Interview with Charles Lusby, October 2010 Photo of the Month Winner
There are some photographers who go out with a particular shot in mind. There are some who have to follow the directions of the client. And then there are some photographers who follow the wind, allowing nature to craft the shot, listening only to their instincts and capturing what is there in front of them. Charles Lusby is one of those photographers. Sweet and gentile, Charles is the father of four and the grandfather to six. He talks about them as if they fill his universe with more love than one grandfather can handle. When he isn't photographing the world around him, Charles runs security at a retirement community in his hometown of Columbia, Missouri. Even in his sixties, there is still an obvious love for life in the way he talks. Though he claims he is "not an excitable person", his favorite part about his day-to-day life is "enjoying life and the beautiful things in this world". At an age when cynicism and disbelief come with life experience, Charles still sees that there is beauty in this world.
As a boy growing up in the Midwest, his family sprang from humble beginnings. "Back when I was a kid, I would have liked to have taken pictures. We didn't have money for that so I mostly dreamed about it. Our only camera was an old Kodak Brownie and it was just a simple fixed lens camera that at that time recorded the image on the film. Not having two nickels to rub together, all you could afford was black and white film. Besides, there wasn't much color film around, not until high school maybe." But sometime in the last ten to thirteen years, Charles made the transition to digital photography.
When asked about his first camera, he fumbles for a response, trying to be as honest with his answers as possible. "I can't tell you what it was as far as a digital camera is concerned. Just that it was cheap and didn't have a preview screen. I was hooked and got something better several times until I finally ended up with a Kodak Easy Share and I owned several of them. About five years ago I got a digital SLR, a Pentax istDL, then a Sony Alpha 200 and my [current] pocket camera, which is the Canon." Though Charles has never attended formal classes, he goes down to his local camera stores and picks their brains. "I don't know a whole lot about settings. I feel like I still have a lot of things that I could learn and try." With time, practice and a healthy dose of patience on his side, Charles sees each picture as a learned experience. Not afraid to adjust himself or his camera, every shot is a lesson in how different settings create a different picture. His diligence and photographic bravery pays off.Charles isn't a man to fuss over much. He rarely tweaks his photographs in the post-production phase; he hardly ever plans his pictures but simply allows them to take shape; he not only photographs the beauty he finds in nature but also uses it as a sort of photographer's assistant. Armed with only a camera, he uses "whatever is handy to prop myself against to steady the camera, such as a tree. I don't always have my tripod with me. I do have tripods. You wouldn't know it but I do. I use as little as possible. Most of my pictures come because I just happened to be there. I do once in a while go out to do something specific, but it's not often. I'm looking for it though at the same time; I'm looking for something all the time."
Influenced not by men and women in his field of photography, Charles looks to nature for his inspiration. "If you see a picture of mine and there are no power lines in it, then there were no power lines in it. Something to me that just does not look natural, I won't take the picture. If there is something in there that I don't want, I'll try to walk around it and zoom into it so I don't have it in the picture." Charles has the unique experience of confronting a very serious surgery and coming out successfully. He attributes his newfound appreciation for his surroundings to his second chance at enjoying the world around him.
"I think that, you know, I have learned to approach things, and not just things concerning photography, but everything from a different perspective. I've had heart surgery and that's changed how I see things. I think more about the beautiful things in this world and this life and everything that is so precious. I look at things differently whether I have a camera in my hands or not. Anything can be photographed in a way that it can stir an interest in people. I believe that the ugly you are taking a picture of can even be beautiful...What I see, I feel like sharing it with others. I really enjoy sharing what I have with other people. I just want [my pictures] hung on the wall. For what I do, I get nothing except the enjoyment out of it."
When asked about his winning shot for the October Photo of the Month contest (above), he states that it was "just a striking scene that needed to be captured". Taken on the Missouri River just south of his hometown with a Canon Powershot A1000 IS, it's a place where he goes occasionally to enjoy the music at his favorite haunt, Cooper's Landing, and always brings his camera. He had driven by this exact scene many times before, noting its beauty but often driving by on his way back home. One particular Sunday as Charles was heading back to his car, he was struck by the natural composition of the shot. "I took a picture, I got in the car and left. I thought 'Boy, you are really stupid.' I took one picture and walked away from it. I took one picture and it was totally not like me."
Knowing his own limitations and how fickle dusky light can be, he was surprised he didn't follow his usual protocol by taking a number of shots with different settings from different angles. "When I got home and got on the computer, it just knocked me out." After a little cropping to square the image, he uploaded the photo to Steve's Digicams but thought nothing of it. "I'm not an excitable person. When my wife had her first baby and the doctor said I had to go with her to the hospital, I told him we needed to have a cup of coffee first. But to be picked as a winner of the day, to me that was like the difference between an old Chevy truck and a BMW. I think Steve's is the biggest rated picture of the day website. I'm not a talker but this whole Steve's thing, I don't know what's gotten into me."
A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. - John Barrymore