Retrospective…

on the year.

DSC_1687-EditOn the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone, and think

Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

John Keats

I think that it’s a sign of growth when we can look at what we do and how we do it and evaluate if that still works for us. For me December is the perfect time to do that and gear up for the coming year.

For example, I am a believer that how you keep your work space is a clear indicator of your mental health. I used to feel that a work space that was cluttered and filled with ongoing, unfinished work was a sign of great creativity. Looking back at that now I realize that you can’t be working to your full potential in a messy environment and taking it one step further, if you dig deep, I think you’ll find that it is an indicator of poor mental health and unhappiness.

I look at the images that I love to create and by far the cleanest, simplest imagery is what fuels my passion the most so why would I ever think that cluttered would work for me?

I’ve spent this year simplifying my life, my gear, my studio and in the process of doing so find myself finishing off the year feeling inspired and focused.

It’s that time of year…plan some goals, clean up your work space, and start the New Year off with a clear direction and a plan of how to get there from here.

Reading a little poetry won’t hurt either, I highly recommend When I Have Fears by John Keats.

Transient imagery…

from the battle of the seasons.

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You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

Pablo Neruda

The battle of the seasons continues here in the NorthWest part of the country. We’ve had a good volume of snow interlaced with copious amounts of rain.

Ice layers the less travelled roads turning my Jeep into a luge as I attempt to exit my property. It isn’t for the faint of heart and chains have become my closest ally.

I will not complain though because the opportunities for photographic images are everywhere and they are exactly the type of images that make my heart beat a little faster.

Transient imagery…

Those beautiful moments whose time is measured not in hours but in minutes.

A  reminder to appreciate every moment that we’re given.

A case…

for blinkies.

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Creativity takes courage.

Henri Matisse

The words of one of my mentors often creeps into my mind.

“Sheryl, first learn the rules then break them!” She’s a painter but much of it still applies as we look at composition and style.

For example…the nose and the eyes must be in focus. When photographing in snow make sure that your highlight blinkies aren’t flashing indicating that you’ve lost detail in the brightest parts of the image.

Heavy sigh…

I’m always more inspired when I take a painterly approach to my dog photography. I’m all about the moments and the emotion expressed in those moments.

I love lost and found lines and not having every detail tack sharp; a sentiment that not everyone shares.

In this image the “snow P” is taking every ounce of enjoyment that he can in his dash through the deep, freshly fallen snow.

Blinkies on? Flashing like mad!

Eyes in focus? Not a chance with all that flying snow!

Today’s thought is take every opportunity to be creative. Try things. Shoot one way then do the opposite. Don’t let the rules and your head get in the way.

Show me what you’ve got!

Pop…

art.

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I like to be the right thing in the wrong place and the wrong thing in the right place. Being the right thing in the wrong place and the wrong thing in the right place is worth it because something interesting always happens

Andy Warhol

I’m not a fan of generic filters plopped over images but I do sometimes find their effects appealing and reminiscent of other styles of artwork.

I keep the editing of my raw images firmly in Lightroom and Nikon Silver Effex, only using Photoshop for the addition of text.

For the preset for this image though a sticky mouse pulled one of my adjustment sliders into an area  that I never venture into and rather than quickly removing the edit I took a little time to look at the effect.

A nice feature in Lightroom is the ability to create your own sets of presets that can give you a starting point for your edits. I tend to keep my presets very “gentle” since I find that even amongst similar images, one does not fit all. This way you can apply the preset and then adjust from that point. It’s something that I will often do for my nightscapes.

I like the pop art feel of this image and the knowledge that I created it myself. Each time you do something like this it’s a bit like a self guided study course and you have the opportunity to learn more about the programs that you use and their capabilities. Playing with images and this preset then gave me more information about how I should shoot an image designed for use with this preset.

Same thing with a camera. Take it off auto and just start shooting and experimenting.

That’s where  creativity lives.

One really big reason…

to follow your passion.

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To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.

Dorothea Lange

This blog post is number one hundred which for me feels like I’m just hitting my stride. For almost two years now I have been taking the time to look and think about one image and the process has been an interesting one for me.

I write a lot about passion and creativity and how to keep that flowing when so much in life can act as a roadblock.

I don’t often feel the need to write about the technical aspects of photography; you can already find enough about that online to keep you reading for a lifetime. The question that I’m asked about most is how to build creativity. My own experience would tell me that if you’re bored with or stagnant in your medium it might not be the right one for you.

