Mixed objectives on picturesque outings

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by sarah_fox, Jun 9, 2009.

  1. Hi all,
    I'm puzzled over an ongoing issue and thought y'all might have some ideas for me. This is surely a common problem. Without making it too personal I'll just pose the question this way:
    When you're on an extraordinarily picturesque walk with your significant other, who is not a serious photographer, and when pausing for photography poses an interruption to that person's activities (e.g. a very, very long, pregnant pause in a mild aerobic workout), how do you bring the objectives and expectations of both parties more into align to bring more satisfaction to both? I'll mention, a priori, that my partner says she wants to learn some photography to share with me, but she has absolutely no patience for anything technical and really no inclination to photograph the things she sees, unless I make the suggestion. In this sort of situation...
    Do you designate outings some outings for photography and other outings for aerobic workouts?
    Do you make your photography a solitary activity?
    Do you set the person's camera on "P" (not going into any of the "how-to" details), not accepting that they "really" want to learn photography -- i.e. for themselves, not for someone else?
    On a related question, I'm always puzzled as to what photographers do when they're out together. It seems odd when there are so many people photographing the same thing. I can see these situations turning somewhat competitive, whereby the participants strive to find the most interesting angle or capture the subject matter in the most unique way. I imagine that must be discouraging for someone with less skill than others in the party, particularly if he or she doesn't really have his/her heart in photography and is actually along for the ride to please someone else. As this applies to my own situation, would it be a more positive experience (with less of a competitive, "what's the use, because I can't take the picture as well" feel) if we took turns photographing what we saw? For instance, we'd come upon something we found interesting, and I would say, "This one's all yours, m'dear!" When I'm doing the photography, she's often making suggestions as to alternative points of view. She's an artist (painter) and has a very good eye. I can imagine I could offer suggestions as to camera settings when she's shooting. Perhaps I could pre-set the camera for the best exposure, DoF, etc., based on what she tells me she wants to accomplish.
    I'm searching for ideas, here, as to how I can make photography interesting for the both of us together, at least at some level -- not on all of our outings, but at least on some. Help! ;-)
  2. My fiance has no real interest in photography at all; and my style and interests carry even less interest for her. So when we go visit new cities or are out, I try to take as little time as possible from our activities together without sacrificing too much.
    I never go shoot with other photographers. I really don't like anyone else to be around at all when I'm photographing. I start to feel hyper-self-aware and awkward. I can't imagine being with a group of photographers.
    I'd say your probably going to have to compromise. If you're out for aerobic activity, stopping every couple of minutes for a prolonged amount of time would certainly hinder that goal, whereas a casual walk may lend itself more to the idea of photographing. Best, JR
  3. [[ I can see these situations turning somewhat competitive, whereby the participants strive to find the most interesting angle or capture the subject matter in the most unique way]]
    Why would they be competitive? Why wouldn't they be collaborative? Supportive? How about just plain fun?
    I've yet to feel like I'm competing with anyone I'm out shooting with. I find the experience a lot of fun. It breaks me out of my normal methods and allows me to understand how others approach photography.
  4. Hi Sarah--

    Well, I've certainly been there before. My wife is also an artist, and while she savors the technical aspects of her own media (fine art printmaking is a major adventure in chemistry and scary machinery, and when she's working hunks of glowing hot silver into jewelry pieces, she looks like a HAZMAT first responder), the fussy parts of photography aren't her thing. She absolutely understands what goes into the results (about which she is keenly critical, in a good way), but doesn't want to fill her busy brain with another skill set's nuances. But she DOES like to reach for one of my cameras on occasion, to record something she's seeing, for later use. She's a "P" mode girl, in that regard... but despite herself, is starting say things like, "You don't happen to have a wider lens in your bag, do you?"

    So our outings have evolved into four flavors:

    1) The "Don't you dare bring the camera along, mister" variety, where it's all about us, and/or our dogs. So, I take photos with my brain, instead, and just don't tell her.

    2) The "Take a shot if you must, but I'm not slowing down!" variety, which means I'm generally in snap-shot mode, and packing light, hardware-wise.

    3) The "Take all the time you want on a couple of shots, but let's not make the whole walk about photography, OK?" variety. I must show considerable restraint.

    4) The "Moral support for the photographer, and I'll even carry some stuff for you" variety, where she's being incredibly indulgent, and knows that I'll reciprocate in some other way. When we're in this mode, she actually pours herself into the creative process with me, and notices compositional issues, or changing light, or something else that I might miss when I'm briefly lapsing into techno-think.

