Photography?

What is Photography?  According to Wikipedia, Photography is the science, art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film.

That is as good as an explanation as I can give.  To a journalist or street photographer, it may merely be a medium used to capture and document a scene.  To a landscape photographer, it may be more of an art used to evoke an emotion.

I, for example, take photographs, not pictures.  Pictures are selfies and snapshots you or I may take throughout the day.  Photographs belong on a wall.  They are either art or documentation of a time, scene and/or event that can’t be captured again.  A simple example of this would be wedding photographs.  The wedding of two people usually only happens once, so it is important to not only capture it, but to save the prints.  If and when the digital world ever crashes, it may be all you have left.

There are scientific elements, of course, but after doing it for years, I do it without thinking.  There is the exposure triangle to help you with ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed, but at this point in my career, I can look up at the sky and know where my settings need to be without thinking.  That took years of making mistakes.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  An overexposed photograph has happened to the best of us.

Then there is the composition element of a photograph.  There is the rule of thirds, leading lines, and symmetry to name but a few.  They are important to learn in order to be respected by your peers, but once you learn them and prove you know them, you can break them.  I enjoy breaking rules.  🙂

The image below, for example, is moody but far from perfect.  It is unbalanced.  Think of content you see as weight.  If you put that weight on a scale, it would tip to the left.

The composition in the next photograph is perfect, but it doesn’t have the soul (Does that even make sense?) of the previous photo and it doesn’t evoke emotion.

The last photo in this series is from Inch beach in County Kerry, Ireland.  It is a special photograph to me, because I was there and it helps me remember that day and the fun we had running down the beach.  One similar to this sold within a day of publishing it, so the place is special and I got all the elements correct that day.

Photography, like any other medium or anything in life, is what you make of it and how hard you work towards improving your craft.  I’ll be doing a post every week focusing on Photography.  My life is full of ironies.  I’m a photographer with one eye and a podcaster with one ear.  Life is entertaining.  🙂

Meeting Martin McGuinness

It was a warm and dry October afternoon, a rarity in Northern Ireland, when I met Martin McGuinness in Writers Square area of Belfast. I arrived late amidst a sea of revellers, rallying against Tory cuts. After the rally finished, I shook hands and spoke to Mr. McGuinness as he and his entourage were trying to leave.

He looked tired, but his smile was still as bright as ever. At first he thought I was a local, but once he realised I was an American, he humorously wanted to know what I was doing listening to a rally about Tory cuts and suggested sights to see.  I said I was just a curious ‘Merkan. He laughed and was sped off by his crew. I wanted to do a story about him, but I never could crack the media blockade at Stormont, and I only had a few days left in the North.

There was a time years ago, when I idolized McGuinness and Adams for their leadership and resistance during the Troubles. The older and wiser man I met that day was more calculative and kind than the fiery young man that joined the Provisional IRA out of a sense of duty and necessity.

McGuinness had a hard time when running for President of the Republic of Ireland in 2011. He came in third place behind Michael D Higgins and Seán Gallagher. Higgins won the presidency and is the current President of RoI. Martin was lambasted by the press and pundits who never understood the struggle, some of which never set foot in the North. But, that is the case when running for public office.

The political party, Sinn Féin, is a democratic socialist party. Since the term “Socialist” makes me cringe and is an affront to freedom, I can’t support it. But, due to my long relationship with people in Belfast and the Short strand area, I do understand the mindset. Regardless of our political differences, I do support a United Ireland. It was one of his greatest hopes.

If I would have been born in the Bog Side around the same time as him, I might have taken a similar path. He made mistakes, and he went to prison for his crimes. In later years, he worked hard towards peace in Northern Ireland. He and Ian Paisley worked together towards peace, two men of different faiths that once hated each other.

While walking through the short strand one afternoon, I met a man that summed it up perfectly. He said that if he’d been born on this side of the wall, referring to the Catholic enclave within Loyalist East Belfast , he would’ve fought for Provos, if he’d been born on the other side, he would’ve fought for the UVF.   Religion played a role in the troubles, but it was not the defining factor.

Martin was a product of the Troubles and tirelessly worked to mend fences with Unionist and other foes from that era. In fact, a large group of Unionist are now favouring a United Ireland. Only time will tell what will happen regarding the North. As an American, all I can do is watch and wish them all well. I hope for a United Ireland where Catholics and Protestants are happy in one country on the isle of Eire. It may never come to fruition, but there’s no harm in dreaming.

Rest in peace, Mr. McGuinness.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall