People are hung up on words

One of the things that continues to bother me about current trends in society is the increasing determination to impart some relevency to words that have completely lost their meaning. Like “Christmas”. Seems that this year the debate and ruckus revolves around whether the traditional pagan symbol of the “Christmas Tree” should be referred to as a “Holiday Tree” instead. I’m not going to get into the “Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays” debacle because it’s all the same silliness.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, not giving presents, although presents were purportedly given to the newborn which probably started the tradition and soon overtook the essential spirit behind the event. Now, I’m not a die-hard Christian, nor a true believer, but I do ascribe to the basic idea of a caring, spiritual, treat-others-as-you-would-have-them-treat-you, way of life. I’m also not getting into any discussion here over the traditional or modern interpretations of Christmas, etc. Essentially, I don’t care what religion is being espoused as long as it doesn’t impinge on my own personal belief system (in other words, don’t come to my door trying to convert me – but that’s another story). See, freedom of choice is one of the foundations of Christianity – in so much as freedom is allowed by a God who demands you obey and believe implicitly or you go to Hell (but that’s also another story).

So, what I (or you) believe, what spiritual meaning I (or you) give to “things”, is in no way shape or form related to how the “thing” is identified by name.

Claude Monet said “To see we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at”.

By relying upon the name of a thing, you tend to fail to look beyond to what it is, how it is, why it is, what it means or represents, how it relates to my/your life or the life of others. A name only serves to separate the thing from other things, to make it easier for people to discuss it and not get confused whether we’re talking about a car or a fork.

The name of a thing is a purely human construct arrived at through millennia of language development. Example: scientific nomenclature for animal and plant species (Latin names). The primary reason Linnaeus came up with this system of classification was because one person shouting “Hey, grab my ferret, will ya?” might not resonate with another who looks right at the animal and does nothing because to them it’s not a ferret, but a “polecat”. I’m sure you can think of many other examples of “common name mix-ups” – diaper/nappy, wagon/trolley, etc.

So, to call a pine tree (insert favorite species here) a Christmas Tree or a Holiday Tree, SDT (standing dead tree), firestarter, or to even boycott a dead tree merchant because their trees are not labeled “properly” is meaningless since most people are only referring to the very outer shell of the thing rather than what it is or symbolizes; which in the Christian sense is not the original meaning of the Yule tree anyway.

And, as far as we know, the tree doesn’t care what you call it, either.

Now for something completely different

If you ever want to test the durability of your camera equipment, photograph a motorcycle hill climb. Especially in the dry, dusty, hot and sweaty conditions of southwest Idaho. These photographs were shot this past summer. There are 2 hills, one run has a length of 250 ft and is the “small” hill. The other is over 460 ft, with the upper 100 or so feet nearly vertical. The top 3 photos are from the small hill and the remaining images are on the big hill. At the end of the day, it looked like I and my camera had just been dug up out of the ground. The motorcycle in the bottom photograph, if you notice, is missing its rider.

As a wildlife biologist and conservationist, this type of activity creates some interesting feelings and internal debates while at the same time fuels my photographic intent of showing the human interaction and connection with nature, however slim, destructive, endearing, or nurturing.

The Elegant Solution

In my photography classes I emphasize the “Keep It Simple” guideline. This guideline comes from many different sources, but I relate it to science, which is my background, and another guideline which is called “The Elegant Solution”. The Elegant Solution is what most researchers strive for. It is the maximum desired effect or explanation for a given phenomenon achieved with the smallest or simplest effort or description. The word elegant implies fine quality, refinement and simplicity.

How does this apply to photography? In composition, primarily, reducing the elements to the simplest arrangement and number creates an uncluttered image, allowing the viewer to easily identify subject, subject matter, meaning, intent, and the relationships among and between the elements shown.

Imagine yourself reading a book. It doesn’t matter what kind of book, technical manual or novel. You’re reading along, getting comfortable with the writing style of the author, taking in the information, letting your imagination meld with the text your brain is assimilating and processing. When photographers really get into the process of creating an image we get into what is called “The Zone”. Our senses and attention are tuned to our surroundings, our concentration is finely focused, our peripheral vision may become restricted and our hearing receptive only to what we’re photographing. We lose track of time and ignore people and other distractions around us. Good books cause this same effect in readers.

Then, all of a sudden, you come across a misspelled or missing word or a sentence that seems very much out of place. Photographers are interrupted by sharp sounds or physical contact or darkness. What happens? You’re jerked back to reality

Copyrighting your photographs

The copyright of a photograph is inherent at the moment the shutter is released and the image recorded (on film or digital sensor). It’s important that photographers are aware of this fact and that even though an item is sold, such as a photographic print, the copyright remains with the original creator unless signed over to another party. Registering your copyright is