    As for the competitive thing - it's never come up. When we are both using cameras, it's usually with wildly different objectives in mind. I'll be thinking about an old barn, and she'll be thinking about the fungus that's growing on one old fence board lying in the mud. So we're rarely looking at the same subject in the same way, and we usually have completely difference objectives for the final output anyway. The same scene may stop us both in our tracks, but almost always for different reasons.
  5. Hi Sarah. My wife is quite patient but sometimes we get separated when I wander off to find a picture. We never really seem to interfere with one another. The only time I have been out with other photographers is when I worked for a newspaper and was with those from other papers. In sports it was fine we usually got along quite well and made space for each other and gossiped during inaction. However at news events there was some pushing, shoving and elbowing for position. It got a little unfriendly when someone stepped in front of your shot, like while trying portray an accused morderer. We all got over it quickly. To me, photography is a solitary endeavor. I don't like photo clubs. I pursued my wedding business alone and never used a second shooter. I spent my lengthy working life working with, working for, and managing people so I like the illusion I am being dependent on myself. As to your comments, I have spells where I don't do much with PN and even started a thread about being bored with it last year. BUT, I have learned so much here that I think it worth it to be somewhat active. In any event, considering what has gone on in my life and what is going on whether film or digital is better is not very relavant. There are people here (I could make quite a list) who are highly credible who have taught me a great deal.
  6. [SF] "how do you bring the objectives and expectations of both parties more into align to bring more satisfaction to both?"
    Communicate and compromise. Communicate what you are seeing, why it drew your attention, and the passion you felt. Sharing the sense of sight and discovery lets in the other person into what you are doing. Compromise by not stretching your loved one's patience. Be selective, because every picture you take in that type of situation involves compromise on their part.
    [SF] "...but she has absolutely no patience for anything technical and really no inclination to photograph the things she sees, unless I make the suggestion. In this sort of situation..."
    Realize that she loves you, and wants to get closer to you by trying to partake of this thing you are so passionate about.
    [SF] "Do you designate outings some outings for photography and other outings for aerobic workouts?"
    Yes. It's healthy to put the camera down sometimes (briefly!).
    [SF] "Do you make your photography a solitary activity?"
    Yes and no. It's a near-solipsistic activity in some ways, but I have no problems with others coming along.
    [SF]"Do you set the person's camera on "P" (not going into any of the "how-to" details), not accepting that they "really" want to learn photography -- i.e. for themselves, not for someone else?"
    Yes, set it on "P". You have to give the medium a chance to work its magic on her, for the cycle of seeing, photographing, seeing results to set in. K.I.S.S. Who knows? The original intention (and she means well) rarely tracks linearly across one's lifeline. This is exciting. I'm interested to see what happens.
    I go into an aphasic trance of sorts when shooting, so it doesn't matter whether I'm in a crowd or solo. Some people are very social about photographing, and they do best in clubs or web groups where they can meet and work with like-minded people. When one is leading a field trip, people do cluster (as they do in National Parks and tourist destinations shooting postcard pix). The experienced separate but stay within sight of the others and do their own thing.
    [SF] "I imagine that must be discouraging for someone with less skill than others in the party, particularly if he or she doesn't really have his/her heart in photography and is actually along for the ride to please someone else."
    Not entirely so. It's encouraging, because it's what she wants, to share part of this with you. Let her shoot what she wants to, in her own way. Maybe comment on the quality of the light, the colors, how things are blooming as summer comes upon us, etc. A little subtle mentoring, in other words. Oh...she's an artist! That is very different.
    Forget the camera settings for now. Keep it simple and fun. Don't let the technical get too much on the way, so her painterly vision can cross over into photography. In fact, I'd preset her camera and have her shoot JPEGs, and maybe when and if she asks, start showing her how to do very simple, minor global tweaks with simple software, something like Irfanview. With a well-developed vision, if she sticks with it for any length of time, she may want to learn more about the technical, though most painters are not nearly as anal technically as most photographers.
    Mentoring is a fragile mix of planting suggestions; proceeding at the right pace; knowing when to inject yourself into the situation, and when to get out of the way.
    The main thing is for you to relax about all this. Any kind of tension will detract from her experience. Be flattered, relax, smile, and enjoy.
    And pay close attention to her pictures. I have a feeling she might have a thing or two to show you.
  7. My late wife was an archaeologist too, so it was simple enough to get her a good camera, and we both took pictures together. The problem was our daughter. A ten or twelve year old does not have a lot of patience, not only for photography, but not for ruins either. Ironically, now she is finishing her second year in an Art Institute program in photography. I do think she received a life-time inoculation against archaeology, however.
    At the time, however, my wife worked out a scheme for the kid, not that it would work directly for your partner, but perhaps some analog exists? Anyway, she had cached away new game for the portable game machine, so when boredom reached a peak, it would come out. This was timed carefully and not done too frequently.
    I'm thinking maybe in your case, you just need to do less photography in times when you both are involved.
  8. Combining long, scenic Hikes with your wife and photography are always a highlight of my week (usually on Sunday mornings). Even with a broken right hand I pulled this off twice in May. Now my hand is 50% healed and I schlep more gear (and thusly burn more calories).
    Record the moments, the views, and every now and then strive for a little artistry. When I lag behind I hustle to catch up with her. She'll even point stuff out to me to shoot.
