to have but it gets risky when people start assuming that I’ll get the shot.
For general events and parties, this isn’t an issue. There’s never an incident around which the entire event hinges. But some events happen to be based around specific moments which are important to capture. Though I’m at the event to be at the event, not just record it, it’s become my responsibility to get the important shots.
I’ve been both lucky and good so far. In two baptisms I’ve gotten the important shot by waving a camera in auto-everything mode above my head. I’ve also been confident (or stupid) enough to take my digital SLR and its dodgy focus-confirmation system with fully-manual lenses to a number of can’t-miss events such as graduations or even my son’s birth.
I’m much more comfortable just taking candids of friends or family members at an event than I am having to take the photograph. At the same time, I have to admit that I’m probably the most-skilled person for the job so, if I don’t do it, there’s a good chance it doesn’t get done well, if at all. Just don’t ask me to do any weddings…
I just spent a week in Vegas. No gambling. No shows. No shopping. No girls. No late nights. Barely any drinking (only with meals). Though I did eat a lot of red meat.
Because of the timing of my conference (6AM to 7PM), I wasn’t expecting to take many photos either. However, I couldn’t help going out for a wander before the conference started each day. There are not many people out and about between 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning and Vegas looks a lot different when it’s all empty and half of the neon is inactive.
Until last week, my Vegas experience was limited to a couple layovers at McCarran. While I’ll admit to a certain curiosity about the place, it’s never been a destination whose appeal I ever really understood. When I travel, I use the hotel as a place to sleep and, otherwise, try to stay out of it as much as possible. I just don’t understand the concept of a mega-resort where I’m actively discouraged from leaving the hotel.
So in some ways, it’s probably a good thing I was staying at the Treasure Island with the rest of the employees working the show rather than at the Wynn where the show actually was.
At the Wynn, the in-resort mall features a Cartier outlet. The Treasure Island has a store called Bling—Cubic Zirconia. This comparison exemplifies the difference between the two venues. It also pretty much covers what’s wrong with Vegas. You can either spend a ton of money on truly nice items or you can waste your time with gaudy knockoffs of the real thing.
Venice with clean water.
Paris with buildings taller than 20 meters
New York + rollercoasters
And these are just the fake cities. There also are fake castles, pyramids, volcanos, and pirate ships—gimmickry which just doesn’t rub me the right way. Being at the Treasure Island with its silly pirate show and dingy grounds* forced me to go out and wander. At one of the classy/nice resorts like the Wynn, I would indeed be tempted to spend the entire time in the hotel.
*The hallways smell of stale margarita mix and cigarettes. And abandoned martini or high-ball glasses stay out on tables all night long.
Besides my early morning excursions, I did also go out at night. Fewer photos though since it’s more crowded and I was only carrying the kit lens.
I originally wrote this for our private, family-based blog but it’s relevant here as well.
One of the supposed disadvantages to shooting film is how it doesn’t mesh with the instant-gratification, instant-upload nature of the rest of our online lives. When everyone else can share photos within a day of taking them, waiting weeks or months to finish the roll, get it developed, and then scanned is an unnecessary amount of work.
This, however, is a large part of what I enjoy about shooting film. Especially when it comes to family/kid photos. It’s too easy to get caught up in the now and the new—just spending our time documenting and sharing each new development as it occurs. The time-delay of film forces me to remember and reflect.
From my most-recent roll.
Wearing the jean jacket he got from his Grandma for Christmas
Enjoying the sunny day
Busy busy busy
With each of these, I’m forced to remember when I took it and figure out what was going on. There’s no EXIF information to help me. No time stamps or geotag information to give me hints. Part of the joy with looking through family photo albums is telling the stories that accompany the photos. Shooting film forces me to open that time capsule each time I finish a roll.
The company I work for was running a photo contest. There was even a decent prize for the winner: $1000 and the photograph would be displayed on the building.
Placeholder photo showing where the contest winner would displayed
I didn’t enter.
I didn’t even seriously consider entering.
Yet when the finalists were announced today, my reaction was disappointment followed by incredulity.
“Is that the best we can do?”
“I can totally do better than 60% of those”
But I don’t regret not entering. I’m just trying to articulate why I stayed out. I also suspect that I’m not the only photographer at the company who abstained and I wouldn’t be surprised if the others did so for similar reasons.
- Rights grab. Even entering the contest required me to surrender all rights to my photo.
- I have not yet drunk enough of the corporate kool aid to do things just for recognition from my coworkers or management.
- It was patently obvious what kind of photos the company wanted. This wasn’t truly a “submit your best shot” contest. Everyone knew that bright, colorful, and exciting images were going to win. Especially because we specialize in color printing and want to show off that technology.
- Designer integrity. Given the requirements, this amounted to a design-on-spec job. I refuse those on principle.
- Artistic integrity. Sure, I could have selected a generic sunrise/sunset photo whose rights I don’t care about and see what happened. But anything worth publishing is something I want to actually care about.
Also, I’m too much of a wise ass. For a corporate contest, I’d be unable to refrain from submitting something taken at work. Granted, I have plenty of nice, colorful, examples from work.
However, when I saw the contest, one photo immediately came to mind. And it was perfect. Except it was completely not going to win.
So why bother surrendering the rights to it?
Yup, a black and white photo of the company parking lot.
And yes, I know that properly printing black and white using full-color inks is as hard (if not harder) than printing nice color. But that’s not what we’re selling.