What I’ve learned about common sense

By Melissa Hardiman

By Melissa Hardiman

I have a library consisting mostly of books about common sense. There was a time when I trusted common sense. I no longer do that. While I like common sense, I have no confidence in it to produce meaningful results. It does not work. It has no power, no authority.

I also have books about God. I have no better results with them. Nor with God.

What I have confidence in is the Yellow Brick Road, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Wizard of Oz. And, oh yes, the Ruby Slippers.

I have confidence in the Jimmy Stewart film, It’s a Wonderful Life. He was crazy too, and he showed us the value of being crazy.

I have come to accept that absurdity is the key to success, to progress. It is an invitation to be real, whatever that means. Being real demands that we reject what we counted on to define ourselves. We were wrong. Misguided. We must take a chance on something unproven. At least, unproven to us.

I welcome your thoughts, especially if you disagree with me.





Looking back

She is all grown up now.

She is all grown up now.





TaylorJo at the Santa Barbara zoo

This young lady is now in college. I contributed over the years to her photo gallery, which includes some books published by Blurb. I encourage my readers to do similar projects.

Blurb is a major step forward from the drugstore images that are glued into a binder. That’s what I was offered when I was young.

It’s something to think about.

Books can be printed one copy at a time.

Books can be printed one copy at a time.


Teats and ass

Nude signI prefer the “tits” spelling, but I defer to the dictionary.

I spend time on Tumblr viewing photos of naked women. There are many of them, and I have learned some things from my experience on that site.

The first lesson is that I encounter my own guilt and anxiety. I was taught from childhood to be guilty and anxious, and experiencing those feelings is a wake up call for me. I tell myself I should have outgrown them by now. I’m a slow learner.

My dad had a deck of playing cards with photos of women that showed their breasts. That was all that was allowed in those days. Crotch shots were considered obscene. That is not the case now. Tastes change. At least for some people.

I notice the sheer number of women who show themselves to the camera, seemingly without any kind of boundaries. I notice how much fun they appear to have in this role. I notice the almost total absence of men. And finally, I notice the range of body shapes, styles, and ages that provide no barrier to the enjoyment the women experience as they are photographed. Men could learn something from that.

I found a few photos of women “nursing” at the breast of another woman. Men would do well to find a male equivalent of this that expresses trust and friendship. If you know of one, I invite you to share it with me.

When I photograph men who know each other I sometimes ask for a high five or a knuckle bump. That is the limit of the risks men are generally willing to take. We can learn something from the ladies.

I encourage readers to explore these galleries to inventory your sense of guilt and your notions of propriety. Doing so was informative for me, and you might have the same experience. One of my favorite galleries is nothingbutasmile. That’s all the ladies wear in many of the photos.

Men would do well to examine our sense of risk and decide if we have set the bar too low. I invite my silent readers to comment.

Don’t take it personally



MGM lost a million dollars on The Wizard of Oz back when a million dollars meant something.

Budget: $2.7 million

Box Office: $3 million

Believe it or not, The Wizard of Oz was a box office bomb when it was released in 1939. At the time, it was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s most expensive film ever with giant sets and state-of-the-art special effects. MGM had high expectations for the film, however, audiences weren’t keen on making the journey to the Wonderful Land of Oz.

In fact, MGM lost $1.1 million on The Wizard of Oz because of its high production and distribution cost. Despite its middling box office numbers, it garnered four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and won two Oscars for Best Score and Best Original Song for “Over the Rainbow.”

Due to its critical success, MGM re-released The Wizard of Oz in 1949 for its 10th anniversary and it eventually became a profitable film for the studio, and it added $1.5 million to its box office. Throughout the years, MGM (and later Warner Bros, who now own the film rights) re-released The Wizard of Oz in theaters and home video, and it became an iconic piece of cinema and pop culture.Source

The movie has always been one of my favorites. There’s no place like home. Notice the virtues of your ruby slippers.

On retouching

RainbowIf you adjust the version of the photo the camera recorded that is known as retouching. It might be as simple as making a rectangular image square. Or it might involve a series of changes.

This step is done on a computer using software designed for the task. One popular software program is Lightroom. Retouching is done before the image is distributed.

If you take a photo in challenging circumstances it is helpful to take several photos, varying the camera settings for each of them. This increases the probability that at least one of them will require a minimum of retouching.

The rainbow image contains a wide range of light levels which can confuse the camera and the photographer. Rainbows do not last long, so it is essential to work quickly.

Taking the photo

Buick RoadmasterNote: This post is the second installment on my series on photography.

Beauty, finesse, technical excellence, and artistry are all electives as far as I am concerned. Pursue them or not according to your tastes. What matters is that you take pictures.

I have a little book with the title Close to Home, An American Album. The photos, all black and white, break all the rules. And they appeal to me.

The book also examines the subject of artistic merit in a way that I find very soothing. You might want to develop your own point of view on this as it relates to your personal photographs. What purpose do they serve? What requirements, if any, must they meet? How do they bring you comfort and joy?

When I was young, as in the photo you see here, we used a lot of cheap cameras with inferior lenses. Some of them were likely made of plastic. No matter. Taking pictures was fun. We emphasized quantity, not quality, and I’m glad we did. We had them developed at the drug store.

The essential thing, in my opinion, is to notice the light. How much of it do you have, and where is it coming from. That is the only essential, as far as I am concerned. The photo of me was taken in Portland. It was likely a cloudy day. The photographer might have come closer to me, but there would be less of the Buick in the photo. I was fond of the Buick. This photo is the only record I have of it. I was eleven. The point, as I understand it, is to have photos of kids being eleven.

The point I want to make is that a photograph’s technical flaws do not exclude it from a place of pride. Set your quality standards to please yourself, not others. The point is to have fun, honor the world as you know it, and to create a trail of memories to inform yourself and others.

A guide to more photo fun

Many people snap a photo and think their work is done. It is done if a superficial experience is all you want. If you want a richer and more satisfying experience you need to develop several competencies. I have listed them below.

1. Taking the photo

2. Retouching

3. Preserving your photos to guard against accidental erasure

4. Sharing photos appropriately

5. Displaying your photos individually and in thoughtfully organized galleries, including printed books

6. Enjoying your photos, savoring them, reflecting on what they mean to you

Books can be printed one copy at a time.

Books can be printed one copy at a time.

There are additional competencies that relate to video work. In this post I’m only considering still photography.

This list shows the sequence of events chronologically. I dedicate this post to item number six because it provides the motivation for all the other tasks.

Many people snap photos with their cellphone and pass the phone to their friends. This provides a brief and shallow experience. It is worth considering whether you deserve more.

We tend to underestimate ourselves these days because other people underestimate us and we believe them. One of the joys of photography for me is that it reminds me how much people matter—including me.

Emma Louise

Emma Louise

A classic way to display and enjoy photos is to frame them and display them at various key points in the home. I have pictures I have admired daily for many years. I find it deeply satisfying.

So, the first step in improving your photographs is to recognize that you matter, and so do your friends and the members of your family. It also applies to the animals in your life.