Featured / Joe McNally at Samy's

2018 in Less Than a Second

We lead a strange life as photographers. It’s an anxious one, to be sure. We anticipate a job, a moment, a peak of action. We worry endlessly about missing it, without, often times, completely knowing what “it” will be. We have technical stuff to brood over–focus, exposure, lens choice. We see something potentially significant out there in the world, put our camera to our eye, and are about to actually do it right, and our view is blocked by a passing bus. We are shuttered, more than occasionally, from the desired scene by events beyond our control.

“Beyond our control” is an unfortunately accurate, merciless phrase photographers live with constantly. It is part of our lives and ongoing angst, a Sisyphean boulder permanently attached to our slumped and aching shoulders. We don’t control the weather, or, often times, the quality of the light. We rarely are in control of our subjects’ schedules, moods or whims. We are often unable to orchestrate access in an optimized way. The budget rarely approaches the level of what our imagination might be. Remember Han Solo’s rejoinder to the youthful Luke in the first Star Wars, when Luke tells him rescuing the princess would bring a reward that would be, “Well, more than you could imagine?” Han replies, “I don’t know. I can imagine quite a bit.” That’s us. We imagine on a great scale. And it often remains….imagining.

So it goes, as Mr. Vonnegut wrote all those years ago. We fret endlessly about all the attendant difficulties associated with our art and craft. It’s ceaseless. It percolates in the night, intruding into our dreams in an evil fashion, often ruining a night’s sleep. And, the hell of it is, those pre-job worries that vex us are nothing compared to the post-job, moment-I-missed, or things-I-shoulda-done-better purgatory that inevitably awaits us when we launch our cards into the reader. Whoo, boy, that’s when the crankcase of our mind, ego, hopes, and dreams really ruptures, spewing shrapnel through the already thin veneer of our confidence and, potentially, through the even less fortified state of our finances.

And what does all this worry and head shaking self-recrimination come down to after another year behind the camera? Another twelve months, which is 365 days, thus 8760 hours, and therefore 525,600 minutes, which naturally becomes 31,536,000 seconds. That’s a lot of seconds. But the time where we are successful comes down to a very short amount of time–in fact, less than a second, in my case. I’m including in this blog a few favorite frames from last year. The shutters speeds on all of the included pix total less than a second. How is that possible, or even reasonable? Geez, I worried all year–31,536,000 seconds–about pictures that took less than a second to make! I suspect that is true for many of us, that time frame unless we are out there consistently shooting time-lapse or nightscapes.

If only we could confine our worry and self-doubt to an equivalently short period of time!

Not possible. See, the mental ping-pong we play in our heads. “I suck, I don’t suck. I suck, I don’t suck,” is with us, always. But it’s worth it, right? Because the rewards are the pictures. We often fail, that is a given. But when we click well when the elements concur, and the photo gods smile, and the light is good, and the technical sparks are flying, and the lens is right, and that photo we came for is made….well, then it’s all worth it. At those moments, as my high school basketball coach used to say, “The sun don’t shine on a dog’s rear end every day, but today it’s shining on yours!”

These are a few moments the sun shone on my, uh, well, lens, this past year. The shutter speeds added up to less than a second. The pictures, and the memories of making them, thankfully, last longer.

Mary Karr. Good friend, sublime, funny, brutally honest writer who has taken the art form of memoir to searing, painful, delightful, acerbic, wondrous heights…..

Shot with D850

Havana, Cuba….Josie’s kitchen. Started photographing dancers in the ’70s, and have yet to tire of it.

Shot with D850

The sublime streets of Havana….old cars (made of steel, perfect to perch someone on) and a ballerina.

Shot with D850

Vegas, Monster Jam Truck Championships. Krysten Anderson suits up to drive the 2,000 plus horsepower Grave Digger truck.

Shot with D5

The embodiment of a wonderful teacher, Sallie B. Howard. Sadly, she passed on very soon after this was made, at the age of 102. Just an amazing lady.

Shot with D850

The lavender fields of France. Colors and lines……

Shot with D850

Pictures from the planet Z! Happily got caught up in the efforts surrounding the launch of the Nikon mirrorless camera, the Z7.

Shot with Z 7

The open plains, with my dear friend, Nancy DeSantis.

Shot with Z 7

The indomitable Margaret Sellars, aged 90, holding the ID card she received on Ellis Island at the age of 2, when she came to America.

Shot with Z 7

Les Goodson at the Paris Blues Club, Harlem, NYC.

Shot with Z 7

And a quick lighting demo, on the streets of London, for Nikon UK.

Shot with Z 7

Will continue to seek more slivers of a second this year. And, no doubt, I’ll continue to worry about it, all the time. Best to all….more tk…

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