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Making Mistakes

9 Jan

Making Mistakes

Making Mistakes is one of the first blogs I wrote, and it bears periodic updating.

In 1859, the Scottish author, Samuel Smiles wrote in Self Help, “We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.”
Manual for Brownie Hawkeye Camera making mistakes
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We often learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. Think back to your childhood and teen years. How often did you ignore your parents’ admonishments and do something anyway.

Learning the consequences of that mistake had so much more impact than your parents’ warning, and you learned by first-hand experience that perhaps you didn’t want to repeat that mistake in the future. And, you survived!

By the same token, I had a great aunt, a famous heart doctor, who always said that it was more important to publish your failures than your successes. It kept others from wasting a lot of energy, time, and money going down that same particular path. Instead, other researchers could try a different approach, or perhaps a variation on the scenario that didn’t work, and in doing so, might make some “mistakes” that resulted in some great discoveries.

I suspect many of the great inventions of our world came from making mistakes that turned out to be amazing successes.

Think of the artichoke.  Glamorous, it ain’t. If you saw one for the first time, would you be tempted to eat one?  And what about the choke and those prickles on the tips of the leaves?  Some one must have been desperate to be the first to try one, maybe pricked his fingers and dropped it into the fire, making yet another mistake. Personally, I am eternally grateful for those first people who dared try something different by sampling, whether through desperation or chance, that wonderful, strange creature!

And so it is with photography. If we are afraid of making mistakes, of taking chances, we can’t grow as photographers. Cameras these days save us from ourselves if we allow them to. I never set my camera to A (automatic) and very, VERY rarely to P (program). I mean, really, look at this box. Do you see anything that would speak to program or automatic modes? I was amused, by the way, to discover that camera is considered an antique. Oh well!

Brownie Hawkeye Camera Flash Model Box making mistakesI was eight, when I got one of them, my first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye Flash Model that took 620 film, the precursor to 120 film that came on a slightly thicker spool. 120 wasn’t introduced until 1965. The adjustments on my Brownie were minimal, but when I Continue reading 

My Meeting with Henri

19 Jan

Originally published April 11, 2008 and updated January 19, 2015

Since I originally penned this blog, Arnie discovered a video of a filmstrip that his cousin, Sheila Turner made with Cornell Capa and ICP of Henri Cartier-Bresson.© 2013 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures.com (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. Eastern Time, ET.

It has since been removed, because whoever posted it did not have permission from the authors. It did, however, serve as an introduction to Sheila’s daughter who is working with the filmstrips now.

Arnie was around at the time these film strips were made (only those with gray hair will recognize this term) and sat in on the editing of some of them at Cornell’s house over dinner and conversation. How lucky he was!

And as we look forward to returning yet again to Paris this summer, I thought it appropriate to update and add photos to this blog, some of them the types of scenes I walked past on this particular afternoon.

Some were made in fairer weather than I experience that day long ago.

Whatever the scenes, they all illustrate what I love about Paris. Sure, there are many more I could post, but …© 2013 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures.com (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. Eastern Time, ET.

It was some years ago, back in the 80s, when I took my girls and one of their friends to explore France for two weeks. I figured they would learn far more there than they would in school.

In Paris, we were based in a little, not-quite-flea-bitten hotel I found on Île de la Cité, right near Notre Dame with all its splendid gargoyles that fascinated the girls.

We walked, and we walked, and we walked some more. There were so many places I wanted to show them — le Louvre, la Place de la Concorde, l’Arc de Triomphe, la Tour Eiffel, Montmartre, la Rive Gauche — before we headed south to Provence and the coast.

Along la Rive Gauche, we saw the sidewalk artists, book bins, and cages of birds, rabbits, and other animals. Children played on the ancient, cobbled streets.© 2013 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures.com (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. Eastern Time, ET.

We sat in sidewalk cafés, watching the street scenes and sipping cups of chocolat, or in my case, wine, basking in the sun, sipping a glass of wine, and imagining what it must have been like when my English granny lived here with my dad.

