Syntax And The Professional Toilet Paper Photographer

I once asked my old English teacher what syntax was. She said it was another example of the damned government trying to make money out of everything. I have since learned that this was just her being cynical…though the presence of the bottle of rye and the tooth glass on her desk in the classroom should have given me a clue.

Apparently it really means the rules of order for a language – the way the sentences are structured. Subjects, verbs, and objects are cited by the dictionary when defining the idea. The sort of thing that Gracie Allen never seemed to be able to manage ( and the secret was that she always could ).

So how does this apply to photography? Well, you cannot shoot a film or turn on a sensor if you haven’t loaded a film or a card into the camera…but that is mechanics rather than grammar. Likewise the actual operation – you can’t take a picture if the apparatus hasn’t been set for focus, aperture, and shutter speed. At least nowadays you can’t – the cameras can be set to lock up until all three factors are in operation. In the old days you could shoot with nothing set anywhere, and if you did it probably became a hit art movement in the late 30’s.

Actually, you can do it now, but you have to convince the camera not to correct your mistakes. Some of the humbler ones, destined for the boob trade, will not make art – they just make accurate pictures.

The real message about syntax revolves more around thought processes – and the fact that you need to get them in order before your photography means anything. Take for example a simple ambition upon your part to make pictures of wildflowers. You need to first think out what it is about wildflowers that pleases you – or that disgusts you, if you are going to be odd about it. Then you need to think how that aspect can best be illustrated. Only then can you think about selecting gear and the settings on that gear to do it. The actual photography is next, with you doing what you have planned, and then the post-processing that makes the electric image a reality.

Get any of these steps out-of-order, and the whole process becomes nonsense. If you buy your camera before you reason out your need, you risk having the wrong thing always to hand. If you can only see post processing, your actual shooting will be haphazard and make the processing a nightmare. If you never know what you want to do right, you’ll never know if you have done it.

How do you get the syntax right? You sit down with a pad of yellow legal paper, a yellow HB pencil, and a bottle of rye – it is sort of yellow too. By the time that you reach halfway down the pencil, page, and bottle, you should have a good idea of what to do and how to do it.

Oh, you wondered about the toilet paper photography? Deal with the subject before it is used on the object. You’ll thank me for that later.


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