Expessing myself without a camera

Stop being a blind squirrel

In early June 2010 Maria and I were exploring mount Tymfi in Epirus Greece. Since it was our first time in that mountain we decided not to play it “wild” and chose as our accommodation the refuge there. Being quite early in the season we were left mostly by ourselves with occasional trekkers staying in only for a night only to move on to the trail the day after. Two days before our departure though an American couple arrived, Paul and Marcy, who had decided to bend their schedule by a day and enjoy the views some more. They said the aura of that place reminded them of Yosemite Valley but since I have never been there I don’t know if it was the ouzo talking or it was a valid statement.

So we ended up sharing a table at dinner talking about Greece, the States, mountains and nature. Eventually the conversation drifted into photography and Paul took out his digital camera, kindly asking us for a quick review of their trip’s collection. The photographs were the typical midday snapshots but some very few showed the signs of a potentially good composition and one was actually a good stand alone photograph. After telling him exactly that he answered that unlike us who follow the light he is using the “blind squirrel technique”. I have never heard of this expression until then so I asked what he meant and he laughingly answered that “even a blind squirrel will find an acorn”.

That statement got me thinking that it was true in my early days of photography. I started tracing back my photographic evolution and it came down to my first shipwreck image that I identified as my “acorn”. It also made me realize that in order for a beginner photography enthusiast to evolve he needs to identify this and built from there onwards. I believe that it is a very important moment when you realize that you have created something solid that works for you and be critical at first about what makes this image stand out and second what you can do to improve upon this.

The problem in this whole process is how to identify the “acorn”. I guess the more photography literate someone is, the easier it would be. One part of the blindness is being oblivious of the fact that there are actual people that practice photography as art in the field that you are interested in. Yes, Ansel Adams is a master but going out without a tripod clearly means that there was something lost in translation. The second part of the blindness is how open someone is to pointers and directions from people that are one or more steps ahead of them in their art. True and honest critique is available even if in same occasions you have to pay a small amount for it. You just have to know whom to ask it from and you will, once you gain more and more knowledge. But most importantly the biggest part of blindness is being too self-confident and that, by the way, does not exclude even accomplished artists.

No amount of time spent within a book studying the works of artists that captured your interest or online browsing for information will ever go to waste. In our days we are bombarded with images from everywhere, you would have to be literally blind if you haven’t seen an image from a famous photographer that you liked. Stick to that image learn about the photographer and follow his path. Likewise many a thumb up can do wonders for morale but be a bit critical of who is offering them. It is not that non photographers cannot appreciate your work but it is more likely that photography savvy people can easily identify your potential mistakes.

The saying “even a blind squirrel will find an acorn” is indeed true though come winter it will probably die of hunger. So open your eyes into a world full of “acorns” that are waiting to be found.

Konstantinos

9 Comments

  • Carrie on May 23, 2012 Reply

    Well, that is an excellent way of looking at things. :) You’ve grown so much since we met…sheesh how many years ago? 14 wow It’s nice to see how you took something and ran with it. I’m proud of you!

  • Vangelis Feleris on May 10, 2012 Reply

    Nice article Kostas!

  • Dimitris Papagiannoulis on May 07, 2012 Reply

    An excellent point of view my friend. The difficult part isn’t not to just find the acorn but to never stop trying to find not only more acorns but bigger and better.

    And you reminded me of my first acorn, a waterfall with my first dSLR and the kit lens, with a most unstable tripod, an nd8 and a polarizer which was very big for the kit lens and I was holding with my hand. But the photo was a very tasteful acorn.

    Thanks for the article,
    Dimitris

  • Andy on Apr 30, 2012 Reply

    Lovely blog Konstantinos..and nice to see you finally getting towards getting your own site up. I’ve linked your blog on my own.
    Nice article.
    Hope all is good with you, take care

  • Stratos AgGianoglou on Apr 28, 2012 Reply

    Nice story. It’s always a great moment when you create a photo that is milestone in your photographic journey. This photo usually for me acts as a catalyst that opens new ways for me to travel and experiment. They are rare, especially when you get better and better but they worth every trouble you go through in order to capture them.

    Cheers.
    Stratos.

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