It Ain’t Enough

 

FDR Four Freedoms Park

One positive thing about social media  is that it allows me to test out what photos of mine people respond to. Of course I have the usual sort of doubts about my photographs like anyone does. Some I know are good the moment I press the shutter release.  Others I decide are flawed in one way or another and rejected as I curse at myself internally and asking  what were you thinking? Others I have to come to grips with, asking whether I like the lighting, the framing, the movement of the photo. Those are the ones I am especially grateful for reactions from people on Instagram and Facebook. Yet I still often wonder, is it enough?

Case in point, the photo shown above. I took a day off last week. It was a warm August day here in New York City but I wanted to go for a long walk and take some shots. I decided to head over to nearby Roosevelt Island and eventually I wound up at the southern tip of the island, which now comprises the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. It was the last major work designed by famed architect Louis I. Kahn  It slices through the landscape culminating in a tree-lined pathway leading to a statue of FDR and a wide expansive view of the East River. While walking between the rows of trees I knew that the linear aspect might look interesting. I chose a few different angles and perspectives, made some adjustments to the camera settings and hoped it would be enough. More on the results in a moment…

For just over 20 years the best band out of Newfoundland, Canada (and one of the best out of Canada period) was the Celtic folk rock styles of Great Big Sea. Until their unfortunate demise a few years ago they combined the traditional songs of Newfoundland with their own originals, an infectious combination that won them a lot of fans worldwide. Since the breakup, their high energy main singer Alan Doyle (no relation!) has released two albums, with a third on the way  and relentlessly tours all over the place. A few days after going to Roosevelt Island I played Alan’s first solo album-Boy On Bridge, a solid collection of all out rockers and some nods to more folk sounding material. I love the album, and my favorite song on it is the rocking I’ve Seen A Little. Hearing it the other day again, certain lyrics of the song really struck me, and I saw in them a correlation to my photography. Maybe not anyone else’s, but I saw myself, camera in hand in the lyrics.

The heavy use of the word ‘ain’t’ might be a grammar teachers nightmare, but hey…this is rock and roll and anything goes! I was struck by a few lines in particular-

‘It ain’t what you got its what you’re looking for’

‘It ain’t what you’ve done it’s what you’re gonna do’

‘It ain’t where you been its where you’re going to’

And finally the line I chose for the title of this post- ‘I’ve seen a little but it ain’t enough’

Photography like any art is about exploration. Finding something extraordinary in the ordinary. Discovering both new places and new ways of taking a photo. Experimenting with angles and perspectives. Striving to do something different. Maybe it has been done by others before, but is new to you. Hearing Alan Doyle’s song the other day reminded me of this. The lines quoted above are about seeking. In the context of the video for the song that is about being a bit of a rebel, but if you really think about it, these lines describe an approach defined by heading towards the new. It really struck me that when I sometimes get in a photography rut, it is because I fall into the trap of living in the first part of every line. In times like that I live in ‘what you got, what you’ve done, where you’ve been.’ Where I need to be is in the second part to those lines- ‘what you’re looking for, what you’re gonna do, where you’re going to.’ Most importantly, I need to remember that the things I have seen, the things I have done are great…but ‘it ain’t enough’.

Back to the photo now. In one direction, the path and row of trees ends in an abrupt dead end at the north end of the plaza. Regardless, I took a few photos from this viewpoint. I experimented with where I wanted to position myself-full on in the center of the pathway (which was thankfully deserted because it was a weekday) or off to the side? Wide angle focus which would clearly show both sides of the tree overhang or a narrow focus which would highlight more of the pathway? Standing upright so the camera would be inclined slightly downward towards the horizon, or crouching down towards the ground so it inclined slightly upward? Finally I had to decide if I should wait for some unsuspecting person to walk into the frame to give it a sense of movement. Lots of choices…

So what I did first of all was turn around, utilizing the view of the path that leads towards the FDR monument. Next I determined that positioning myself dead center in the scene made the most sense visually. I used a wide angle focus to fully show the overhang of all the trees on both sides, and decided that crouching down so the scene inclined ever so slightly up looked much better. Additionally it really highlighted the little mounds of dirt under each tree, and the fallen leaves on the pathway. Lastly I tried all of the above with no one else in the scene and realized it was severely lacking some sort of motion. I waited until these two people entered the scene (and for the guy seated on the right to put his shoes back on!) and took the shot. And that is what you are looking at here, no editing whatsoever. I was happy with the results and the reaction I received for the photo. When that happens it makes me want to head out again the following day and try it again. I think Alan Doyle might agree with that approach because-

There might be nothing down that road
But you never know, you never know

I’ve Seen A Little-Written By Alan Doyle, Gordie Sampson, & Troy Verges

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

SHARES AND LIKES APPRECIATED!

