What did you think of when you read the title of this post? Did you think something had gone wrong, temporarily, some little problem to be easily ironed out, some failure in execution which cast a shadow over an other wise exemplary performance? A mere blip on life's radar?
If you are one of my 'Facebook friends' or indeed a fellow 'blipper' you will most likely have thought of photos and cameras and addictive snapping and lenses and angles. Because blipfoto is a wonderful online community of digital photographers of which I am part.
Have you ever found a lovely restaurant, or coffee shop, or small hotel in Malcesine and seriously considered not recommending it in case everyone floods in and spoils it? I'm a bit like that with blipfoto, but if you enjoy taking digital photos I can't, in all conscience, deny you this pleasure any more than I would deny you a book or TV drama recommendation. So what's it all about?
You can be part of blipfoto by registering free at blipfoto.com. Later you may decide to become a full member & enjoy extra privileges, but it's not necessary. Basically, you can upload one, but only one, photo, taken on that day, every day, adding a written journal entry ... a few words or a long diary-type piece. Other blippers can see and comment, as you can with their entries, so you aim to interest. People use it in different ways depending on their circumstances and personal objectives. The community clearly includes professionals extending themselves or relaxing; highly knowledgeable and experienced amateurs; proud parents recording their child's early years; devoted gardeners cataloguing their gorgeous blooms; less secure, non-tech blippers who are trying to extend their skills and those who are happy to take a snap or two. Many of them live in Scotland, where the community originated, but I can easily log on and see the morning sunshine of Melbourne or the first snow in southern Germany as uploaded by worldwide blippers.
I have a Digi SLR with which I try to teach myself to be a better photographer. I still tend to point and shoot but I am learning. Since the 3rd of March 2011, I have had my camera with me at some point every day to 'collect' a blip. Everything from a view of Arran, to a close up of my silver fitflop, from a portrait of a grandchild to an unusual swan photo; they're all in there.
But what I have learned is that blipfoto is about much more than the image which appears to be the end result. The community is a real community of souls. Gradually, I have come to know some of the stories behind the highly anonymised usernames : there are stories of joy, of ill-health, of courage or fear, of tragic loss, of fun and laughter, of house buying, of job-loss, of good fortune, of emotional difficulty. And in every case, the community has responded with warmth and generosity. In nine months of blipping, I've never seen a critical, carping comment on composition, content or technique; I have seen strangers telling a fellow blipper that they are thinking of them, that things will get better, that they admire their determination, that they have the very cure for what ails them.
If you ever glance at the comments under the clips on Youtube you will probably decide that no decent person would ever think of commenting, so malevolent and so vicious are a substantial number of comments. That would not happen on blipfoto. There is a sense that we know respect and care about each other.
Besides this feeling of shared values ..... always accepting that there is the very occasional odd-one-out who is swiftly dealt with by the moderation process ( a Barbie Doll wearing a swastika armband disappeared commendably swiftly) ....... there is a sense of common purpose. And that purpose can become a joyful obsession. It's easy to take a lovely pic of a sun-kissed seascape. But what about the day of interminable icy rain? This is when you find yourself with an image of a city street blurred by the raindrops on the lens cover; or a close up of your new bottle of golden Scottish rapeseed oil in front of your scarlet coffee tin. You panic as evening approaches and you have no blip!
And a day of blip-famine may well be followed 24 hours later by the torture of choosing just one from a series of brilliant or interesting photos. Below is what I rejected today!
Many blippers use compacts or iphone and android cameras; they snap away while out cycling or jogging. I carry my DSLR, a Nikon 3100, slung round my neck in a case, with the long lens in my handbag or rucksack. It goes to Tesco and out for lunch; to the Art Gallery and the yoga class and for a lot of cups of coffee and porridge breakfast! The whole world becomes a resource. I have to look, really look, at what is happening around me at any given moment. And I am learning to see my world with clearer eyes.
Next, I want to learn the skills of the candid portrait. I have used only those images where the person has actively invited me to take the photograph, but some blippers have an amazing series of candid shots. I also need to learn a bit more about using the features of the camera to take movement and night-time shots.
I hope to meet some more fellow blippers in person! I 'got into conversation' with one person when I recognised from her pics that she lived near my sister, We met for coffee and I felt an instant rapport! In another instance, I could see that the blipper was a jazz fan and we arranged to introduce ourselves at a gig we were both attending. Only in this developing relationship does a 'real name' come into play; I exchange comments with another blipper who lives nearby. I have no idea exactly where she lives, far less what is her name. It isn't important; you reveal what you want to, no more.
Being part of blip fits well with other aspects of my life; it asks me to focus on the moment as my yoga and my interest in mindfulness also do. It makes me look at the world through a lens, as I have looked though literature and am hoping to learn to look through paintings. It makes me get out and look at the world , in particular the ordinary. I photograph my existing passions; Glasgow architecture, the Isle of Arran, my garden, my family; and I discover new passions ..... light on water, the elegant contortions of the swan, the beauty of grass, the majesty of dark clouds.
Perhaps I'll see you there, on blip, someday soon.