Helping…

What do we do that helps us open up ourselves to seeing what’s around us, photographically speaking? What do we listen to that helps us see more of what’s around us? What do we think of as we look at things to help us in the act of seeing more? I figure that it’s about time I make a list of what & where I’m at right now.

Do:
-Reading, the odd TV documentary, & walking

Listen to:
-Flyleaf, The Fray, Lacey Sturm, Thousand Foot Krutch, & Thrice

Think of:
-Methods & works of the masters (Art Wolfe, David duChemin, Chris Orwig, Bryan Peterson, & Ansel Adams to name a few), colors, lighting & tones of the subject

The reason I say this is that everything we do outside of photography influences it because it colors how we see the world around us. If I’m only focusing on the darker elements, then I’ll most likely be unable to see the lighter ones, and the other way around as well. There’s so much, practically too much, that can influence us these days that we end up being bombarded with opinions that can make us switch what we’re doing to something else. Not all of it is good either, so we end up trying to fish out the good in a sea of bad nearly every time and this takes time away from literally doing what we’re trying to do in the first place: take a photo that expresses what we feel and/or what we want to say.

The worst thing we can do is go with the flow, against what we’re really like, and pretend that it’s alright…In photography and life in general. Experiences shape us & form us: if we have grown up with a serious disdain for certain institutions, for example, then when we photograph them, we’re most likely going to portray them in a negative light. It all forms the kind of glasses we look through to see the world around us; the words of others help either make, or break, us while we’re trying to see the world around us as well.

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Working with voice…

Seeing what’s out there in terms of nature photography can often be humbling, especially when in the presences of the masters like Ansel Adams & company. Too many times we get caught up thinking that we can’t compare to them because of their sheer talent and, to be completely honest, we really can’t because we can’t be them…We can only be ourselves, or we lose our originality and/or what makes us unique & different. I’m not focusing in on uniqueness here, but on using our own voice; when we want to say something with our shots, we should be using our own voice. There’s nothing wrong with using influences from others, but blending it with our own voice is where the tricky bit is; in my opinion, it should be about 30% outside influence and 70% us if not 10% outside influence & 90% us.

I’m far from consistent in this and I more than have trouble with this, speaking through my photographs, but there’s always going to be a struggle, and that, in effect, is what makes it worth it…It’s the journey, not the destination, in this case, because if we’ve made it already, then there’s nowhere left to go, nowhere to grow. The issue that constantly bugs me is that I used to have a really hard time seeing things in the smallest of worlds, but now it’s the big picture; I’m constantly trying to find a balance between the two, being able to use a mid-range focal length like 50mm on a full-frame camera. Balance between the two, while allowing my voice to speak through, is the hardest part for me, especially when that voice is trying to speak on the beauty of nature; I struggle with it because it’s so easy for my mind to wander, even though I’m nowhere near hyperactive, just prone to a lack of concentration.

Just listening to The Script song Hall of Fame makes me wonder if I’m on the right road, but I’m okay with that because it encourages me to work at it, striving to be better every time. It’s not the story of the boxer, in the song’s music video, that gets me, but the ballerina, and that’s because she’s neglected and pushed aside because she’s an outsider with a hearing issue. She finds herself when she calms down her mind, steadying herself; now I don’t have a hearing problem, but it speaks volumes when that kind of struggle has yields far beyond what the world expects of her. Find your voice and stick with it, learning to grow along the way…and seek constructive help along the way, be it in books or in mentors.

Influences…

Now that there’s only a couple of weeks left before the year ends, I thought I’d do a post on influences. Not the kind that tells you what to do, but the kind that helps you along. I’ve always had a slight grip on what I read in terms of photography and most of those are vision focused, instead of gear. There’s a few I read yearly and even then I tend to read the same books at least twice over; I thought I’d put out a list of my influences just to show where I’m coming from.

-David duChemin (Photographically Speaking, Within the Frame, & The Print and the Process)
-Michael Freeman (The Photographer’s Eye, Perfect Exposure, & Capturing Light)
-Art Wolfe (The Art of the Photograph: Essential Habits for Stronger Compositions)

I’ve just started reading Art Wolfe’s book, The Art of the Photograph (coauthored by Rob Sheppard), and already I think I’m going to be reading more of his stuff…It’s good, solid advice, for me at least, that makes me think about what my influences are and how I go about dealing with them as I photograph scenes. I tend to migrate towards that kind of photography anyway and it helps me learn to progress & get better along the way.

As I think about it, I’ve been reading more so into the vision side of photography mostly as a response to the crowd that always seems to hawk out a gear focus. When it comes to the other authors, it’s because they were focused less on rules and more on vision…at least less on rules than your run-of-the-mill how-to photographer. For me, I’ve always had the struggle between wanting more gear and being content with what I’ve got, so the vision side works better for me because it focuses more on intent than just a bunch of rules that end up taking the fun out of photography. It’s got to be enjoyable or the hobby just doesn’t work for me at all; don’t give me all the rules, just give me a helping hand & help me learn.

The way my reading usually work is that I’ve done it so that at any given time I’m reading 3 books in 3 different genres: Discipleship (Christian), photography, & fiction. For the first category it’s usually something from Lee Strobel, R. Kent Hughes, or John Bunyan while the second category is the authors listed above and the third category is usually something from C.S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev. So, in terms of reading & influences, I switch between 3 categories every day.