There was the obligatory shopping, and we all bought maillots, perfect, as it was just too early to find bathing suits in the northern-US stores. They were inexpensive, and they lasted for years and years.

There were wonderful little presents and treasures discovered in bargain bins for family and friends back home.

It was April, and on cue, it rained the second day of our visit. That didn’t stop me from photographing.© 2013 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail TBC (at) BCphotoadventures.com (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. Eastern Time, ET.

Late afternoon saw us on Pont au Double. The kids were admiring the river view while I studied what I wanted to photograph, camera poised in my hand as I protected it as much as I could in the inclement weather.

“Madame,” I heard a voice say in French, “Your lens cap is still on.”

Also in French, I replied, “Yes, thank you, I know. I am a professional photographer. With the rain, I want to protect my lens until the last minute.”

“Ah, Madame, very good. Let me help you,” said he as he shaded my lens and I photographed.

“Merci, monsieur, vouz êtes si gentil,” I thanked him for his kindness.

“Venez, venez,” he said, beckoning, “Vite, vite!”

My girls looked at me and thought I had lost my senses.

Here we were, following a strange Continue reading 

The Rest of the Story, Part II—with Apologies to Paul Harvey

10 Aug

Last week, I relayed the stories behind some of my favorite photographs with the promise of more to come this week. An assignment in Phoenix (where it was 102-108) delayed this week’s post, for which I apologize.

Quite a few years ago, I was photographing through the St. Vincent Grenadines, starting in St. Vincent and ending down in Mayreau (pronounced MY-row). There was so much to put on film, from La Souffriere, the active volcano in St. Vincent to the incredible snorkling off Mayreau. The food was wonderful, the beat of the calypso steel bands intoxicating, and the people charming.

I had stopped in Bequia (pronounced BECK-wee) for a few days. This island is famous not only for its sanctioned whaling, but for its wooden model boats. Sargeant Brothers Model Boat Shop hand crafts beautiful wooden boats that reflect Bequia’s seafaring history. They are really greatl and fetch quite a fancy price. Being a fan of all wooden boats, particularly classic ones, I was intrigued. I went to the shop and found one of the model boat builders, a tall man with huge, muscular arms named Timothy, whom you’ll meet next week. He said I could look around to my heart’s content, and I was in heaven.

The boats were exquisite. The detail, from the oars to the boats’ ribs to the coiled lines on the decks to the inlay work was so incredibly fine, that I was in awe. I asked questions, and Timothy showed me the different tools and finished models. When I asked to see some in process, he took me to a shed, where I was greeted by a beautiful still-life. The light was magical, gentle fill light that made the warm wood of the boats pop against the blue wall. Five hulls hung drying from nails driven into a shelf. A number of shells nested on the table below. I only made this one image in the shed. For me, it said it all. “Still Hulls” is its name.

© 2008 Zann and Pinkerton Photography.  All Rights Reserved. For usage and fees, please contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC 27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.
Travels, as some of you have gathered by now, have taken me to many parts of the world. Alaska is certainly a world away from Bequia, and when a photographer friend called to say he needed a woman photographer to work on a job with him, someone who camped, canoed, knew the outdoors, and had her own equipment, I checked my frequent flyer miles, cashed some of them in, and took off. It was my first trip to Alaska, a place I had long wanted to visit.

We flew north of the Arctic Circle to a pristine lake just outside Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in a deHavilland Beaver. Our pilot was a delightful ‘Nam vet who had seen his share of dicey conditions. I felt totally comfortable with his piloting. We found we shared a love of Australia, and I had brought along some of my Bundy OP (Bundaberg Over Proof, a very bracing rum) that I shared as we talked about favorite places in Australia.

For me, it was ironic. Here I was in Alaska, talking about Australia while drinking some of its finest. My dad always said there were two last frontiers in this world — Australia and Alaska. Alas, he never got to see either before he died; so in a way, this was a trip for him, too.

