Since we last met, the summer ended and the fall arrived. I continued to write and take a few pictures, but nothing momentous or amazing was going on, so I was feeling like I would need to post something just to post something. And that’s never good.
By the time we got to October, it was time for vacation, and for Daytona Beach, which I figured would give me something to write about. Storms had come through as they had the year before, but instead of flip-flops and glasses and televisions washing up on shore as they had during Matthew, all we got this year was seaweed. And not just seaweed, but SEAWEED.
We visited the St. Augustine Lighthouse, which was something we wanted to do for a long time and never got around to:
All of this was interesting, and I admired the photographs as I got home, but overall I didn’t feel like anything happened. We went to the beach, we ate seafood, we listened to the ocean at night, and yet, when it was all done, I didn’t feel like much of anything happened and I didn’t feel like our vacation felt like a vacation. Not true, of course, as I look back on it. But a malaise is a malaise, I didn’t post anything, and I wasn’t really taking much, if any, pictures.
So the question is, when you feel like this, what do you do about it?
You don’t talk about things. You do things. The lack of photography was really getting to me and I wanted to go out and take pictures, but by this time it was November, and November in Allentown is not the most photogenic. Most times, I’ve avoided the dark, dreary scenes that punctuate the coming winter in eastern Pennsylvania, and certainly with the way I was feeling, such images would seem to be truly counter-productive. I sat on the idea for about a week, and then I said to myself that I had to do something.
So I drove around. The sun was bright and the weather was cold. I had a shot in mind, something I had seen a few days before. Nothing momentous, just the winter sun on a fence:
But it was a start. I drove in to the city with another shot in mind. There was an old variety store downtown with a “Teem” soda sign, a rarity even in the day when it was put up. Unfortunately, it didn’t exist anymore, and I ended up driving around. Along the way, I spotted a woman in the window of a diner, so I shrugged my shoulders, and took a shot out the passenger’s side:
I didn’t know if what I was doing was art, but it was certainly making me feel like I was doing something. During the next few weeks, when I found a free moment, I just started driving around Allentown, taking shots at whatever I saw.
It rained one night and Laura had a hair appointment, so I carted myself out to get some shots. I went by Zandy’s trying to recreate a shot I had made earlier, only this time I brought my tripod. And when I say tripod, I mean, a 16-year-old aluminum and plastic bit of off-brand nonsense that can barely hold the weight of my camera. It was raining a lot, so I stayed inside the car and tried to wrestle with this beast to make it stand straight enough to take a decent shot out of the window.
This is not an easy thing to do.
The rain was cascading in through the driver’s side window. I was flopping all over the seats, trying to get a somewhat decent angle. The locks on the tripod legs slipped and put the camera at an angle, causing me to reset and lock them again. The locks slipped again, and the whole process started anew. In the end, I took about four shots, only one of which was close to what I wanted to get.
A while ago I mentioned that I had a job as a photographer/videographer at a Catskills resort when I was in my late teens. One day, I got chastised for taking shots of things that weren’t paying customers, and it’s one of those things I think about almost every time I press the shutter. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.
In light of that, I drove around a little bit more after this, wondering why I take pictures at all. What I was doing was nonsense.
But the more I thought about that, the more I came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t worry about that. Sure, not every image, not every story is going to be a winner, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from doing anything. Nothing’s perfect that first time out, so why stop?
Maybe it’s nonsense, but it’s all important. Even if it’s a failure, you can build on it to become a success. The work, just like life, is always to be continued, because if it stops, then it truly is meaningless. All through the winter, I’ll be trying to take some more shots just like these, and some of them will be OK, some of them may be good, but there will always be something new.