Gotham, I miss you

October 31, 2012

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You have probably gotten bored with my Twitter feed recently, because my tweets are likely a link to my latest Instagram photo or my latest Untappd beer check-in. Let’s talk about Instagram. Ooh, and this choice of topic is, I see, a bit serendipitous (if I may stretch the meaning of the word) because in just seven days, on November 6, I will have been using this service for two years. I’m lucky that I have friends in Silicon Valley who cause me to early-adopt many things.

When I started, I do confess that I went into it with the attitude, “oh good, another social network.” I was fully entrenched in Facebook where I did, and do, share photos liberally. I wondered why I needed to participate in a network that was strictly about sharing photos. It took me a while to figure out why it mattered, and even longer to hit my stride and even longer to develop a style. My early photos were, admittedly, nothing special (my very first Instagram photo leads off this post). And yet some of those initial efforts remain some of my favorites in my Instagram career. See the photos below.
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Despite some mediocre at best photos, what Instagram did for me was cause me to take photos with an eye toward art, rather than indiscriminately tapping away because it’s digital and I’m not wasting film. Originally, I was one hundred percent an Instagram purest in that I only used my iPhone to take the photos, I framed the shots within Instagram’s viewfinder, and edited them only within Instagram. My iPhone is my de facto camera and though I have since given up on taking the photo within Instagram, I remain steadfastly adamant that I only edit within Instagram using a built-in filter. It pains me on those rare occasions when I simply must adjust the contrast or highlight/shadow in Snapseed or Camera+ before continuing in Instagram (I don’t count rotating slightly to straighten in Snapseed). It was very difficult recently when the assignment for the photo-a-day list in which I currently participate was “app-crazy.” That’s not to say I didn’t like the results (below), but that’s not how I use Instagram.

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There are three distinct evolutionary periods in my Instagram history. The first was the willy-nilly, do-anything era which, sort of unfortunately, lasted for my first year and a half. The second era was when I ceased using the photo borders that come with the filters. If I could always choose, say, a one-point black rule I might still frame my pictures. But around March 2012 it became evident to me that sometimes the borders didn’t always match what I wanted to accomplish with the image. If you can’t frame anything nice, don’t frame anything at all.

My third Instagram breakthrough came just three months ago in July 2012 when I comprehended the concept of photo series. I can thank @rabbitdan, @andrewdunc, and @mike_n5. They post bunches of photos of escalators, or hallways, or streets, or launderettes, or solo people in front of walls, any sort of similarly themed subject matter. I was a little slow off the blocks but now I, too, am in full series mode.

In a way, I suppose it’s a little bit the easy way out because I don’t have to think about some different “what” to photograph all the time, I just have to find some different one of the same kind that I haven’t previously shown in that way. But I don’t care. I like my series. Every so often a new one creeps in. Below, you will see my favorite photo from each one — parking ramps; my office building which happens to have been built in the late 1800s and is rich with interesting details; my second favorite subject, alleys; looking straight up at buildings, tall or small.

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But my favorite recurring theme is watertower weather. From my desk at work, I look out upon this small watertower atop a nearby building, which happens to be a mostly westerly view, which means the view of approaching weather. I think I’ve mentioned that I would have liked to major in meteorology in college but math and science got in the way. I have long had a fascination with the ever-changing view of the sky and big water, dating back to when I would visit my friend who lives on the south shore of Lake Erie. One winter visit in particular provided scintillating views of heavy weather and heavy waters. Observing the watertower and its sky satisfies some latent, meteorological need inside me.

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I do enjoy participating in a photo-a-day list. Sometimes, that gets me to get out of series mode and find a photo on something completely different. I’ve been finding, though, that with the list I currently follow, I can usually manipulate the topic to work within what I now feel is my “style.” I even was featured recently, which was gratifying.

Whether or not I actually am, I just feel more creative and artsy on Instagram. Please enjoy a few more of my favorites below.

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