©2022 Michael Raven
I’ve been doing some reading up on several things that pique my interest these past few days in what may seem at first like two unrelated areas: photography and foraging/wildcrafting.
I know — for those who read my non-poetry posts, you already likely know that I am interested in both subjects and you may have picked up that I am interested in combining the interests after I get the rugged camera I have on order early next week. To you, this might not be news. But now I am actively looking into both areas of study — and have been both frustrated and made excited by what I have been reading.
With the first subject, photography, one of the things that frustrates me about most of the books out there is that there is always a lengthy introduction (it’s not just photography) which explores the history of the subject all the way to the beginning, in the occasionally injected opinion which is always insincerely apologetic to those who disagree with such an opinion (“No offense to the original artist who… but…”) and it goes on and on and on with no real value that to spew forth a professor’s opinion about what makes something great or how there is abundant support for their argument. One of the books I chose to read went on like that (and is still going on about it when finally I switched books).
I don’t find those approaches to be all that successful, honestly, so it was refreshing when the next book on photography I selected was a quick read (!) and got straight to the point I was wanting to read about: elements of composition and framing. And, it was in plain English unembellished by jargon. Was it a very deep book? No. But it was what I needed and what I needed was not a lot of hot air blown out of someone’s orifice, and that got straight to the business of elements of what helps make a good picture. There was no flash, no “be an Instagram star by the end of the week”. It was simple ways to improve your skills as a photographer. Skills I had heard of in bits and pieces, often peppered with other unhelpful advice (jargon, folks, is the enemy of understanding), but had never seen presented plainly and logically.
Another book that I got a sample for, I am already considering getting to add to my personal collection, Zen Camera by David Ulrich. While I am always wary of anything that has “Zen” in the title, this author speaks to me in a language I can understand. In many ways, I think he has modeled his book on similar texts like Writing Down The Bones (Goldberg) and others, who emphasize real practice with the arts instead of ticking the box that has “Zen” in the title. So far, his introduction has been very sensible without the whoo-whoo of other self-proclaimed gurus. I’m going to read the whole sample, but if the rest is similar to what I’ve read so far, I am buying it.
I also started digging (no pun intended) into foraging and wildcraft/herbcraft (don’t say “goblincore” or “herbcore” or I’ll have to hurt you). I used to be heavily invested in plant knowledge back when I first started hanging with the wiccans and druids, but knowledge was hard to come by in those days and I eventually got frustrated with the cost of books to develop the skills needed and walked away about the same time as I left hardcore neopagan practice. Use it or lose it… Well… I lost it. Which isn’t too bad of a thing, as I was too reliant on getting my herbs and materials from Present Moment Bookstore (which is a fantastic place to get such things in our area), and not learning the plants myself. All very alchemist and very little cunning folk. While I’m not sure I want to go into herbal practice, I am interested in learning more at the “ground level”, above, at and below, this time around, rather than going and grabbing a tincture or cultivated powders from a jar. I found several books that are hyper-localized content and I think I may pick up one or two of those. I’m hesitant because, even with recommendations from people in the know, I have been unsatisfied with the information I’ve found so far. But several authors seem to know their stuff, so I may get one or more field guides on the matter. I just wish I could find more than a few hyper-localized guides to make it easier to trust the safety of the plants they say to gather and use.
Which brings together the whole photography and foraging thing. I haven’t decided if I’ll gather up things that I find that are edible or have other uses, or if I’ll do one of those “take only pictures” kinds of things. But I want to get out into the field, explore, and find myself again. I want to learn something new and both things could help me grow deeper as a person. I figure taking pictures of plants and looking for my photographic ideology might help me in more areas than just knowledge.