    It's not one or the other.
    One of my faves from this year:
  9. It rarely works for me to photograph when I am with others.
    On occasion my wife and I will go out shooting together, this works fairly well.
    Mostly when I go out photographing I go out alone, it gives me the time to set up the shots I want and not feel rushed.
    I used to do a fair bit of mountain climbing, there is where stopping for photos was really hard. When you are roped up to people in front of you and behind it is hard to just stop to take a photo.
    As for photographing during aerobic outing, I do this but I also do a lot of running to catch back up.
    I have been with large groups of people on a photo outing, I really did not like it much at all.
  10. Interesting question and replies. Although ny wifw has a digital P&S camera her photography mostly document our house and yard while I am the one to take pictures on our (non aerobic) walks. If it's just the two of us she is patient for a minute or two which is all I need. Several years ago we went to Italy with her cousin and a third woman where they would get talking and not notice my pauses and it was up to me to catch up with them. That worked for me and for them.
  11. My wife must be a gem - lets me do as I like when I'm with her and the camera.
    I in turn must be a gem at the shoping spree at the mall.
  12. In the event that your partner is up for aerobics and you're up for photography, no reason why she can't run in a back-and-forth or a fairly large circle while you're doing your thing. She loses no activity level, and the running around in circles is a small price to pay for a valued and trusted partner like you, right? Matt's four degrees of permissiveness is another approach in the same vein--the compromises people make when each is trying to recognize and meet the needs of the other.
    Perhaps your partner would feel more involved in photography if it were a useful adjunct to her painting--an inkjet print on an acrylic skin, say, that she could incorporate into her work. Plenty of that sort of stuff on digitalatelier.com and lhotka.com. Perhaps she is so skillful that this sort of approach would strike her as a mere clumsy artifact, and perhaps she's interested in exploring it to expand her common ground with you. Just a thought.
  13. Photography is mainly a solitary activity for me, although I like to bring a camera when I'm with my fiance but then I have to restrain myself not to devote all the time for photography. Sometimes it's best to leave the camera at home.
    I have done photography together with other people and I don't find anything particular about it. However it's not usually practical, I tend to do it rarely and then it's usually because going somewhere together makes sense due to the effort to get there or due to passing of time between activities.
  14. I think there are two distinct issues here. The first is about how to share an activity or interest between partners in a relationship. The second, which in my view is more fundamental, is the question of what to do when someone feels it is very important that their partner shares in a particular interest, but he or she does not. This latter issue is extremely common and speaks of the challenges of managing an individual sense of identity versus a shared sense of identity.
    It's not always reasonable to expect or hope that the person we love should also share our own passions in life, and vice versa. Sure, it's nice if they do, but by the time we engage in a relationship, each of us has grown up and lived a large part of his or her life, and gained a great deal of individual experience that has shaped who we are. That sometimes our partner can learn to appreciate or participate or share in our interests may speak to the strength of the love two people can have for each other, but if such a happy outcome does not occur, it doesn't mean that the love isn't there.
    There's also something to be said for maintaining one's individual interests in a relationship, because many people don't necessarily want to discard their entire sense of individuality and replace it with a collective identity. That a relationship is often enriched by the ways in which two people differ is sometimes lost upon those who feel hurt or disappointed when one's partner does not share their viewpoint.
    Now, that's not to say that it's unreasonable to want your partner to love taking photos as much as you do. It's just important to remember that such things have to happen more organically, so to speak, and to not feel disappointed if it doesn't. You didn't fall into it overnight, so why expect someone else to?
    To address the question of how to share one's interests, I definitely think it's the wrong approach to take over the camera settings or turn it to Program or Auto. If someone did that to me, I'd (1) feel insulted, and (2) lose interest immediately. The reason why is because whenever doing something new, I want to learn how my actions drive the result. I don't need to know all the details, but I do need to feel engaged somehow--I need to see that if I do A, then B happens, and if I do C instead, then D happens. Put yourself in the beginner's shoes--here is someone who knows a great wealth of information, and it can be intimidating to be faced with that, especially when that person is your partner.
    In terms of specific actions to handle this situation, I think that the first thing to do is to bring things down a level, and find ways to challenge your existing habits. For example, leave the tripod at home. Travel light, maybe even with a P&S at first, or even no camera at all! Don't spend minutes composing or metering or setting dials and knobs--that disengages you from your partner. Pay attention to your surroundings and make it a game with your partner. Point out to each other things that would be interesting to capture, whether with a camera or with a paintbrush. Think about light, color, framing, interpretation. Relate to what she already knows. Then, next time, bring the camera and start explaining how basic settings control the result. Be a guide. You can always do it for yourself some other time.
    The challenge for you is to learn how to see through a different lens than the one on your camera. You have to learn how to see through the lens of your partner's mind.
  15. My girlfriend understands that photography is my life, it is the way I see, live and it buys her nice things like shopping sprees, spa treatments and new cars. So if I do not at least have one Leica with one lens, a meter and a spare roll in my pocket, she asks why. She is not into photography per se, but enjoys the life we live because I am a photographer.

