Thursday Thoughts with….Andrew “Ostman” Smith

As a proud member of Jason Moore’s “P&P Blogroll” I’ve had a unique opportunity to find and become acquainted with several photographers who I might otherwise not had the pleasure of knowing.  One such talented individual is Andrew Smith, of Visual Realia.  Andrew’s blog is a unique combination of photography and poetry.  It is truly an amazing combination and well worth adding to your RSS feeds.  Andrew agreed to participate in the Thursday Thoughts here at CB, so without further ado, here’s some great insight into his talents:

Q:  Everyone always wants to know some of the basics, so let’s get a few things out of the way at once here…How long have you been a photographer?
A:  I remember having a camera or two as a child, and enjoyed using them, but was pretty much just using point and shoot film cameras until digitals became affordable for the mass market. My blog’s been up and running for a few years now.

Q:  Canon or Nikon?
A:  Wait a minute… this is one of those trick questions, isn’t it? Canon? Nikon? I’m an Olympus man! My past two cameras have been made by Olympus, and I love them both. Price for performance is excellent. I’m surprised more people in the blogging world aren’t Olympus users; reviews are usually strong. Even the fact that your question doesn’t include Olympus is somewhat telling about Olympus’ need to think about their marketing. My Olympus behaves very consistently, and has provided me with a very pleasant user experience.  By the way, the first camera I remember having was shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head, and you pulled his one ear down to shoot. I’m hoping “Mouse” will be added to Canon and Nikon in this question in the future.

Q:  Fair enough, I’ll start including more camera vendors in future questions, and thanks for the good info about Olympus!  So, moving along, Mac or PC  (and I’ll add Linux to the mix given your last response! 🙂 )?
A:  My first computer was an Apple IIGS, which was under-appreciated. It treated me well, and I’ve happily stuck with Apple products since. I have one of the 2008 towers, which is really friendly with Photoshop.

Q;  Chocolate or Vanilla?
A:  I love and make homemade vanilla ice cream with a recipe that dates back to at least my grandparents. And none of that wimpy “cooking the egg” thing.

Q:  Okay, now I am getting hungry, but let’s continue into something with a little more granularity,.  Photographers often enjoy hearing helpful and constructive critiques of their work, as we are aware of how much we can grow from it.  However, we’ve also all had the “nice shot” and “cool” comments when we’ve shared our work.  With that backdrop, what was the singular most useful critique or comment you’ve ever had on work you’ve shared publicly?
A:  I’m going to buck the standard thought in “serious” photography and say that I have no problem with those “cool” and “nice shot” comments, and even proudly admit that I’ll leave such comments myself, if they fit. Don’t get me wrong; I’m quite happy to get specific feedback about a technique, framing, tonal use, depth of field, etc. If I see a photograph online that strikes me as using such a technique particularly well, I’ll comment on that. There are also times, however, when a photograph loads on a web page (or I see a print) and my brain immediately screams, “Cool!” When a photograph quickly grabs me on an emotional level, that’s a success for the photographer. While I could break apart the image and try to figure out what makes the photograph work, quite frankly, that’s not as important to me as enjoying the image as one entity. Learn techniques, but enjoy the photograph. We’ve all seen web sites where commenting on techniques or aspects of a photograph seem more about the commenter’s desire to show off their photography vocabulary rather than saying anything new about the work. If I share a photo that causes a viewer to give me a one word emotional response, that’s pretty “cool” to me!

Q:  Well, my next question would be a follow-up one asking “Who said it?”, but clearly that’s not needed here.  Great perspective and it will definitely make me reconsider the value of the short answer-critique.  SO, let’s move onto the next “critique” question:  If someone was asking you for an honest critique of their work, what 3 factors would you look at most (excluding friendships or family relatives, we’re talking professional or fellow photographer-types here)?
A:  After my response above, I better include emotional or communication aspects. Technically, I agree with a lot of photographers that light can never be stressed enough, and line or movement always interests me.

Q:  Wow, you’re gonna make me re-think the entire questionnaire here, but this is really an interesting perspective to things.  What about personal experiences from out in the field?  Got any war stories from field shoots or outings that you can or would be willing to share?
A:  Since I do not derive my main source of income from photography, I’m usually not in situations where war stories present themselves! Worst-case scenario, I put down the camera and enjoy a beautiful walk and the interesting world around me.  On a lighter note, I’ll always remember photo walks where onlookers eye the mass of photographers and wonder what grand media event is occurring.

Q:  That happened in Golden, CO when we did the Scott Kelby walk too!  Someone asked me who was coming to town and I answered “Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt for a half second before coming clean.”  It is kind of fun to see that reaction though.  Anyway, I digress…back on topic, if you had to choose between the gear or the software as the only way to create, which would it be and why?
A:  Toss up. I’ve seen amazing photographs from pinhole cameras that clearly show that gear means nothing compared to imagination. Software skills can sometimes bring out the hidden beauty in a captured moment, but the photographer using the program needs to be able to know where to look for that beauty.  In the digital world, it’s hard to separate the camera, the digital file and the software. Each is a part of the process that will hopefully bring out something that communicates a moment as seen by the photographer. In the end, both the gear and software are nothing compared to the idea and the person creating it.

Q:  Any final thoughts you’d like to share about the state of photography or any catch phrases that you keep in mind when shooting?

A:  Photography is a tool to share something. Maybe it’s a literal document of a moment in time, or possibly an image from the photographer’s mind. Either way, focus on the technique beforehand and communication as you open the shutter.  A great jazz musician learns chords, scales and the work of those before him or her. There’s intense practice that allows the musician to internalize those techniques and skills, so when the moment comes to improvise in front of an audience, the technical aspects don’t get in the way of the artistic message.  Learn what you can and look at the work of artists in all mediums. Practice the skills and techniques you need, pick your time and place, push those technical thoughts aside and enjoy improvising.

Thanks Andy for such a thoughtful set of answers and for taking the time to participate in the latest Thursday Thoughts.  It shows just how quickly blinders can become a part of your vision and that we all just seek to be aware of when we might be putting blinders on!

So, that was it with Andy, and thanks again to him for taking the time to sit down with CB for a One-on-One.  Please stop over to his website at Visual Realia and enjoy his work.  Leave some comments too (even if they’re one-word comments! 🙂 )

Happy shooting all, and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!

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2 comments for “Thursday Thoughts with….Andrew “Ostman” Smith

  1. November 6, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Cool! 😉

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