Leading a class on photographing blossoms in Boston the other day I encouraged students to reveal the spirit of the thing, not just the physical reality. As Robert Henri says, “Low art is just telling things; as, There is the night. High art gives the feeing of the night. …. be interested not in the incident but in the essence of your subject.Read More
Spring is just arriving in Boston. Slowly, slowly, small buds are appearing and possibilities are emerging. I really love to photograph nature in this state. What will it become? Will this bud be a leaf, a blossom, a branch? It does not really matter. I just want to see it for what it is in this moment. I won’t be back on this path again so what it is becoming will remain unknown to me. I only know what it is today. And that is more than enough.
I love to isolate my subject so I can really focus attention on one thing at a time. To do this I simply stop, center, start. Stop and appreciate what is right in front of me. Center my breath and attention, and then start to focus my camera on the simplest subject possible. Try using a shallow depth of field setting like f4.5 so the background will blur out. Remember, you need to have your camera close to the subject and the subject far from the background. It is also helpful to use manual focus since the camera may have difficulty locking on a single stick.
I love the subtle gradation of color in the background of this image. There were thousands and thousands of sticks just like this one that I blurred into a soft background. Next time you are in the middle of many flowers, many trees, many people, see if you can choose just one and simply see that one living thing becoming beauty before your very eyes. Magic.
I am out in the Bay Area this week and the weather is wonderful. I have be able to get out and do some nature photography of salt marshes, and the bay. I happened to be in a parking lot under a bridge just as the sun was setting yesterday. I tried and tried to find a spot to stand where I could get an unobstructed view of the setting sun.
It was impossible with the bridge in the way. I was running out of time as the sun was setting quickly. Suddenly it occurred to me the bridge was not in the way, it was the way. The way to capture the beauty of this specific sunset. The bridge supports were actually strong, simple shapes, so I stopped trying to work around them and used them to frame the scene. I then started photographing the bridge instead of the sunset and liked those photos the best. (see on instagram)
So here is an idea for you to try. Next time you can’t get rid of something from the scene, or life, see if you can turn it to your advantage. Shift your mindset and vantage point to see it as essential to what makes this moment unique. You can see more of my photos from this trip on my instagram account so follow along there.
Have a great weekend! Suzanne
Private photography course enrollment for the Spring 2019 series is now open. Contact me for course information and tuition. 4 spaces available.
Here is an idea for you to try. Rather than showing us everything in the scene, leave something to the viewers imagination. Leave space for us to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, or guess at what is just beyond our visual grasp. This will invite the viewer to linger, look deeply and really savor the experience rather than just recognizing the scene and moving on.
Just as I am always encouraging you to slow down and take your time when creating photos, the same advice holds for viewing images. Take your time. Slow down an participate in the scene using wonder and curiosity. I invite you to try it out with this image. Click on it to view full screen and then just relax your gaze and look beyond the obvious to see the invisible.
Some tips for creating ambiguity: over expose, use weather like fog, snow, or rain, shoot through windows, use reflections, soften your focus. Just be sure your are not creating visual confusion. What you are going for is revealing the subject layer by layer in collaboration with the viewer. Give hints, and nudges but let them find the soul of the image in their own way based on their own life experiences.
Do you ever feel stressed by information overload? There are thousands of tip, tricks, filters, fixes, and gear to help you take better pictures available through YouTube videos, classes, e-books, and more. But if you don’t put into practice what you already know, you will never feel happy with your photos. You will keep jumping from one technique to another in search of ….. something else.
It may seem like a contradiction for an educator like myself to say learn less, but what I mean is go for QUALITY rather than QUANTITY of information. Then turn that information into knowledge by practicing it and applying it until you don’t even have to think about it.
Then knowledge becomes wisdom. You intuitively sense how to simply BE a photographer when you SEE something that takes your breath away. And you will see beauty everywhere every day. It is this experience of BEING IN SEEING that offers the greatest reward, we discover something about our world and our self in the moment we click.
What is one thing you learned this year you can focus on and practice, practice, practice?
If you would like to spend some time with me focusing on what matters most, I am now scheduling private sessions for 2019. I can help you create a learning path that cuts thru the clutter and keeps you growing forward as a photographer step by step. Contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org
Gift Certificates also available for purchase on the Curious Soul Photo School website.
Here is something new for you to try. For one week, starting now, take 12 photos a day with you smart phone. Photograph ordinary things that catch your eye. Don't judge if they are photo worthy. You could take all 12 first thing in the morning like the Julia Cameron practice of morning pages. Or you could take them during the course of the day.
The purpose is simply to shift your attention so you are noticing visual elements all the time everywhere, and acting on it by capturing an image. To BE a photographer is to SEE. And to see is something you don't just do when you pick up your camera. You can see like a photographer by noticing the small magical moment presented to you every day. Why not try it and let me know how it goes for you.