The challenge as I see it lies in developing a creative zone that extends far beyond the reach of a camera. It’s rather like shovelling the sidewalk during a winter storm; doing it once is not enough. Steady, continuous work is needed to keep that path open.

Just like muscle memory that is developed while practicing a sport, you can develop a rhythm with your camera that allows you to focus on the subject matter if you make it a part of your daily routine.

Developing a rhythm is the first step towards developing a style. Choosing subject matter that inspires you makes it easier to pick up that camera on a daily basis.

For example, on my canine shoots I will go in knowing the feel that I want for the images but I will try not to have any preconceived ideas on how I will get that. Structure to me is the death of creativity. I know that this approach works for me because the instant that I start moving around and shooting I am in the zone and it doesn’t really matter if I’m photographing a dog, piece of sky, or a snowflake.

All of this doesn’t just happen though, it takes practice and a first important step is being comfortable with your equipment so that you can focus on the creative aspect.

Today’s image is of subject matter near and dear to my heart…dogs. During the past few weeks I have had the absolute pleasure of photographing several groups of dogs, in various life stages. The energy, connections with their owners, and sheer joy these animals showed was incredible.

Will my style of shooting appeal to everyone? Nope, there are those that would prefer a backdrop and a stiff dog with every hair sharply in focus. I wouldn’t be happy and in my zone capturing that type of image but there’s room for all types.

Once you figure out the answer to this question “I like to shoot images that are…” it helps to define that creative zone and allows you to build on it.

If you’re completely stuck answering that question spend some time looking at all mediums; online, at museums or galleries, and see what you are drawn to. Think about how you can infuse that feeling into your medium of choice. I’m not talking about copying, I’m talking about putting yourself into the medium, there’s a big difference.

Love to hear your experiences on developing creativity. What has worked for you?

Thank you to all who follow this blog, I so appreciate it.

And thank you to Earl, how gorgeous is he?

Atmosphere…

and creativity.

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Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.

Ansel Adams

Many years ago I had family portraits done with my husband and two mastiffs. I treasure that memory but can’t help thinking how sterile and posed the image is.

It was out of that thought that the idea to photograph dogs in their own environment, just being dogs, was born.

It’s a challenging adventure kind of like those cooking shows where you open up a box of ingredients and have to make something amazing out of it. In this instance though you’re handed dogs and whatever weather conditions the day brings, and from that you need to create a group of images that hopefully capture the spirit of those animals. It’s real and unscripted and each shoot is different from the one before.

I think of photography as a language from which you develop your own accent and cadence. It takes awhile to learn what that might look like for you but I believe that it can only be accomplished by diving in and shooting every day under all conditions.

It’s an incredibly creative medium and one that I think it’s essential to develop your own voice for.

Will everyone like your work? Certainly not but in time you will develop a style of shooting that becomes more distinctive to you and with that knowledge it becomes easier to take whatever photographic opportunities that come your way and make the most of them.

On this day the ground had a layer of frost and as the sun hit it, it began to steam giving me nature’s version of a smoke machine. I couldn’t have scripted that and it lent such a beautiful, soft atmosphere to the shoot.

Have you picked up your camera today? Maybe you should…

Expressing energy…

can be as simple as losing focus.

dsc_9903-2The modern artist… is working and expressing an inner world – in other words – expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces.

Jackson Pollock

Much is made of “tack sharp” imagery in photography and how to achieve the sharpest of detail.

Yet, in the world of photoshop and beyond, there are a myriad of filters to plop over your image to change it into something else.

I’m still holding firm that the image should be created with intention in the camera itself. I think that it is the only way to truly develop a body of work that you are connected to.

I was recently asked to participate in an upcoming exhibit that will be showcasing photographers with distinctive styles. That to me was a huge compliment.

The image above is one that I painted with my camera. In other words, I used soft focus and the motion of the water to create an image that for me highlights the kokanee spawning.

It’s life and death drama with the males staking out the best “beds” for the females to lay their eggs. They defend these beds against other males and towards the end of the spawning it’s rather like two old boxers duking it out in the ring, clutching each other and too tired or injured to do more than go through the motions.

The next time you pick up your camera spend a little time thinking about what you want to say with your images. Play with your focus, your depth of field, change a lens!

I paint with my camera, what do you do?