Taking the next step either in your photographic career, or just improving your technique can be intimidating. Starting with mastering the camera controls, to editing in various software platforms, the fear factor exists for many.
How do you decide which image is worthy? Are you influenced by the opinions others? Are you afraid to break the, much debated rules of capture?
In my last blog, I talked about cultivating the creative. I would now like to examine how we can, at times, be almost afraid of the camera, and this fear can undermine our innate abilities. I know I would frequently ‘hide’ my images from social media, terrified of the potential negative reactions. I believe there are so many talented photographers who simply do not share. If an image pleases you, I guarantee it will please other people too. It is variety that adds spice to life!
In the words of world famous photographic artist Ansel Adams, “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.” So allow yourself the freedom to execute accordingly! I will share a few of my thoughts on execution. These are observations I have learned along the way, they may not be new, or original, but I stand by them when I am compelled to capture what lies before me. So let us consider a few of the negative influences that frequently slip into my psyche. Some of you may relate to a few of them.
Upon arriving at a beautiful location such as Yosemite, or Sedona one can muse about where to set up and capture the optimum image. I find myself considering the images I have seen in books, galleries or on the Internet and my immediate thought is to capture something similar, thus potentially setting myself up for failure. The likelihood is that one of our great, loved, and well-published photographers has set the bar, and how am I going to come close? I feel defeated before I even start the editing process!
This can, of course be turned around. Consider once more our beloved Ansel Adams. I know that I will never come close, but I can take my inspiration from him, and emulate a look and feel that I can be proud to call my own.
I have spent many weeks studying at workshops, and soaking in the knowledge of fellow photographers and artists. However, the negative can creep in here also! Students flock to the same location in a concerted effort to appropriate the scene in a way that will please the teacher and look better than everyone else’s masterpiece. We wander back to the classroom confident until we open up the files and sigh with slight irritation. Of course this is not always the case, but that self-doubt can creep in and color your opinion.
I recently re-visited some images taken during a Fall Colors Maine Media Workshop with Vincent Versace. To my surprise, I found myself to be enamored with a couple of images I was ready to ditch without process. A little circumspection and distance can work wonders for the creative mind!
These images lead me back to the idea that wandering away from the subject of primary focus can open up the floodgates to different meanderings
My advice is to capture the overall scene, and then explore other possibilities. I am influenced every day by the wonderful work of photographer Jay Maisel who taught me to always turn 180 degrees and to look for the patterns and the shadows. What great advice! I remember it every time I go exploring, and some of my best images have been those I had no intention of taking.
What I love about the monochrome image is the suggestion of something that may not be there. I watched an absorbing documentary on the famous director Mike Nichols. I was especially enthralled when he said “When you watch black and white it’s not literal. It is a metaphor automatically.” In these images there is a pleasing landscape of a lighthouse. In the IR version, one can imagine any number of potentially ominous scenarios.
Sometimes an image you capture can delight you more than you imagined a point of capture. I find this generally happens when I am not attempting to take an image to impress another, or prove my worth. I find it easy to go into ‘professional’ mode if I am capturing a commercial shoot, portrait session or wedding, but feel vulnerable when left completely to my own devices. This is certainly true when flying the drone. Once you are ready to fly, any number of things can distract you. Safe flight is the primary concern, and being always aware can sometimes mean you photograph just a little before or after what you considered to be the optimum moment. The following images were taken as I was starting my descent, and were not the main focus of my flight, but I was happy to discover them once I started editing.
As photographers we should share our work, for better or worse! We can lead our viewers on a journey, and take ourselves with them.