By Brian Graves
Everyone needs a creative outlet. I prefer music, but am a spectacular failure when it comes to actually playing an instrument. My gift for off-key notes and absent rhythms knows no bounds and has led me on a misguided path through woodwinds and strings, acoustic to electric and back again.
Enter the camera. While this is not your typical instrument in the musical sense of the word, it is most certainly an instrument and it captures the beautiful music of life. I apologize for the extended metaphor that awaits you in the sentences ahead ... consider this fair warning.
I was originally drawn to photography as a means of capturing and sharing the wonderful harmonies that exist in the natural world in the absence of human presence. There is something immediately soothing in the simple cadence of aqua waves advancing and retreating along an endless expanse of white sand. A red-tailed hawk swirling around the top of a mountain presents a visual crescendo as it soars on thermals, a pod of dolphins punctuate the waves' chords in perfect tempo. To me, nature is a constant visual symphony.
This idea was quite a revelation; in my early days of shooting I would have explained my motivation as a combination of boredom and angst. The fact that I continue to pursue photography several years later is a testament to my claim that there was (and is) something more. My subjects now include people, architecture and action series, but I always find myself being drawn back to natural landscapes, particularly the ocean.
Most of you will understand when I confess that I don't know why something is right, but it 'just feels right' and that is validation enough. I could say that time seems to slow, [auditory] sounds fade to the background, thoughts of the office disappear along with the to-do list, and the pure scene emerges from the haze of the everyday. Colors become notes, patterns chords, the lighting sets the pitch and movement is the tempo. Some stars are probably aligning as well, but since I usually shoot during the day, I cannot really support that claim.
To capture the precise moment, I find it crucial to use a digital SLR for the absent shutter lag and high frames per second. My camera of choice is a Canon 20D that I bought a couple of years ago, though this year's Christmas list will undoubtedly include the Canon 5D. For tack-sharp, distortion-free photos I use the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS and Canon 17-40 f/4L lenses topped with B+H filters.
My best photos are on my website, My 1000 Words. Unfortunately, the website has taken a back seat to photography, so keep checking back often for updates. I also post many photos to my pages on Flickr, BetterPhoto , and Picasa. A few of my shots from a recent rodeo are in a video on CowboySpirit.org, but primarily my photos reside on the walls of my house and my friends' desktop backgrounds. With any luck, a series or two might make it into a coffee shop or gallery near you.
Disclaimer: More than likely, the musical terms or ideas I presented are outrageously inaccurate - remember, I am a spectacular failure - but I hope the sentiment is not lost. If you can't play, at least listen.
Ed. Note: Brian was born in Chelmsford and spent his formative years in Boxborough. He now lives and works in Maynard, a situation he describes as “slightly disappointing since it is about 5 minutes from where I grew up. This is not for lack of trying, however. In 2003 I set across the country with the loose goal of living somewhere between San Francisco and Seattle, targeted Portland, then ended up overshooting it and living in the quiet coastal town of Cannon Beach, Oregon (where I really fell in love with photography). Life is a circle, though, and I now rent an apartment with my fiancee and our dog Ramsey - who could very well qualify as a child.” Brian is a graphics specialist for Epsilon Associates, an environmental consulting firm, but would like to pursue photography as a career some day.
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Life and wildlife in Madagascar