1. Here is the difference between John Shaw and me: he is John Shaw.


Now that that is out of the way lets get to some serious photography stuff.


2. When John makes a Boboli pizza he carefully lays out every ingredient in just the perfect place- he forms a pinwheel of absolutely symmetrical spinach leaves, followed by perfectly concentric circles of peppers and mushrooms topped off with perfectly even layers of cheese laid down in alphabetical order, cheddar first, then jack, then mozzarella and finally Parmesan.


Enough of that, back to the serious photography discussion.


3. When I make a Boboli pizza I just pile on the ingredients, nothing neat or symmetrical about it. A handful here, a handful there, smush it all together and stick it in the oven. You see, whenever I cook, Willy Nilly is my sous chef and Sarah Dippity is the Maitre d’. Sometimes you sit where the food is good and sometimes you sit where the food is great. I mean, after all, how can you mess up a Boboli pizza?


Where was I? Right, serious photography stuff.


4. As you can imagine John takes much longer to make a Boboli pizza then I do. He doesn’t so much create a pizza as he constructs it. He is the Frank Lloyd Wright of the pizza mongers, an architect of Italian cuisine. John doesn’t follow a recipe; he consults a blueprint. I won’t go into it but you can just imagine his lasagna, it belongs more in Architectural Digest than it does in Gourmet Cooking.


As I was saying about photography…..


5. I, on the other hand, am more from the Jackson Pollock school of Boboli Pizza making. As a matter of fact, from a distance you would be hard pressed to tell one of my pizza creations from a Pollock canvas. In close, mine would taste better, usually.


Sorry, I was distracted. Getting back to serious photographic subjects….


6. In the end, so to speak, when all is said and eaten, both creations come out looking pretty much the same. You can tell my pizza from John’s at the start but at the end, one man’s poop is pretty much like another man’s poop. Trust me, this is the stuff I know.


I have done it once again, haven’t I? Gone off on a wild hair of a tangent and I have yet to get within yelling distance of a point.


Or have I? Maybe there was a point, even a photographic point, that was there all along but you just missed it because you were distracted by my scintillating storytelling. Or perhaps, I went through all that just to be able to write the line “one man’s poop is pretty much like another man’s poop.” Oops, I wrote it again!


Well, as tempting as it is to admit that it was all a rouse to include the word ‘poop’ in this essay four times (remember, I was the first and only person to ever get the words ‘Viagra’ and ‘padded bras’ into an Outdoor Photographer article.) there actually is a point to this article. What may that be, per chance? Read on, Grasshopper!


I have done a lot of presentations in front of big groups promoting my two new books, The Nature of Vermont and The Photographer’s Guide to Vermont, both published by the Countryman Press of Woodstock, Vermont. (By the way, anyone with enough wisdom to be reading this essay certainly has enough wisdom to go out and buy one or both of my books.) I have noticed a few things that always seem to come up at these presentations. Most of them involve technique.


People always say that they love taking one kind of picture but when they show it to others it is not well received. They almost always ask me about what the proper technique is to photograph flowers or forests or moose or sunsets or whatever. When I get them to explain a bit further they will tell me that they really like doing something one way and that they are pretty good at it but they are consistently told that their way is the wrong way and they should really do it another way. What is that all about?


First, I never knew that there were technique police out there. Apparently, there are only certain ways that things should be done and if you don’t do them that way then you should expect a visit from the technique police. Who knew? I always though that the object of photography was to be creative and to express yourself artistically in the process of making pleasing images.


If you like taking landscape shots with a telephoto lens then who am I to tell you that you are wrong. I like taking landscape shots with a very wide-angle lens, so what? As long as you have good technique and get pleasing results don’t let anyone else tell you that what you are doing is wrong and you should change your evil ways. This is photography not the Stepford Wives!


This often happens at photography workshops where the pro insists that the students should do things his or her way because that is the right way to do it. Excuse me?!? That is one way to do it and it may be an effective way of doing things but it is certainly not the only way of doing it. More likely is that it may be the only way the pro knows how to do something.


If you like taking out of focus flower shots by stacking extension tubes then go ahead and stack away and don’t let anyone tell you that flowers should be shot with a 105mm macro lens with the flower entirely in focus. If you like shooting portraits with a 24mm lens right next to the subject don’t let any one tell you that all portraits should be shot with a 135mm lens with as little background as possible.


Work on your technique until you get pleasing results and then don’t worry about what anybody else says. It is your picture, do what pleases you.


By the way, this only applies to photography not to cooking. John’s pizza making technique is all wrong. It is a good thing he can take a decent picture.