Monday, May 07, 2007

COLUMN: Photography

"You can be anything you want to be, if you put your mind to it!" That over-used adage was a frequent flyer at the Brown household when I was growing up. And that sagely nugget of wisdom, alongside heaps of encouragement from the World's Greatest Parents, is probably the main reason why I can be a sales rep AND a columnist AND a club DJ at the same time. I DID put my mind to it, and I DID become whatever I wanted to be. What a great life lesson.

And that, kids, concludes the "Reading is Fundamental" portion of this week's column. Now hand the newspaper back to mom and dad and go wash up, alrighty?

Okay, parents. Have the kids stopped reading? Good, because now we can talk. We all know the "be-anything-you-want" bit is a giant load of hooey, right? Otherwise, I'd be Mr. Katie Holmes right about now and getting paid millions to sit and watch TV all day. The REAL phrase should be something like this:

"You can be anything you want to be* (*except for a bunch of stuff that you're bound to be totally inept at.)"

The truth has revealed itself harshly over the years. It started in middle school. It was band sign-up, and I wanted to play the trumpet. My mommy told me I can be whatever I want to be, and I want to be the guy who plays the horn so fierce that my cheeks poof out like Louie Armstrong. "Sorry," Mr. Band Nazi said, "your cheeks aren't poofy enough and your lips aren't shaped right to play a trumpet. Here, go bang on this drum instead."

And so it began. Can't be an astronaut 'coz I get sick on a Tilt-a-Whirl. Can't be a beekeeper 'coz I'm allergic. Can't be a supermodel coz... well, coz I'm SO painfully sexy that it would be unfair and cruel to all other aspiring male models. And now there's another one I can cross off the list:

I've always wanted to be a great photographer. Not gonna happen.

I have a friend who has the world's greatest eye behind a lens. Seriously. She can go on vacation and point-and-click a roll where EVERY shot could be an album cover. I, meanwhile, am the only photographer I know of capable of making the Rocky Mountains look UGLY.

My folks wanted to foster my early love for photography, so I was the first kid on our block to have my very own camera. I've still got some of those old pictures, too -- they're in an album I like to call "Gallery of the Headless." There I was, capturing on film every person who shaped my upbringing, and, without fail, chopping off their heads. It's a cavalcade of torsos. Actually, there's ONE picture in which I managed to fit in frame both the subject AND her head - it's one I like to call "7 Year Old Shane Surprises Mom on the Toilet."

Almost 30 years later, I'm still inept at taking pics. So what's a photo idiot like me to do? Take a class? Buy a book? Naw. If I stink at photography, it must be the CAMERA'S fault, right? That's why I blew my tax return on a fancy new digital SLR. Well, not a FANCY one, because I didn't realize how much cameras cost these days. Another photographer buddy of mine recommended a model, which sounded great -- until I went to the store and saw the $2200 price tag.

$2200? For a CAMERA? Are you KIDDING me? If I'm spending $2200 on a camera, I expect that camera to, at the very least, see through the clothing of attractive women. No X-ray powers? I'll take the basic model, then, thanks.

And with my new camera, soon all of you would be basking in the wonder of my artsy-ness. Too bad, then, that it then spent the entire week raining. Ergo, the debut of my wonderful new camera was spent taking exactly 187 pictures of my housecats, whose retinas may never be the same again.

Still, though, it's a start. When the rain cleared, my friend Jason and I took the camera out on a day-long test drive in the country. I took a LOT of pictures -- towns, rivers, flowers, nature, whatever -- and some of 'em are actually kinda good. I was almost getting confident about my photo-taking ability until Jason fixed that for me:

"Dude, why do you hold the camera so dorky?"

What? I can't even HOLD the camera right? Instead of looking through the viewfinder straight on, apparantly I turn my head to the left. To me it makes sense -- my nose doesn't get scrunched up against the back of the camera, and it affords my eye a perfect fit on the viewfinder. And, apparantly, looks super dorky.

But you know what? I don't care. I may not be Ansel Adams, but I still have fun trying. So I'm not giving up. Maybe I still CAN be whatever I want to be if I put my mind to it. Maybe I WILL go buy a book on photography and learn how to compose a decent pic. Keep your eyes on my blog - if I start taking masterful photos, I'll post them. Until then, SAY CHEESE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOL! My grandma still can't take pics and she usually blames the camera as well. We have pics with the tops of our heads cut off... missing body parts... Whole photo albums of pictures... We're talking hundreds of pictures here. She has gotten better but on most occasions, she hands over the camera to someone else to take pics at family functions so she knows she has a good chance of ending up with a few decent ones.

BTW, to avoid the dorky head-cocked-to-the-side-so-my-nose-isn't-squished pose, try one of those nifty cameras with a digital screen instead of a viewfinder. Even a poor grad student like me can afford one of those!

Have a great week!