My camera shop, Berger Brothers, the store that educates, represented yet another opportunity to meet a well accomplished photographer, one of National Geographic’s fame, a Pulitzer Prize winner, Jay Dickman.
I needed to maneuver around a couple of other promises, reschedule my week-end plans slighty, as I wanted in! I was advised by the camera shop that one does not need to be a professional photographer to attend just to be able to handle his/her own camera. I can fake it, I said, I can fake it! I’m in!
About twenty camera wielding photographers joined together with him last Friday night for a two-hour freeform lecture and a Saturday morning photo session in a local botanical gardens.
Jay had a clear vision and keen eye for everything he photographs. And he explained it to us; ”Photo engages, it’s all about the moment.” Watching his photos on PowerPoint we went over the important rules of photography; composition, the light, the flash, the exposure. He had a way to put the scenes simply in front of our eyes, yet leading us into the picture and letting us find more elements of surprise, the story. We had questions, he answered with great knowledge and humor. He clearly loved what he does! His extended travel experience with the magazine had let him experience the Asian jungles, the icebergs and animals of Antarctica, the cheetahs of Africa. The people, the cowboys and nature of American South West was prominently present as he resides in Colorado. As a National Geographic Photographer, he has to capture the topic without doing any changes to the photos, no cropping, no changing light, nada! To be published it has to be as seen with his eyes on the spot! Years of experience has sharpened his “sense of place”, his way of telling the story. Demanding, but at the age of photoshopping the magazine represents the true wonders of the world to its readers. Being there without actually getting there. Step into the picture, step into the adventure!
Saturday morning, in a light drizzle, we gathered at the botanical garden. We scattered apart, we got together. We changed partners and stories and experiences. We moved around looking for plants and scenery. We stopped to talk with Jay, asked questions. “What is the best camera?” “ The one you have with you, when you want to take a picture! Get to know it!” He only carried one camera with him, Olympus, and a small shoulder bag, half the size of some knapsacks that most people carry with them. No questions were trivial to him (I know, since he listened to mine) and nothing was left unanswered. Technical camera knowledge of any kind was not strange to him either. Everyone was like a sponge, we wanted to hear more, learn more. And we just wanted to talk with him. We wanted be surrounded by his charisma, let him awe us, let him open our eyes to the beauty around us! I believe I was star stuck. Intoxicated even! Three hours flew away too fast!
We learned that understanding the elements of narrative in photography, is THE key. Sensing the place, introducing the players, understanding the detail, so we can capture the moment and get closure. A true photograph lasts a lifetime!
P.S. I photoshopped the heck out of my pictures, but I’m sure I will learn, I promise, I will learn.