the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

GOING POSTAL (CARD)

By MICHAEL PERKINS

Looking south down Oceanview Boulevard to Monterey from Pacific Grove’s “Lover’s Point” Park. A three-exposure HDR with an average shutter speed of 1/250, f/11, ISO 100, 45mm.

“Ooh, nice. Looks just like a post card!”—98% of everyone who looks at your pictures

MUCH AS I WOULD LOVE TO BE SEEN AS A “SERIOUS” PHOTOGRAPHER (whatever that means), I am, basically, always seeking beauty and some way to freeze it in time.

Come to think of it, that seems pretty “serious” too, although there are schools of thought that seem to profess that making pretty pictures is somehow as insubstantial as crocheting tea cozies or writing haikus about clouds.

Whatever.

My visual sense actually developed along two fairly exclusive tracks. There was the reportorial photography of Life, which reliably came to our house each week chock full of amazing portraiture, riveting war coverage and contentious social issues. That’s the “serious” track. And then there was my early and abiding love for the travel destinations in the illuminated Kodachrome of my View-Master reels, stunning forays into color crafted mostly by unknown shooters working for scale, many of whom sold the company’s “scenic” packets to photo dealers for their real paychecks. These eye-popping tours of France, The Grand Canyon, New York City, and the Holy Land held me spellbound in a way none of VM’s kiddie titles could. Their beauty was their justification. They deserved to be, just because they were a celebration of symmetry, shape, scale, mystery, history.

Canopy and Carpet: Eerily majestic cypresses and manzanita ground cover, just inland of the coastline at Pacific Grove, California. Two-exposure HDR shot at f/11, ISO 100, 45mm.

Since my childhood I have seemed to toggle between taking pictures that “matter” (another meaningless distinction) and images that merely delight me because I was able to grab a sliver of something larger than myself, a souvenir that I myself helped create. And, much as I hate the generic and dismissive “looks like a post card” remark I often get on some kinds of photos, it is the iconic view of the iconic object that I consciously go for, attempting to put my own stamp on something even as I realize that creating the image is way above my pay grade or skill set.

Still.

There are times to be a reporter, and there are times to gawk and gape in awe. Anytime I have any chance to be anywhere near the Monterey Peninsula, I vault onto the plane like a ’49-er who heard they just found gold at Sutter’s Mill. The stunning mix of coastal terrain, local botany and color that floods the eye at every turn in Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel blows me right out of “documentary” mode and makes my romantic heart beat faster.

Patron Santa Rosaria watches over the”Fisherman’s Wharf” district of Monterey Bay. A three-shot HDR at f/9, ISO 100, 18mm.

I am going postal, as in postal card. I want the ooh-ahh moment. Later on, I’ll get back to shooting urban decay and despair. Right now, we’re making the ultimate View-Master reel.

“Seven More Wonders Of The World!” So ran the wording on the paper envelopes that held those little 3-d wheels.

Seven more wonders.

That’s all I need.

“Serious”-ly.

 

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