Back to basics…

Thinking that I’m going to screw up sometimes comes with the territory when I go about photographing a small area no bigger than that of a football. Why do I do that? I do that as more of a training exercise to get my creative juices flowing; it helps to train me to see things that I would normally just pass up because of their small size. Shots, like the one below, help me hone my focus a bit and work on composition & colour in tight spaces.

- Raindrops & Flowers -
– Raindrops & Flowers –

The above shot had slight contrast, clarity, black clipping, vibrancy (called Vibrance in Lightroom 6), noise, & exposure adjustments to refine it, but it stayed totally true to what it had been when I first captured the shot. These flowers are tiny (about half the size of a penny) and have colour variations that are often tricky for me to capture, hence the colour & clarity refinements. For me, it’s about trying to capture the mood at the time in a small space; even though I was outdoors and free to move around, I confined myself to a space no bigger than that of a small vehicle in order to make myself get used to smaller, more refined movements & adjustments to how I was photographing. In a way, this kind of exercise forces me to get back to the basics & work with what’s directly in front of me.

This kind of thing is a way for me to continually make myself work on the basics so that I don’t forget them as easily as I usually do…This comes WAY too easy for me. Remember the old saying that sometimes we need something to jog our memory? Well, sometimes I need a good swift kick so I don’t forget. Another good thing about exercises like this is that they help to reinforce the basics through repetition that isn’t quite mindless, at least for me. So get out there & challenge yourself.

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That one photograph…

Thinking about the one photograph that has always come back to either haunt me or inspire me, I’m in wonder at how much that one shot can inspire me. It’s not much, in reality, but it gets me stopping & thinking about just how much I admire the spot where it was taken and what it really means to me. Personally, it has changed over the years and has varied in its effect on me over the days & months; lately, it’s a photograph of a mossy rock with overgrown grass surrounding it.

- Rock & Grass -
– Rock & Grass –

Why does this photograph inspire me? This shot, taken at another angle of the spot in the botanical gardens that is so overlooked, makes me want to pause for a while and wonder just about where I am, who I am, and where I’m going. Other angles on this scene show only the rock, moss & grass, and yet they still have the same effect; they make me stop, think & want to do better just because it seems so peaceful, especially because the sun rarely hits it when the surrounding plants have come out of their winter slumber. The cool-hued shade, coupled with the sunlight that does break through on the scene, has a somewhat calming effect, especially when I actually stop to see it. Letting myself soak up a scene works much better with a scene like this and I’m thinking it’s because of the simple colour scheme.

Sometimes it’s a struggle to feel inspired, to feel something more than just okay, but that’s alright because it gets us moving & thinking; an elderly neighbour once said, without a little trouble, we don’t really grow. Of course, she said it in more of a metaphorical way, but it holds so true because without some struggle, we don’t really get a feel that we’re growing at all and we tend to become complacent…myself included. Sometimes, there’s a struggle to just get past that one photograph to make others and, for me, that’s as good a reason as any to keep trying; especially when I’m trying to learn off of what I’ve already done.

Darn it, I missed something…

We’ve probably all gone through this over the years, forgetting something only to have to go back & figure out how to correct it. The worst part is when it’s something important and we’ve nearly released it out into the wild only to realize that we missed something along the way. I’m like that in just about every way humanly possible, especially when it came to the term papers I wrote in college & university, or even the way I now deal with people every day. Honestly, I think it’s become a part of everyday life, missing something along the way, and it’s become a part of us just because of how easily it happens to all of us.

When it comes to photography, I’m no better and I’ve found that going back over shots from time to time helps me learn and get passed all the times I’ve missed something. Going back over the many shots, in a way, helps give me more of a piece of mind about them, while making me feel rather stupid because I’ve nearly always found something I’ve missed in the process (there’s something to be said for the ability to go back & really look at past shots). Looking through each one helps me see that I’ve missed something and, sometimes, helps me learn how to correct for it & get past it the next time I’m working out my photography with my camera.

It’s often the one thing we dread quite a bit because we associate it with failure nearly 100% of the time; after all, forgetting is, by definition, the failure to remember something. The issue I have with it is when it becomes a part of what defines us because we’re letting the lack of something make us who we are. To me, this can be one of the things that usually breaks the core of who we are because it’s negative nearly 100% of the time.

Worth…

It comes down to worth, for me at least…Is it really worth getting out there and using my camera, old by today’s technology standards, to capture a shot that might not be that significant? YES. Sure, I may not be anywhere near famous, talented or even anywhere near more than decent, but it gets me thinking and gets me to the point where I can unwind from all of life’s issues that the world seems to throw at me. I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’ve come to realize that I need to get to point that I’m able to not give a crap about how toxic the critics can be and try to do something that’s of worth. Personally, I believe we’re created to do something of meaning, something of worth, that might just inspire others to do better; the Creator’s calling us to really believe in him and he’s given us means of expression, whether that’s in the sciences, or in the arts.

- Tiny Blues -
– Tiny Blues –

It’s shots like the one above that really seem to get to me in a good way, especially after minor tweaking (after shooting it in RAW instead of the compressed JPEG format), because they show the beauty in the small things that can be so much greater than all the rest of the flashy crap out there in the world at large. The cool thing is that the center of the photograph isn’t the sharpest thing in the photograph, the spot on the right of it is; we’re drawn to the center and then left to explore the rest of the scene that the photograph presents. It’s about the exploration that just might make it worth it for the viewers and even if it doesn’t, it just might do that for me for even just one more time.

It’s not always about doing something of worth every single time, but about doing something that might just be of worth at one point or other. We stumble & fall all the time, but are we trying to at least get up and have another go of it, trying to do something of worth, not for ourselves, but for others? I’m going to make a go of it, or at least try to do just that, and maybe, just maybe, I might be able to brighten someone else’s day.

