The usefulness and perils of jargon

My brother Gaelon asked me a question he thought I would know the answer to, it involved taking photos with a telescope. I said I do not know much about the subject, but would try to figure out what the was asking. He was looking at a photo with the following technical detail — “30 lights, five minuted each exposure, iso 1600, calibrated with 200 bias, 32 darks, 33 flats.” I know some of the phrases, iso is an easy one, five minute exposure sure, but what the hell is 32 darks and 33 flats?”

He sent me the original post of the photo with the technical description that included the location the photograph was taken, the various devices used to track as the earth rotates, the camera uses, how it was attached to a telescope and so forth. It also included an annotated version of the photo that better described how the mosaic image was created.

I have no idea if my answer was correct, but it sounded authoritative (and you can not spell authoritative without Thor.

But it did bring up something that has always bugged me about how many people approach photography. There is a lot of jargon and technical stuff. We can talk about color temperature, lighting ratio, zone systems and once you get into processing images in Photoshop or similar programs, one can get lost in an endless morass of confusing and contradictory ideas. This does not even go into composition, timing, Bresson’s Decisive Moment, the idea that a photograph is even close to a representation of anything close to reality, what even is reality?

I get why photography can seem so mysterious to people. Everyone can take a photo with their phone, sometimes they can be great images, but what sorcery do we who take photos on a professional level have in our brains that enables us to see what others seem unable to see until it is reveled by the magical visual wizards.

Creativity can be taught, but it does not come as easily to some as it does to others. I struggle with it every day, I look at as many different photographers, films, listen to music and read literature (for me, probably not as much as I should), and talk to people, look at people, listen to people. For me math was hard, it just never made sense. I like it in concept, the beauty of logic is something I long to understand, but I really have not applied myself to learning it. I am sure it would be hard, but I could finally pass basic algebra if I put in the effort. For anyone who thinks they are not creative, I would say they are, they just need to put in the work, and in the end, it might not be worth it to them, and that is ok. I like what I do, and I am ok that I do not understand the AP Statistics my daughter takes, or the AP Calculus my son takes. I am glad they understand it and are doing well.

Photography is a language just as much as writing of speaking, it just has different syntax and its one obtuse jargon. I think Visual Literacy should be taught along side Literature, Math and Science (not likely in the current political climate, but a boy can dream).

Just try it, try painting, try poetry, try music, try photography, try video game design, you will fail, you will learn. Even if you never do it as a profession you will gain insight into yourself and your life will be richer as a result.

Oh, today’s photo. This was on an assignment for the Financial Times. The CEO of a video game company. The company’s headquarters was designed to look like an “evil space craft”. The guard was not a prop, they have had problems with regular game users who were upset when they made changed to the games and tried to get into to the office to threaten employees. Some people take this stuff quite seriously.

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