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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

Jim MacDonald at Making Light on how model building is like writing novels. We call this the other 9/10ths, around here. And it's realio trulio something that makes everything one writes richer.

This is very true, and his later points--about the color of the paint and the rivets and so on, are equivalent to something that I keep telling people. Art is not life. Art is not true to life. if you look at an Ansel Adams photograph of, say, a birch wood, and then one by, oh, me, you'll notice a difference.

Mine looks like a snapshot. His looks real, dewy, breathy, moist, stark, just like walking through mist on an Autumn morning into a deciduous forest.

And you know why his looks real and mine looks small and fake?

Because his is staged. That's right. It's framed and cropped just so, and he waited his moment with the light, and he shot fifty images to get that one.

The same way everything that goes into my writing is artifice, tweaked to make it look as real as possible.

And also, ginmar, "Again with the coffee."


And you know why his looks real and mine looks small and fake?

Because his is staged.

So you mean it's not the shoes? ;)
You know, you should take a look at Chased By the Light by Jim Brandenburg sometime. Brandenburg is a nature photographer who got completely burned out. To restore himself, as an exercise, he spent ninety days at his cabin in Minnesota (in the Boundary Waters area), taking a single picture each day. Only one. The results are fascinating, and breathtaking. This exercise forced him to really see what he was photographing, because he only got one chance.

He did, of course, still have the filters and fancy equipment, not to mention the eye for light and amazing composition, that make him a professional photographer.

Still, it is a really cool book. He had only intended it as an exercise for himself, but he wound up taking pictures that have become iconic images of northern Minnesota. You can see the images on his web site, as well -- http://www.jimbrandenburg.com/gallery/90%20day%20images/chased_by_the_light.html
Cool! Thank you!
This is something I notice most sharply of all in dialogue. Dialogue which feals realistic, which gives the reader a sense that this is real people talking, and how people really talk, is completely unlike a transcription of an actual conversation. I've done transcriptions of conversations. It's really startling, even if you're pretty aware of these things, how many filler words there are, broken sentences, thoughts which never get completed. A story with dialogue which was like a transcription would (I hope) never make it to the shelves, and rightly so.

All of which makes me want to do a careful study of the quality in dialogue which evokes a sensation of realism, since it's not literal realism, as opposed to unrealistic and bad dialogue which makes readers react negatively. I suspect it's a midline somewhere.
The trick is avoiding what we call "on the nose" dialogue. You cull out the stammering and many of the digressions and loops, but you leave in the obliqueness. So the dialogue still feels subtexty.

People don't say what they mean. They talk around it. In real life, it's a ltitle startling--even agressive, or perhaps embarrassing--when somebody just comes out and says something.

"Tell the truth, but tell it slant."
...realio trulio little pet dragon....

Trust me to latch onto something that has nothing to do with what you're actually talking about. :)
I always managed to find teachers who insisted that poetry never be edited, that it "comes from the heart" raw and that's the way you should leave it.


I hate that myth with a hatey hate.

That's bullshit (the lack of edit), and one of the reasons I tend to hate modern poetry.

Rules are not traps, they are supports. Craft does not detract from art.

I have a poem I spent six months working on. The first half was sketched in an hour, the second half was done in blood, nibbling at the thing every day for a couple of months, and then every few days, and then (when it was basically done) rubbing the rough edges off every week or so.

God I was tired of it when I was done.

Vicious rhyme scheme too.

To be sniffy (because I've seen a lot of Adams' work... both in original prints, and in reproduction, and I've read how he worked.

He didn't take fifty exposures. He took one. He waited, and worked, and saw what he wanted to capture, and then he got it.

Most of his stuff wasn't staged (well, not the way we would think of staged. Rose and Driftwood is one of the few pieces he actually set up) but it was planned.

Where he got to play with things was the darkroom.

He spent a couple of years living in Yosemite. He walked for days, looking to see what the light was like, and what it would be like. Then he'd go out with his camera, and twelve sheets of film. Six B&W, six color, and take pictures.

He had mixed opinions about 2 1/4 cameras, and hated 35mm, because it was so easy to just shoot a bunch of pictures and hope one came out.

If you want to be truly depressed, I know of a snapshot he took. Moonrise over Hernandez. One could wait a lifetime to get that shot. He had a moment.

But he knew what he was doing, and so was able to turn craft into art, even on a moments notice.

You are being sniffy. But I forgive you. You know what I mean: the moment is staged, not spontaneous. *g*
I was sniffy for a reason; and it has to do with craft v. "art".

I know photographers of the, shoot tons of film and sift for the lucky shot.

I'm more than willing (having grown up in the 35mm world) to accept a success rate of one frame per roll (which my mind sees as thirty-six. I still measure my shooting to that benchmark, even when I've spent the day with the digital camera, and gone through, "15" rolls of film).

But that's, in part, because 35mm is a much less forgiving medium that 4x5, which is less tolerant than 8x10.

But I normally get about 20 percent that I want to keep. I can do that because I have 20 years behind the lens, and I spend a lot of time looking at photographs, figuring out how the light was caught (I have a post on this in my head right now, but I need to do some photoshop to get illustrations, or not) where the photographer was standing, what he had to predict (a friend's BiL shoots sunsets in Santa Monica. There are only about 45 days a year the sun is in the right quadrant, and only about 25 when the sky is dramatic. So he goes out, 45 days a year, and waits).

It's like writing. My LJ is all snapshot stuff. Off the cuff and no time in the darkroom.

You write a scene for a book. You've probably outlined it, at least a bit, and then there's the plotting you've got running, and then you go back and look at it in light of what comes after.

It's what one has to do with any craft one tries to raise to art.

Cooking may be the one art which allows this least.


Re: People do it different ways.

The mirrors are a *fantastic* detail. That's just freaking wonderful.

Apparently, she started painting her face with thick layers of ceruse after she contracted smallpox while nursing one of her ladies-in-waiting, who nearly died in the disease. Which adds another layer to that story, even.

What a fascinating woman.