Nov 29 2011

December 2011 wallpaper

Another month has flown by and once again I must apologize for the dearth of blog posts. I have no really good excuse, other than I have been heads down a lot on my next ebook. I’ve been struggling a bit with it for various reasons, and I’ll probably talk a little about them in another blog post soon, but for now, I wanted to get December’s wallpaper up for you.

December 2011 wallpaper

This one is from the commute home after a rather long day at work. It was a cold and wet fall evening, and the wind was blowing away the last leaves on the trees. The road was littered with mostly yellow leaves and the rain really brought out the colors that appeared in my headlights. I had made a similar photograph during my One Camera/One Lens/One Month experiment, so I had an idea of the kind of photograph I might get. I held the camera in front of the steering wheel with one hand and fired off a few shots, using a slow shutter speed to blur the motion from the car. This particular shot was to me the best of the bunch. I hope you like it, too.

December 2011 wallpaper — Desktop (2560 x 1600) December 2011 wallpaper — iPad (1024 x 1024) December 2011 wallpaper — iPhone (640 x 960) 

Oct 31 2011

November 2011 wallpaper

You may have guessed that this would be the November wallpaper if you saw it when I posted it on Flickr, and you would have been right. After I shot and processed it, it was obvious to me that it would make a fine desktop/phone/tablet wallpaper. So… here it is.

November 2011 wallpaper

I shot this at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, about 10 minutes from my office, on my lunch break. It’s the same location I shot for the June 2011 wallpaper, but of course with the blaze of autumn color instead of the cool greens of late spring/early summer. I did bump the color saturation up slightly in post-processing but that’s about it. I hope you like it.

November 2011 wallpaper — Desktop (1920 x 1200) November 2011 wallpaper — iPad (1024 x 1024) November 2011 wallpaper — iPhone (640 x 960)

Oct 19 2011

Thinking about thinking… and not thinking

Angels looking on

How much thinking do you do when you photograph? A lot? A little? Somewhere in between?

I’ve been thinking about thinking in photography since I attended the Artists’ Round Table (ART) in Port Townsend, Washington this past June. During our image reviews, I learned that many times I was overthinking my photographs. I was spending too much time making sure things were exactly the way I wanted them in both subject matter and technique, as opposed to paying attention to what I wanted to say. As a result, many of my photographs were, as Ansel Adams put it, “sharp photographs of a fuzzy concept.”

Not all of my photographs, though. So I began to look closer at the ones that seemed to work better to see if I could discover a pattern or at least a clue about why they did. What I discovered were two things: a) even if I wasn’t consciously thinking about composition and sharpness and depth of field and everything else, I still managed to do those things pretty well, and b) these photographs moved me more than the ones I made where the technique was my focus.

What did this tell me? Well, that some of the things I worried about when making photographs could now be relegated to what you might describe as muscle memory. I could trust myself to do them as needed whenever I made a photograph and concentrate on what I wanted to express with the photograph. And instead of worrying about those things, I was free to really think about how the photograph would feel as opposed to how it looked.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to stop thinking about technique or composition, etc., or that you’re “doing it wrong”. What you know about making photographs is essential to your growth as a photographer and the quality of your photographs. But if you’re like me, you might remain focused on that too long after you’ve mastered it well enough to make good photographs. The most compelling photographs aren’t always the sharpest or have the greatest dynamic range.

Hanging onto this limited vision also does something else. It allows us to avoid thinking deeply about what we’re trying to express with a photograph and what we have to say about a subject. That’s a lot harder to figure out, at least for me, and something I still need to think more about. Many photographers—both amateur and professional—end up here, focused on technique, and then never go past it. We keep repeating the same photographs using a particular technique—which we often mistake for our style or voice—or we do it simply because it sells.

So, how do you do this? How do you avoid dwelling on technique? Well, by throwing it away completely. Try this: set your camera on Auto (gasp!) and take a picture without looking through the viewfinder. Don’t just fire wildly, though. Find something interesting; something you would normally shoot—your kids at play, a street scene, even a sunset. Hold your camera over your head or at your waist. Oh, put the tripod away, too. (Nice try, kid.)

Don’t think about the shutter speed or the aperture, or whether you want to use HDR or a limited depth of field. Give up control for a little while. Shoot when things look interesting to you; when you feel the moment as well as when you see it. Maybe even close your eyes. Use the Force, Luke.

After you’ve done this, take a look at the photographs you made. A lot of them could be throwaways, but some of them might not. Look at each of these closely and see if it conveys the feeling of what you saw. Were you successful in showing that? If so, give yourself credit for it, and remember it when you return to your normal style of shooting.

You might just be a better photographer than you think.