© 2008 Zann and Pinkerton Photography.  All Rights Reserved. For usage and fees, please contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC 27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.We did tons of photography for the client, often using each other as models so we would not have to bother the regular guests at the wilderness lodge. It was towards the end of our week on this lake, and we needed to still get some hiking shots.

It was late afternoon, and with the steep hillsides dropping into the lake, the sun disappeared quickly. We took turns photographing and when we were done, headed back downhill. This was major bear country, and neither of us had any particular desire to meet Herr Bear in the dark!

We watched our footing in the tundra, making sure we didn’t trip over a snag or step into a hole. Suddenly, I stopped and backed up. My peripheral vision had not failed me.

The colors were gorgeous. The curves of the shoreline were perfect. The reflections in the lake were magnificent. There were pinks, corals, lavenders, blues, and golds. I have never seen anything like it. I was able to compose a couple of shots before the ephemeral light faded. “Narvak Reflections” hangs on a number of collectors’ walls. I can only help it gives them the same sense of peace and wonder it did me when I first saw it.

© 2008 Zann and Pinkerton Photography.  All Rights Reserved. For usage and fees, please contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC 27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.Taking another long leap a few years later, I was in Greece, photographing for a tour company. It really was a dream assignment, as I got to travel to a beautiful part of the world with some really interesting people who were the lecturers for the trip. One was a former ambassador to Greece; the other was his wife, the daughter of an earlier ambassador there. We hit it off, and had a great time together when we were not “on call.”

After touring through some amazing historical places, including the site of the first Olympics, we went to Mykonos, probably one of the most famous of the Greek islands. Home to old windmills, it is charming and stunning with white buildings cascading down steep hills, blue accents, and gaily-painted boats tied up along the quay. It was a photographer’s feast.

Part of my assignment was to come back with some “quintessentially Greek” photographs. I found many along the way, but the one that worked the best for me was this one. I was meandering amongst the back streets above the town, meeting people, and taking in the beauty of it all, when my eyes homed in on this simple scene. This was the ultimate case of “less is more.” A blue railing against a white set of stairs. “Blue Railing” draws me back time and time again. To me, it is elegant. It, too, graces many people’s houses.

On one of my many cross-country treks in a series of diesel VWs, I met Dave, a Lakota Sioux, a leader not only of his people, but at the time, president of the Plains Indians group. Grandson of a great shaman, I was in awe of him when we first met. You’ll meet him next week, too, but that is another story.

A year or so later, I got a call from Dave, saying he was putting together a wagon train, and would I like to come. There were people who were willing to lend me a horse, so all I needed to do was bring my tent, food, etc. That was easy, since my garage at the time was filled largely with my skis and camping equipment, tents of assorted sizes, ThermaRest pads, good sleeping bags for various temperature ranges, cooking kits for different sized groups. Well, you get the picture.

We rode mostly through the Sioux Nation, our horses and wagons lined up in a curving ribbon. We spent a couple of nights on land “owned” by a white rancher. A serious alcoholic, he could still sit a horse like nobody I had ever seen before or have seen since, and I have seen quite a few veteran cowboys over the years. He held a reverence for the land and its Lakota history and told us that he was simply caretaker for it. He never thought of it as his land, only that he was holding it in trust, preserving the fire rings, trails, and remnants of a former Sioux presence. His young teen grandson was his foreman and had the same respect for the land and its history.

I set up my tent with a beautiful view of the rolling, grassy plains. There was a snow fence to protect the barns from the worst of the winter drifts, but I thought it was a perfect place to air and dry some towels. At some point, I went back to my tent to get something, and as I was exiting, this scene greeted me. The snow fence, complete with towels, snaked down the hill in the golden, late afternoon light, disappearing into the shadows below. It was stunning. I just did this one shot, “Fence Laundry.”

© 2008 Zann and Pinkerton Photography.  All Rights Reserved. For usage and fees, please contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC 27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.
Next week, I’ll share a few more of my film favorites and the stories that go with them. All of these photographs have been oft published, been juried into shows, hang on the walls of private collectors, and continue to give me pleasure every time I look at them and remember the rest of the story.

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