MY BASIC APPROACH
Truth be told, I really do make the observation pass when I’m out photographing. I don’t “plop, drop and shoot.” I can’t. I need time to tune in, settle down. That means being present, slowing down and figuring out what is tripping my trigger and why. Doing this gives me a starting point and direction. It opens up a path for working and connecting with my subject. It helps me decide what lens and other tools I want for each situation.
For example, this spring I’ve discovered how awesome and beautiful the hellebores are. How could I have missed that? In the Wilson Botanical Garden, there are several large groupings of the purple variety. Before I started shooting them, I looked at them from above, then sat down in the circle and began examining them, figuring out why I was so attracted to them. I leaned, I hovered and twisted in odd directions for different perspectives – all before I started shooting. Some of the images I wanted lent themselves to using a tripod, others didn’t. When handholding, I made sure that my shutter speed was fast enough by increasing my ISO and making sure that the stabilization (VR for Nikon) was on. I now have another favorite flower …
Warning: Start with the bigger picture. If for no other reason than to have a reference photo. That’s the one that tells me where the heck I was when I took the pictures. With no reference image and just a bunch of mostly close-up, macro and abstract flowers, I have no clue where I was and no way to know where to visit again at the same time of year. Taking pictures of signs with location names is also a good idea. It’s not always important, but sometimes I wish I started with the wider shot and moved inward. I’m working on that. What I know is that I do “see” the wider shot and do the pondering and inspecting before I start shooting. I guess I’ve been thinking that my reference photo will remain in my brain, that I’ll remember. Not always.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT
We all see things differently, which is wonderful. Surprise – we all come to the table with a different set of everything (knowledge, life experience, and so on). You’ve probably heard about the left-brain (analytical & methodical) and right-brain (creative or artistic) thinkers and what makes us different (beyond the fact that we all are). My observations have been that while seeing “creatively” feels like a challenge to the left-brain folks, everyone is creative. It just doesn’t look or feel the same. And, it takes a bit more time and patience to move into the “artsy” zone for some. That said, it’s not a requirement at all.
Some of us (not me) are documenters. In part, these are the ones who want and need to have everything in focus and, often, make sure that nothing is changed in post. This can be a good approach for those who are recording the natural world as it is for specific reasons – conservation, science and history. Typically, but not always, this might include those who who operate more easily with their left-brain. These are the people who tell me that they find it hard to “be creative.” I argue that their creativity is simply different and challenge them to push past the comfort zone of an analytical and methodical approach. Most of us are a mix of left/right. Where we are dominant, we are most comfortable.
Others of us (including me) are creators, visual artists, “rule breakers.” Generally, it’s easier for us to move beyond what the subject “is” (like off the charts) and into how it makes us feel and zone in on the parts and pieces without feeling the need to make certain our viewer knows what it is. One could say that we can be perfectly okay with nothing in focus if the image communicates our impression or feeling. It’s not that being right-brain dominant is “better,” it just seems easier to maneuver in the less documentary approaches. By the way, neither set of thinkers are immune to getting creatively stuck. It happens to me all the time. Sometimes that means walking away, but mostly it means stepping back for a few, taking a break.