Staying an hour…

Sometimes spending more time with our photographs is a good thing…Actually, it almost always is because it can help us see where we went wrong, or right, as well as seeing what we were doing to get the shot. This isn’t specifically about editing, although taking time with editing is usually good, but it’s about examining what made us take the photograph the way we did. What makes us tick and do the things we do? How are we going to ever understand it if we don’t stay an extra hour (figuratively of course) and try to really focus on what we’re doing, what we believe, what we’re seeing, and/or why we’re taking photographs?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
– Overgrown Path –

For me, photography is like trying to get a breather, using my camera to capture a scene out in the natural world that will remind me that there’s beauty out there…And that there’s something more than just what I’m seeing & hearing in the news. Sometimes I’ve wanted to just stay an hour in the outdoors, until I remember that it’s either cold outdoors or I’ve got something that needs to be done and then I forget about staying that time. When it comes down to it, staying the extra hour sometimes helps in getting better photographs, especially when we take time to see the possibilities right in front of us and tinker with different camera settings or revisit old photographs & work with them differently in Lightroom or other photo programs like AfterShot Pro. Sometimes, the extra look over the photograph helps us learn from what we did, growing as photographers & artists.

Staying an hour extra, or any other length of time, also can help give us a bit more time to fully work out our vision for potential shots that present themselves. When we slow down, we tend to let things have another chance, or two, at making an impression and give us a feel for a photograph or more. In doing so, it gives us more time to look at the coloration in the scene, telling us if we need a polarizing filter (it will cut out the reflections in water, so beware of this) or if we can change it later in Lightroom. Making more time might just help us out, something I definitely need to remember, and it helps us stay more with each shot, getting us to concentrate a bit more on each one.

On the purity of the image…

While the biggest part of this (the purity of the image) is all about if it’s been edited or not, I think what should be more important is about the vision & feel; have they been altered or not by the edits or by just importing them onto the computer, printed out, or even just shown? I guess it comes down to the preoccupation with the tools instead of how it looked to the photographer when he, or she, took the shot and how he, or she, presented it. It’s a bit shaming when the first thought that comes into our minds is how the photographer edited the photograph instead of how the photographer felt when making the shot.

I agree that we can’t just always ask the photographer whenever we want to, or even ask what the original intent was because, to a certain degree it should shine through in how the shot is presented. But we can’t just assume that because the shot is shown that there is all there is and just move on; there’s something to be said by looking at it & examining it for its colors, shapes, tones & lines. Why just pass it by without giving it a second look? Just passing it by without looking closely doesn’t do it, or the photographer, justice; look closely at it and think about what it could mean…Sometimes it can be a learning experience by examining it. J.M.W. Turner made amazing watercolor landscapes, using amazing qualities of light for his subject; by looking at some of his, we can see how he portrayed light and sometimes this can spark a creative impulse in how we take a photograph.

- Cherry Blossoms -
– Cherry Blossoms –

Often times were get too caught up in the supposed purity of the image that we tend to forget what the image portrays/says. We don’t look at the image to examine what it’s saying, if anything at all, but we only look to see if it’s been edited. For example, in the above shot the editing plays only a minor part because, at least for me (the photographer), it’s about the lightness of the cherry blossoms, not about how much, or how little I edited the original shot; it’s mood is one of the lightness of the cherry blossoms on the tree, contrasted with the evergreens behind them…It becomes about the beauty found in nature, captured in the cherry blossoms. In the end, it’s not so much about how much editing I did, or how pure the image is, but about the mood & message it contains. Sometimes we have to put aside  the temptation to examine photographs to see if they’re edited, or not, and focus on what it actually says in regards to composition & light.

On creativity & peanut butter…

While the two things don’t necessarily go together, the imagery works, especially because of the sticky nature of peanut butter. Getting stuck in a creative rut can really stink and it’s not particularly sweet at all, like getting peanut butter stuck in your teeth. It stinks because you wonder why you’re not getting the shot and you can’t seem to figure it out; I’ve been there before and it’s not a fun place to be. Sometimes it’s due to laziness, sometimes it’s due to frustration, and other times it’s due to lack of inspiration, but either way, it still stinks, precisely because it can drag you down.

Creative ruts can sometimes be countered with force; by that I mean forcing, or coercing, it to come out by just taking random shots. While it’s something I’ve definitely done before, creativity doesn’t always come out as a result, but it’s always worth a try, especially in a rut. On the flipside, forcing creativity can make us wonder at what we’re doing wrong and help us figure out if we’re going in the wrong direction. How do we know? The simple answer is that we don’t, but the struggle can sometimes reveal problems & sticking points in how we go about getting the shots we try to get. Example: for the longest time, I used to ignore the light meter completely while always going for something underexposed and, after trying to go the opposite way repeatedly, working with the light meter, I was able to be more creative and get closer to the shots that I was looking for in camera. Mind you, it was completely the opposite way because I still use the lessons I’ve learnt from underexposing while working with the light meter; I’ve become better at getting snow at the right exposure (+1 to +2 stops) while learning what I can from underexposing for some scenes.

Creativity is also like peanut butter in the sense that once you get to that point, it can stick like peanut butter, not always permanently, but feeling like it just might, and we forget that being creative, in photography is growing. The problem is that we tend to not like being in one place for too long, or we just get lazy; trying to learn & move on instead of just moving on is usually better. Working at it, trying different things creatively, is just as good as peanut butter & chocolate (I guess I’m craving certain chocolate right now), because they keep one foot in the past (by learning from the past) while doing things differently (trying other creative ways to get the shot). Example: going vertical instead of horizontal, using a different white balance/angle/aperture/shutter speed, or even changing the way/method we go about our post-processing. Trying something different might just work…Just try it.