 

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My Four Seasons-Autumn

 

ROMANCE

“I want to see your smiling face 45 years from now”

I read once that an informal survey revealed that most people’s favorite seasons were revealed to be spring and autumn, in almost a neck for neck tie. Not really surprising since both are associated with pleasing weather and different colors in the landscape. Whereas spring is about birth and renewal, autumn (and I still prefer to call it autumn rather than fall) is really about change. Those bright reds, oranges and fading yellows that speckle the terrain, before they begin to fall. The crisp smell in the air, the taste of fresh apples, the first signs of frost on the ground complete the picture. In our own lives, autumn is usually the time of transitions, and in the seasons of life is generally considered to be the longest period. As I discussed at the end of yesterday’s blog, towards the end of my “summer” I really needed a change. Happily, that is when she walked into my life.

“She” is of course the woman who became my wife. It started out innocently enough on a Sunday night in September of 2002. We had never met before, but a mutual friend was having a birthday gathering at a local pub. In an attempt to make up for the disaster of the previous summer’s trip to Ireland, I went back. Thankfully this time was infinitely better and there were no problems upon my return. I am not sure if it was because of that fact that our friend introduced us (meet my friend Rob, he just came back from Ireland type of thing) or for some other reason, but in no time we were having a great conversation. I showed her some photos of the trip, the rocky and rugged terrain of Donegal, with rugged cliffs and oceans, wildflowers and deep green grass everywhere. In the darkened light of the pub (and not due to consumption of a certain beverage, or so she says…), she also detected speckles of white scattered through the rocky terrain. “Oh, they still have snow there at this time of year” she asked? It being September at the time, and with no desire to come off as a jerk, I responded nicely, “oh no….those are sheep” while secretly I chuckled a little.

But my considerable charms (yes, I can’t even believe I just wrote that) must have worked because she was having such a fine conversation with me that she willingly decided to stay longer and miss her favorite show at the time, The Sopranos. High praise indeed. When she did leave I had realized that I had just conversed with someone for a few hours with such ease that it had seemed like mere minutes. Within a day or so I had obtained her number from my friend. When I worked up the courage to call her on said number a few days later we had another nice chat, despite her being unsure if my name was Richard, or Roger, or some other name starting with an R. In spite of that moment of forgetfulness on her part (which she covered up well…OHHHH….Robert, yes from the other night….of course I remember you!) we made arrangements to meet again.

Because of her job as a live in nanny at the time, and because of my job where I had to work on the weekends, our initial dates were always at night time, and usually took place at that same pub. It was a few months in before we ever had a daytime date in fact. But one night early on we shared our first kiss at the pub. For some reason I had to leave before her, so we said our goodbye’s outside, in full view of the pub’s window. Now why neither of us had the wherewithal to step 5 feet away to avoid this PDA I don’t know, but I went on my merry way, while Jennie had to go back inside. Where she was promptly met with loud applause from all who had witnessed it, led on by a scurrilous bartender. Gradually with each date and with each moment we spent together over meals and drinks, visits to various museums and walks through the park it became clear that there was something great happening. Though I was more than a little thick in taking things to the next level, in my heart I knew that Jennie was the one for me.

When I look back at that time, the words from a song by the late great Stan Rogers, one of Canada’s greatest artists comes to mind. In his song 45 years he talks about that sort of moment. Even though the circumstances he describes are different to our story, it is that idea of wanting to see her face 45 years from now that is so simple and beautiful.  I love that he chose such a random number of years to describe this feeling. To say that I want to see you today, and I want to see you 20 years from now, and 32 years from now, and 45 years from now. In any relationship there are disagreements and problems, unexpected curve balls that interrupt life. Working through those times together is worth it, believe me. One further thing I have to say about the song is to ask, where can I actually find a place that has a glass of beer for 45 cents!

 

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