For lack of ideas…

Now & then it seems like I’ve run out of things that really matter for me in photography, but then something comes along that helps me grow. Whether it be the frigid cold of winter, the downpour when it’s too warm for snow in winter, or just the general lack of ideas when it comes to photography, there’s always a time when I think that it’s all been done before. Originality is something that can be quite hard to come by, but all that’s really needed is the desire & drive to do something different, or at least try it. Tweaking a method can result in a new way of seeing, working, or even editing and that’s what downtime is good for…I guess.

When it comes down to having ideas of what to take photographs of and when to, it’s usually a matter of what effectively speaks to us. And by this I mean what we want to say through the scene in front of us, or even the prospective scene. It’s about what it makes us feel and how it does that; when I’m looking at something, I mostly want it to say something, even if it’s just speaking to how the colors & textures intermingle in the beauty of a natural scene. I look at traditional Asian decoration and I’m astonished by the intricacy of the designs, making me want to convey the flowing lines through the simplicity & beauty of a natural scene in front of me; this usually leads me to floral shots because of the little details in flowers & other plant life around me or in the scene itself. Sometimes, it’s a simple country song that leads me to go for a nature shot and, other times, it’s an alt-rock song that makes me do just that same thing. In the end, it’s what inspires our ideas & how we go about getting past the lack of ideas in going for the photographs in front of us.

Having a lack of ideas can be some of the worst poison for the creative type, not just the photographer, and it’s something that we all suffer from, not just the average person but some of the people who make photography a living. In a way, it’s kind of like having a close friend desert you, just not quite as severe; it’s most likely that way more so for professionals, but that’s just a guess on my part. A lack of ideas should make us want to read up on what else’s out there and then try to do something different, or even seek out new ways of seeing a scene & potential shot(s).

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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.

On originality…

In the news this month, there was an American photographer who took screenshots of online images and then proceeded to make prints of them, selling them for thousands in a gallery setting. All this was done without permission and the original photographers/creators didn’t see a dime, thanks to copyright law; he got away because the images were interpretive & transformative. I don’t know about any of you, but this isn’t photography, it’s being lazy and copying, blatantly, off of other’s work; in graphic design, you can reinterpret something, but not to the degree that it is nearly identical to the original.

In making a photograph of a building, we’re not claiming that the building is ours, but the image itself is. The tricky part about all of this is that the person in question is saying that the image is his because he took the screenshot & slightly manipulated it; so this becomes a legal grey area that can easily be manipulated. While I’ll refrain from judging him personally, I will say that this is pretty much taking it a bit too far by not being original in the slightest. By taking a photograph of a photograph, it’s basically a copied shot. In my opinion, photography calls for at least some sense of originality, not outright copying of others’ work, even though they may form inspiration for our shots.

A we go about taking photographs of various subjects, we may get shots that are similar to what others have gotten, but it doesn’t mean that we’re copying them outright if we’re putting our own twist on how we capture a subject; we’re not photographing a photograph because we’re photographing a subject, but that subject shouldn’t be another photograph. In this day & age, originality might be hard to come by, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to avoid being original in our photography.