“The difference between the casual impression and the intensified image is about as great as that separating the average business letter from a poem,” said Harry Callahan in 1964. “If you choose your subject selectively — intuitively — the camera can write poetry.” LensCulture
How far do you travel to photograph? Many readers of this blog travel to places to find “good” photographs. They even hope that some will be great. And, that magic place may be hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. If you go to see something like a lighthouse, a snowy owl, a flower, you will most likely see just that, because your mind is tuned to seeing according to a plan. Now, I am not suggesting this is wrong, I am merely emphasizing the relationship between the plan and the seeing, thus the outcome.
Don’t Search For Photographs
I enjoy project-based photography, just like any other photographer. But I also, maybe even more so, enjoy going out with no expectation in my mind and simply respond to what I may see. I discover things as they greet me. I have done this on many occasions; my Great Salt Lake and Newport to Westport helicopter rides are two that you will find in my portfolios.
Capturing something over which I have no control fascinates me. Quite a while ago, I photographed my computer screen where a screen saver was displaying random patterns, lines, colors. On experiments like this, once I click the shutter on a several-second exposure, I do not know where the line will appear, if any at all, what the next moment will bring. Clearly, this process results in low yield rates since I had to discard many frames.
Likewise, I captured a dancer on stage as she went through her motions on 4-6 second exposures. Again, once I clicked the shutter, I did not know what would come next. Because of the nature of the event and her graceful moves, I had very few discards from this series. In fact, two triptychs I created from these photographs were accepted at the upcoming Beyond Choreography: Visual Interpretation of Movement, an exhibit organized by the Art League of RI. Come see the show, the opening reception is on September 8, 2016, 5:30 – 8:00 PM.
Let Them Find You
Another, very easy, and low-cost option for this kind of photography is to explore your neighborhood. Heck, it’s free! It changes more than you may realize. You probably think your neighborhood, say a half-mile radius, is not interesting because you see it all the time. But, when was the last time you actually walked around to see and let many things meet and greet you. Last Sunday, the weather was comfortable for the first time in almost two months, and I took a short walk after supper, with a camera in hand.
The series you see below starts with the yucca in our front yard and ends with the same, with a slightly different structure I noticed. Along the way, I saw some roses trying to rise above the vine to say hello; a clean and crisp white fence decorated with ivy; a couple of trees and the wild bushes behind them, all looking as if moving to the left except for the metal post; the colors in the playground with its circular sand coming tangent with a bench.
A while back, I named the tree in the playground, The Three Graces. Its trunks have the movement like the famous sculpture with the same name. I have photographed it many times, and every time, I see it slightly differently, as I notice different relationships between the tree and its surroundings. On the way back, the lamp-post with its unlit light strongly lit by sunlight presented an irony, followed by a surprise encounter with a wild turkey family, just wandering around and feeding. The bunch of photographs I called Wilderness Next Door is not much different from being in the woods someplace remote. Yet, I photographed them about 300 feet from my house. I am sure this is quite common in Rhode Island.
Try thinking about your photography outside your common photographic subjects on occasion. If you are a bird photographer, go on the street; if you are a landscape or seascape photographer, try seeing small things; if you are a nature photographer, try portraits, … It will sharpen your seeing and affect the way you photograph your favorite subject, whatever that may be.
Improved seeing is the best photographic tool you can find. It only costs time and some breaking of old habits.