How do you make an interesting photograph, when conditions appear to be un-interesting?
A few weeks ago I wrote a sarcastic post on Facebook bemoaning the 20+ photographers I had encountered at Coogee Ocean Pool that morning. Almost all the photographers had their cameras firmly mounted on rigid tripods, all lenses were pointed in the same direction and they were all chattering about how poor the light and conditions were.
It reminded me that photography is about creativity. It is about being open and agile to what ever environment and conditions you encounter. Photography is not a functional or robotic activity. The photographer needs to ‘work the environment’, generate ideas and imagine creative solutions. Photography is about vision. Your vision! I think too many photographers expect ‘mother nature’ to do all the work.
Here is the photograph I made that morning. This may not be to every ones liking. However to my eyes, it is different and creative.
I’d like to share some thoughts on editing, from my own perspective.
You may have your own methods, for your own purpose. For each of us, these might be very different. I hope these thoughts below might add to your own thinking on this topic.
There is no one way, or right way, to edit your photography.
Editing for me, is not just an ‘after’ task. Editing is a constant activity, on a continuum. It starts before I pick up a camera, it is present while I work my camera and it continues at any time I need to review, sort, select or arrange my finished photographs.
I am not talking here about retouching or the functional aspects of editing which you might do in Photoshop. That is a different type of editing from which I speak of.
When I talk about “editing”, I am talking about the making of ‘considered choices’ which drive my whole process of planning, capturing, finishing and presenting a photograph or body of work. It is also about the ‘how and why’ I make those choices, and it is about the effect such choices have in helping to build and shape my art and bring my vision to life. That is what I mean by editing.
Fundamental to having a good editing process is that it has a solid foundation which guides the choices I make. This foundation is what I call my vision and values, and it is these which help me to make good decisions throughout my workflow.
Let me explain…
A thousand photographers must have made countless photographs of the iconic ‘Camel Rock’ off the southern New South Wales coast of Australia. Some of these photographs are wonderful. It is always disconcerting to try and photograph a location where you know many have come before you. What could I do that might be even slightly different?
To make matters challenging, I was on a brief visit, the light was uninteresting, there was no hues of colour with which to play, the weather just hung like a ‘wet blanket’ and there was not even any mist or rain to add some atmosphere.
The reality is that a brief visit to any location is almost always likely to find you in less than perfect conditions. Ideally, I like to visit a location many times to get a feel for its soul and to experience its many changes in light and atmosphere.
Conventional wisdom suggests, if you work hard at finding great locations and then you wait for beautiful light to happen, you should be able to make wonderful landscape photographs. It’s an obvious plan. Right?
But what would happen, if we did the opposite? Or at least, were not so focussed on finding such great locations or light. Would our photography improve, or not?
I’ve made an interesting discovery on my journey into landscape photography; the more time I spend with beautiful locations and light, the less creatively deep my photography becomes and the more slowly my creative skills develop.
I know this sounds counterintuitive, but this is what has been happening to me and my photography.
Of course, “creativity” is subjective and personal. However, despite this, I think I have learnt a significant new insight (for me) into how to improve my creative vision and skills. Perhaps this might be of help to you also?
Let me explain.
I’m just back from a second visit to the sand dunes north of Sydney. After my first visit, I was pleasantly surprised at what I had achieved. Yet, at the time, I did not understand why my photography had improved. Now, after another visit, I feel I have again grown as a photographer. But this time, I understand the reason.