“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange

The photography age we are living in is a wondrous thing. With all of the filters and technology at our disposal, we can render photographs in ways that the pioneers of the medium never dreamed of. There are endless choices we can make in the editing process. However, the downside can be that we are not really encountering the thing we are seeing. I want to be clear. There is nothing wrong with utilizing apps to enhance or even recreate our vision. It would be like saying you can’t use man-made colors to a painter. But what can happen is that in our quest to stand out, to be clever, to get noticed we can fall into a “fix it in photoshop” mentality and miss the delicious experience of simply seeing. We risk losing the joyous connection to what inspired us to raise our cameras in the first place.

Yesterday, I picked out some oyster mushrooms at the Thursday farmer’s market at City Roots for dinner. These tasty mushrooms are beautiful sculptures in their own right and I knew I wanted to try to capture them with my camera. I also knew they would be a perfect black and white subject, with those beautiful textural lines and nearly white bodies. I have a window in my studio that I placed them in front of, on a piece of black foam core set on my table. I knelt down to make myself eye level with them and was dumbstruck by the play of light snaking its way through their curvaceous bodies. I didn’t have a lot of time – I was making these for dinner after all! I took the pictures with my iPhone 7+ with the silvertone filter set. This is a beautiful thing about the marriage of technology and aesthetic choices – You can capture black and white while SEEING it as a black and white image while you are taking the picture. I find this super helpful on a lot of levels:

1) I can really focus on my subject and the play of lights and darks on it and around it.
2) It trains your eyes to begin to notice what is a good subject for black and white.
3) You get to eat dinner quicker.

But seriously, what I’m trying to get at is that photography is a whole body experience, not just a visual one. It is experiencing and witnessing to the extraordinary in the ordinary. Sometimes if you are too absorbed in all of your post production apps, you can miss the simple beauty of this momentary encounter.

Tubas©Kathryn Van Aernum

Tubas©Kathryn Van Aernum

 

Coral Reef©Kathryn Van Aernum

Coral Reef©Kathryn Van Aernum

Having been a diver when I lived in Florida, the labyrinthian nature of these mushrooms conjured up images of coral reefs. The humorous side of my nature sees them as Tubas. What do you see?


If you want to have a more satisfying relationship with your picture making please join me for my upcoming 4-week class starting September 8, 2018, “The Contemplative Photographer” at the Columbia Art Center. Click Here for more information.


Kathryn Van Aernum is a teacher, speaker and artist. In addition to her passionate interest in photography, she works with people who have buried their creative soul in the daily grind and helps them reclaim their creative confidence so they can thrive in their work and beyond. You can find out more about her coaching at her other location on the web: kathrynvanaernum.com