    And I really do always have a camera on me with the exception of things like dental or doctor appointments in which case, the rigs are in the car.

    As for photo outings with other photographers, not really. When I teach a workshop or cover a large event with other photographers, that is when I am around them. Otherwise I subscribe to what Eugene Richards told me last year in that photographers are "Isolate Creatures" and I don't really feel the need to have others along. This is especially the case in that I am sometimes willing to go without food, sleep or shelter to get a shot. Not everyone is like that so I really don't work well in that mind set if others are in tow.
    I don't want to sound like I don't meet my partner half way in what we do, I actually often do and we truly get along great. She just understood from day one that I don't have a normal day job and that my life is and always will be different than most.
  16. "On a related question, I'm always puzzled as to what photographers do when they're out together. It seems odd when there are so many people photographing the same thing."
    My wife and I often go out together for photography. We see different things and are interested in different kinds of photography. Even if we shoot the same subject from the same spot, there's a foot height difference between us and the photos are from different perspectives (back we we shared a camera, the perspective was how we could tell who shot what). I guess we wander off, close but not in each others way or in each others frame.
  17. I will be going on my fourth trip over the last 5 years with two other photographers with a wide range of experience with photography. We will spend two weeks in Central California traveling from San Francisco to Mono Lake, Yosemite, Santa Cruz and Big Sur.There is no competition between us and actually find the time spent together quite joyous. That being said, we aren't always standing and shooting exactly the same subject as we might wander from a central point to photograph what inpsires us. The real trick with whoever you travel with, is everybody being on the same page in terms of trying to be at a spot when we think the light will be best, which means getting up early or staying out late.
    I actually prefer photographing with other photographers rather than being alone. It gets a little scarey being out in the middle of nowhere with expensive camera equipment all by one's self.
  18. significant other....well, I'm divorced, and I have no doubt photography was at least a contributor to it. so, you don't want my advice on that question. Let's just say, if the picture taking didn't involve the kids or family, she pretty much couldn't stand it. Mind you, she thought I was good at it, but did not want to be with me when I was doing it. Luckily it stayed relatively minor problem because she was a late sleeper and got up at the crack of dawn, or before, and went and did my nature stuff at the time. I doubt she would have tolerated my interest in street photography at all.
    Other photographers.....nope, no compitition. We proceeded and moved at our own pace. Meaning we aren't together 95% of the time anyhow. In nature photography we would all just meet at a predesignated location on the trail. In street photography we exchange cell phone #s and rejoin that way.
    In my view, after 36 yrs of shooting pics, photography is a solo effort. There is no "being" with someone else while I'm shooting. Of, we may physically be next to each other at times....but neither of us are really "there" together. At least this is the way it is with the photographers I usually shoot with. New people.....well, I just don't even bother expecting to be shooting much. Its more for the meeting up. After 2 or 3 times then the "solo together" thing starts almost always
  19. I'm always puzzled as to what photographers do when they're out together. It seems odd when there are so many people photographing the same thing

    Creative artists produce different results when utilizing the same subject matter. I have a very good freind who I often travel with for photo shoots. Some results are very close, many are unimagined by the other. No one complains that too much time is being spent photographing or that we should be going to dinner in the middle of golden hour. Any debate concerns finding the best strategy overall for the kind of things we wish to achieve. As to my loving wife, she is very patient but it is not just to occupy all her time in such ways. Finding a reasonable accomodation has not been difficult. For those whose partner is not willing to allow for some leeway, there is nothing I can do to help. The choice of partners have already been made.
  20. Hi Sarah....
    "I'm always puzzled as to what photographers do when they're out together. It seems odd when there are so many people photographing the same thing"
    Margaret and I tend to go out to experience the things we see rather than photograph them. We both tend towards using good p/s cameras and leave the artillery in the car which gives us more freedom to share the experience either together, or not, as the mood fits. But it's the sharing that matters.....

