Thursday, October 28, 2010
Surf philosophy: Dynamicism
When I surf regularly I often look at Surfline to check the forecast to see what's going on with the water before I head out. For those of you that don't know I surf, well I surf. But even if you do know that I surf, what you might not know is that surfing to me is a way of life for me that reflects my core values in ways that I can't even begin to express... values that go beyond conservationism and driving a Prius.
I don't consider myself a very intuitive person. I can't guess heads or tails to save my life. However, watching the water for waves helps me cultivate a "sight beyond sight" that helps me with photography/retouching.
For example, when I light I don't use a light meter. There are no fixed ratios, playbooks, diagrams, rules, etc. Sure I have "habits" if you will, but most of the time I don't make the decision on how to light until I see the model in the wardrobe. Sure I have ideas and things that I want to try and there are days that I simply experiment with something I haven't done before. But for me, nothing is set in stone until I do it.
When I retouch, it's the same way. I don't go into an image knowing exactly how it's going to look when I'm done. I suppose you could say I feel my way through. Or you could say I'm wired like a parallel circuit as opposed to a series circuit. For example, when I make an change to a layers adjustment, it usually means I have to make several other changes to my other layer adjustments to either compensate or complement the original change. I don't follow steps or have any certain guideline or specific routine. I do what I deem is necessary for a particular image.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I work very dynamically. Look, I'm all for planning and pre-production and preparation but the more you plan, the more tethered you are to your ideas/ideals and the more stubborn you'll be about letting go of those preconceptions. Life is dynamic. Shit happens. Things don't always go your way. I'm a big believer in being prepared but I'd be kidding myself if I thought that things would just go according to plan :)
I suppose that's what being tossed around like a rag-doll does for me. The ocean is an emotionless force of nature that answers to no one. By entering the water, you're automatically waiving all rights to sue for damages and bodily harm incurred. Going surfing with any preconception of what you're "going to do" is like a donkey trying to walk a monkey on a leash. What happens is that the monkey is actually walking the donkey, and it turns out you're the ass on the end of that leash :)
You don't have your way with the water. The water has its way with you.
Can you prepare? Sure. Breath-training. Cross-training. Swimming. All those things help you interact better with the water. But you'll never control the water. Control is an illusion. You're never in control. You're at best, going with the flow. At worst, you're in the path of destruction and 100,000 gallons of water are about to swallow you whole.
People and shoots in general are like that. The more rigid you are about a specific anything, a stance, an idea, a look, a set, the less you're in tune with the pulse of the shoot. Perhaps it's different for stylists (but I'll bet it's not!) but a photographer has to be able to accommodate any random occurrence of randomness at the drop of a dime. On Sunday, my White Lightning wasn't working with the Vagabond. I gave it 5 minutes before I gave up and shot with ambient light. I can't be hung up on a light not working, the shoot goes on with or without lights. In post-processing most images don't accommodate the presets/templates I have already created so I have to start from scratch and build the adjustments from the beginning.
Life is dynamic. The world doesn't stop turning because a single item on your list isn't checked or crossed-off. As far as I'm concerned having a playbook for a shoot is necessary... but only in the sense that it gives you a starting point and a general sense of direction. The real planning that comes into play is all the practice, the sweat/blood/tears, the experimentation, and pure experiences that come from weeks/months/years of training. Those are the things you rely on when you're dodging particles of shit spraying out from the fan.
So dance like a monkey so you don't smell like an ass ;P