Doubles

It’s true, I love photography. I’ve been blessed to help teach hundreds of students to be more successful at creating images. I say “help” because way more than half the instruction is students teaching themselves and other students, by practice in the field or studio.

i also love words. I’ve been noting the many important concepts in photography that use words that have a double meaning. There is the photographic context, and then there is a very important communication or thinking context.

1. Contrast: all photos must have contrast. A snowball on a snow field. Where is it? In life we need the same contrast for clear thinking. We need to isolate ideas to find their edges. Defining edges gives the shape of an idea.

2. Perspective: not all photos demand perspective, but when it naturally occurs it is a powerful element to emphasize. We also need perspective in our daily decision making. We need to have a mental space where we can stand to see more clearly, to make decisions more accurately. A fresh perspective often gives a new lease on the life of an idea.

3. Framing: the true lie of photography is that we choose the right focal length in order to put a frame on a photograph. Generally there are no frames in nature, and unless you suffered from tunnel vision, you do not see things with a frame. A frame captures an area that the photographer wants you to explore. When we frame arguments or discussions, we set the limits of ideas in order to come to a conclusion. Sometimes we manipulate the situation in such a way that the frame gives no choice in the decision.

4. Focus: an “out of focus” photograph is a contrast blob. No detail, no fine lines to form edges. Lack of focus in thinking has the same effect. Bokeh is the Japanese word for the quality of the unfocused area. The unfocused area of our lives does not generally have quality, unless we are Zen masters. Focus allows us to follow a lineal path to a conclusion. The more focus, the shorter time on the path.

5. Depth of field, or depth of focus: choosing the right f-stop can isolate a subject in order to direct the viewers eye to that subject. Otherwise the viewer may never see the reason for the photo. Using the depth of your focus in thinking helps not only to clarify an idea, but it also isolates it from the random, and incessant noise, that distracts your thinking.

6. F-stop: controls the amount of light that will give the image it’s shape and form. Sometimes the trouble in life is that we have too much. Too much experience, too much distraction, too many “shiny objects”. We need to develop a mental iris that will constrict the amount of ideas at times. And then, when appropriate, we need to open up, let more light in, and think out of the box.

7. Time: the amount of time for exposure must be controlled. Not enough time and nothing develops. Too much time and everything is burned out. True for photography, true for life

8. Sensitivity: our image capturing must be adjusted for sensitivity, a slow ISO to record rich colors and detail. Fast ISO to penetrate low light and darkness. In life we also need to monitor sensitivity. If we don’t we can create chaos in our thinking and in our communication.

Possibly there are other connections, other double word meanings, but these eight have kept me entertained for years. Other suggestions?

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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