I should explain a little further. We all have labels, or identities, whereby we affiliate ourselves, … or not.

Where photography and AA meet. Taken and edited on IPhone 6

We have our work identities. “I’m a Project Manager,” explains everything about why they volunteer to organize collecting and paying a restaurant bill for a large group of persons.  Then there’s the family identities. “I’m the baby of the family” which we could all tell a mile away, because they don’t always play well with others and share toys. (Yeah, you bet right. That’s me.) Maybe you identify as primarily a“Mother,” or maybe “Wife.”  Some people hate labels but we have them. We use and choose them too for ourselves. They define us, almost as much as our history, experience and roots do. We also have our identities from our social endeavours. “I’m a B class gamer champ” one of my colleagues tells me as he surfs and texts on two (yes not just one) cell phone while writing a report on the computer, his hands and fingers just flying everywhere. Another, “I’m a hockey player,” to which I yawn loudly while my eyes glaze over, and reply “Yes, those Leafs DO suck!” So recently, one of my older identities teamed up with one of my newer identities. My Alcoholics Anonymous group has a small following of photographers, who refer to themselves as the Shutterbugs. And I must say, I hate them all!
(All the names have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved.)

So, if I were to be truthful about it, I hate Grant. But actually, not just Grant, but Brock, Bob and his daughter Amy. They are all members of the Shutterbugs. I hate them all. Let’s start with Grant first. He started photography the summer before me, so he’s been at it roughly a couple of years. He shoots with the Nikon D7100 with only the kit lens. He posted a photo of an eagle on Facebook. It was beautiful. I asked him what programs he used to process it. He said nothing. I mean NOTHING! He advised me that he shoots in RAW and just uses the Nikon transfer program to upload to his computer. It has a few basic functions he says, like clarity and exposure. I asked him if I could try and enhance the photo and he said absolutely.

I wanted to get more detail in the feathers and show off my editing prowess on a sophisticated processing program, because of course, a photo straight out-of-the-camera can’t compete in today’s digital era. Everyone knows that! I threw OnOne at it. I threw Nik Software at it. Each time I would toggle between the original and the processed and there was so little improvement, I could barely see it. It was the details of the feathers I wanted to bring out more. So, Topaz, which has programs and settings just for enhancing fur and feathers, well I threw that at it. Again, the improvement was so minuscule. Of course, I was working with a JPEG and not the RAW photo. It MUST be that, I conceded. Grant had taken a photo with his camera, a model down from mine, and with very little adjustment out of the camera, created a photo that I couldn’t really improve much in post-processing. I couldn’t take a photo that good. I have not taken a photo that good yet, even with my new processor one step up from his camera. I learned something in that moment. A good photographer can do it out of the camera like that. Like the old timers of the film era, before digital. I hated Grant in that instance. He showed me a truth. I have a long way to go in my photographic skills. But you know what I did do? I took that photo and made it funky three different ways just because I COULD do that, so there Grant lol!

Then there’s Bob, an honorary member. He comes to us with years of experience in photography, belonging to camera clubs in Toronto until he decided to abandon all the rules and just shoot for himself. His passion is photographing Jazz musicians, but truly, this man will photograph anything. I really mean anything. And it looks good. I remember the day we first met. He walked around with his camera on a tripod over his shoulder. Then, all of a sudden, he would stop, in three seconds take a photo, and pick up the camera and continue walking. I couldn’t even get the camera to focus in that short a time! I started looking over his shoulder, asking what he was shooting at. He would tell me and point to something. That something is something I would never have seen. I immediately recognized he had that photographic eye. I followed him around. Then  he said “Quick, take a photo of me.” I immediately turned to photograph him. He smiled nicely and said “Not me, my shadow” as he pointed to his outline on a brick wall, a weird silhouette with these legs and stuff cast from the tripod and camera over his shoulder. An interesting shot. One I did not see for myself. I know it doesn’t sound like much hate here, so let me expound. Bob lives up high in a condo. He has a beautiful view from Sheppard Avenue of the CN Tower and Toronto skyline. He loves to fill Facebook with his shots of glorious sunrises, sunsets, full moons, birds in flight and the occasional air plane. He likes showing off his wondrous views. I hate him too.

I must not forget Bob’s daughter, Amy. She has the photographer’s eye of her father. She sees it all and is so creative. While the rest of us dabble with our high end enthusiast cameras and/or full frame professional cameras, she comes along with her Canon Rebel  which is considered a beginner or hobbyist camera. I expect, less then stellar photos from a camera so far beneath the rest (read mine!) Off we go off on shoots and she quickly uploads her photos to Facebook. I see what she captured, what it looks like on Facebook and wonder if we were even on the same shoot. “Where was that?” I wonder. “I didn’t see that at all,” I think. “How did she get that shot?” I muse. Talent? Yes she has lots. Creative? Undoubtedly. Another person who just proves to me it does not matter about the camera. It is the photographer who must have talent to make great photos. Yeah, I hate her too!

Last but not least, is Brock. He’s the only one I don’t hate. That’s because I pity him far too much. You see, he tries to organize us. He tries to plan outings. He tries to find interesting things for us to photograph. He tries to have outings where maybe we will learn something. I often think it is much like herding cats. You see, as alcoholics, there is a tradition, number nine, that says we “ought never be organized” and in true alcoholic manner, we resist any such thing. For instance, we are going for a stroll down The Esplanade to go take photos of the Novotel Hotel. It was a straight line, easy, just keep walking this way, along the Esplanade. But no. Shutterbugs went here. Shutterbugs went there. They were on side streets, up stairs and over yonder, around the corner.  Brock shows great patience and grace when dealing with us, just waiting, knowing we all will eventually come back. Yes, his job is hard. Herding cats I say. I do pity him.

Of course, there are other members of the Shutterbugs, who for now, have escaped my scrutiny. Mostly because I am new to the group and have only been on a couple of outings and have not spent time with all the members. There are those I have spent very little or no time with, that are an integral part of this group, like Luke, Paul, and Barry. And not to be forgotten, are those newer additions, Daphne and Kristina. But I hope that by now, you all realize I really don’t hate any of these people. I just hate that they are so good, it reminds me of how inexperienced I still am and how far I still have to go. In photography, I am still a beginner. I so admire their skill, talent, creativity and art that I want to emulate them. I want to develop my craft, much like they have and walk among the giants. For that I need much more experience and I enjoy the value I get learning with these guys. They are so willing to share and teach, and pass on their experience and wisdom. Besides, there’s nothing I’d rather do on this planet then hang out with other alcoholics in the program.

My first and primary label must and will always be alcoholic. I am grateful we all have a passion for photography that we can share together. That’s where my alcoholic meets my photographer.



3 thoughts on “Those Damn Shutterbugs. I hate them all!

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