Years ago, when I became curious about how to take a decent photo, curious enough to develop an action plan, I was a poor, starving graduate student. I signed up for a class at the community center in Bloomington, Indiana. The class was exactly what I needed and the instructor couldn’t have been better. He occasionally posed questions that caused me to stop and ponder. One such question: do you see in black and white or color? What? Everyone sees in color, right? What he meant was if, as a photographer, I see textures more, which stand out in black and white photography, or not. I had never thought about seeing in those terms.
I decided I was a see-in-black-and-white-kind-of gal. Only, remember the poor, starving graduate student part? I couldn’t really afford buying and processing black and white film. (Yes, back in the day when film still ruled. And yes, graduate students are that poor.) So, what to do? I was determined to become visually ambidextrous. I was going to become a see-in-color photographer. What has the most color? Flowers. And how best to take flower photos? As close-ups. I took the cheap route—my instructor suggested and set me up with close-up filters, which I use to this day.
Fast forward to 2013. I recently found myself in the farmers’ market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I had heard of it but had never been. It was fabulous. The biggest farmers’ market I have ever seen. And it was paradise for me with my camera. I was in heaven floating between the stalls, wafts of earthy smells accosting my nose. I postponed my plans for the day and spent several hours composing shots of the different produce, flowers, and ceramics for sale. I was not alone in doing so. Lots of other amateur photographers (with DSLR cameras) and amateur-amateur photographers (with cell phones) were snapping photos.
At one place, the guy manning the stall gushed about how flattering it was to have someone taking photos of his produce. (As I write that, it kind of sounds like a come-on line à la the farmers’ market or a euphemism for something less savory than vegetables. It wasn’t.) He was flattered. I was in heaven. The fruits and vegetables were beautiful, vibrant subjects. Just what a black-and-white-turned-color photographer needed.
Over the years, I have poked around community gardens, snapping photos of fruits and vegetables in various stages of ripeness. Often the gardens are padlocked (a sad commentary about stealing in the community gardens), but one garden in the area is still open to a photographer who wants to meander the rows and enjoy the smells and sights. Now I can add large city farmers’ markets to my photography outing venues—gustatory and visual smorgasbords. A photographer’s paradise.