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Balancing the Rational and the Intuitive Mind

Leica M6 camera and Leica 21mm f2.8 Elmarit lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

“The rational mind is the servant and the intuitive mind is the gift. We honor the servant and have forgotten the gift.”

Albert Einstein

I believe this quote is of paramount importance to aspiring photographers. More and more technique seems to dominate our education and equipment our photographic practice. Software companies release so-called major upgrades to their product around every 18 months. Likewise camera manufactures launch new feature-heavy and megapixel-laden cameras on a similar timeline. Some folks barely get their head around these new products before new ones are released onto the market.

In the case of the camera most are so overcome by complex interfaces and a plethora of options that they set their camera to one of the auto settings and use it, pretty much, like a point and shoot camera. Photoshop is no easier for the novice to comprehend than was the case with previous versions. Thank goodness for products like Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture which, unlike Photoshop, are designed primarily for photographers, both professional or enthusiast. After a little quality tuition the user is well on the way to producing excellent results without too much trouble.

But is it necessary to buy new software, computers and cameras and, for that matter, mobile phones every 18-24 months? The manufacturers want us to believe it is. And their marketing program uses the old features/benefits approach to convincing us that we’d be much better off with the new product. Despite the obvious financial implications of buying into this philosophy, is it the right action to take? I live in Melbourne, Australia where it’s said that inner city apartments are now in line with New York prices. Many aspiring homeowners may actually be better off putting their money into their deposit/home loan. The alternative might be to upgrade 1 or 2 items every 2 years, rather than trying to replace the lot within the same time frame. While not feasible for most professional photographers, amateurs and enthusiasts may find it worth considering.

Frequent followers to this blog would be aware that I’ve been posting photos from my new Apple 3Gs iPhone, more of which will follow tomorrow. But what you don’t know is that I had my last mobile phone for around 5 years. It was a top of the line model and well built. I bought it to last and looked after it. I only upgraded when the old phone died, quite a radical behavior in our contemporary throw away culture. You could never hold me up as being a slave to fashion.

I have, however, bought and sold cameras much more frequently than I should have. I’m writing a follow up article, which I’II publish next week listing all the cameras and lenses I’ve owned and my reasons for purchasing them. There are no world-records or bragging involved, but I hope the article will help folks make sense of the psychology behind their own purchasing habits. Who knows it might even save you some money.

The theme of this article underpins much of my own philosophy towards photography. We have to balance our rational mind, which is associated with logic, technique and equipment with our intuitive mind, which is free, creative and experience driven. The most boring photographs are often well exposed, sharp and made with great equipment. The most beautiful photographs often have little to do with the equipment or any traditional photographic techniques. They are not about the subject photographed, but about the photographer’s experience of the photographic event and about how, through the process of making or looking at the image, new possibilities or realities are experienced.

This may all seem like fluff to some of you. But it is a key difference that separates the act of photography, as a relatively poor 2-dimensional form of documenting our 3-dimensional world with photography as an art form.

I like to read Einstein’s comment that to be able to understand, quantify and explain (science, the rational mind) the beauty of existence you first need to learn to perceive it beyond the usual 5 sensory organs (sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing). Intuition should be trusted for I believe that to understand something, you first need to experience it. Only then should thinking be employed, and then only in moderation.

The above image was made from the car park at Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) in the Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park, Central Australia. After scanning the original 35mm color transparency was processing in Adobe Camera RAW and Adobe Photoshop CS4.

© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

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