  21. my partner is not interested in photography but likes books and doesn't mind reading in odd places.
  22. For me, photography is a solo activity. I was crawling on the ground today for several hours. I took a picture of a mushroom, a stump and a small conifer seedling; very exciting. I picked up two ticks. Two wild dogs followed me around the whole time. Yesterday, thigh deep in a creek; exposure calculations. Last week, I almost stepped on a snake. I laid down in a bed of poison ivy to get a picture of a small toad. I doubt any of that would have landed me in the category of "Mister Dream Date." I really don't like anything breaking my train of thought while all that is going on, so I imagine I'd be considered insensitive for not wanting any talking for most of the time, either. Solo activity.
    I think you should keep an eye on the idea that you are lucky. Set aside professional concerns; and maintain a fully non-professional relationship with this person you care about; enjoy every minute of it. You're not going to get the opportunity to have that same kind of relationship with everyone else. All those other people, you can swap tales from photo-nerd technical paradise, and if they love it or hate it, none of that will affect the day to day matters of a relationship that's of core importance to your life.
    I don't have any really great advice on how to sustain such a relationship. I directly avoid any kind of romantic entanglements with anyone who has a direct interest in the things I like. It's nice for them to have an occasional, indirect interest; but, really, such a person is someone with whom I'd rather unwind. I like some of the same qualities in them, but in a different area of interest. There's no way I'd want to discuss creative directions, or wrestle with creative control or any of that. I'd rather be around someone with whom it's nice to relax.
    Things can go a whole lot better if there's some separation of goals and interests. In the outline of the question, I'd say, maybe once or twice give her a photography tip if she asks for one. Hand her the camera on program. Let her do her own thing; you do yours; if you get along anyway, that's more than enough.
    Just enjoy the walks instead.
  23. On holiday (as at any other time) each other's interests including any children's interests come as part of the deal . We have to give and take.
  24. Hi all,
    Thanks so much for offering me your perspectives! So many of my favorite people here, BTW!
    I found it interesting that a few people assume I want my partner to learn and love photography. Interestingly, my partner had the same perception. I admit it would be (somewhat) nice, but I don't really consider it important. I had simply thought it would be a more accessible medium to her, since she finds too little opportunity to paint. She seemed relieved when I clarified that my "willingness" to teach her should not be construed as "eagerness" to teach her. She told me she's very much of a point and shoot person if/when she takes pics, and I told her there's nothing wrong with that. (She seemed a bit relieved when I handed her a camera set to the green rectangle mode and challenged her to point and shoot. She reeled off two unflattering shots of yours truly -- the fault of the overweight subject, I'm afraid.) I think all she wants/needs is a means of taking a picture, and of course even the most sophisticated camera nowadays can function as a p&s.
    What I would like is a way to share a photographic walk somehow without boring her. The book idea is a good one. In fact she suggested it herself, only with a newspaper. I did suggest an idea she likes even better, though. I suggested that we split up in such a situation. She can move ahead and keep her heart rate up. I can linger behind to do photography. We can both carry our cell phones and meet up later. There are of course safety reasons to hang together -- deterring camera theft, the ability to be there for a twisted ankle or snake bite. However, these are unlikely incidents, and other people are generally available for help on these sorts of trails. Perhaps this is the best approach, all things considered.
    I also expressed my desire to go on aerobic walks with her regularly. She often thinks I'm doing it because I think she wants company. However, it's really the other way around -- that I need the company myself. I need the exercise very much. It's not something I'm inclined to do for enjoyment, so I really need the company to motivate me and keep me regular in the activity.
    Also lost in all this shuffle are the slow, relaxing walks -- no aerobics, no photography, just the two of us. I told her those are very important to me too. :)
    Anyway, I really appreciate all of your perspectives. Thanks for sharing them! :)
  25. Sarah, you may find that after photographing a number of these scenic hikes, you may be taking fewer photos and only capturing the really must takes. Then you and your partner will both be in sync.

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