How To Boost Your Creativity | Keep Moving

How To Boost Your Creativity | Keep Moving

Dead Horse Point State Park, How To Boost Your Creativity | Keep MovingDead Horse Point, Utah  #57759

Sometimes giving your photographic creativity a boost can be achieved by implementing simple, but often overlooked, techniques. In this post we’ll explore one of these extremely simple tips, looking around, or scouting.

Just about every time I’m out photographing at a popular or iconic location I see something that never fails to bewilder me. That is, photographers appearing to be locked into a predetermined spot. Time and again I will watch them arrive at a scene and move directly to one spot. They will then set up their tripod in the chosen position and will not move an inch until the sun has set, or risen, depending on the occasion.

One of the many instances where I recently observed this behavior was at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. This small park is famous for its magnificent views overlooking the Colorado River as it winds its way though canyons and cliffs. Basically the viewpoint is a peninsula of rock with distinctly views in three different directions. This park has endless possibilities for compositions all along the rim of the plateau.

During this visit I watched other photographers stake out their chosen spot and settle in for the duration. Over the course of the next hour or two none of them raised or lowered their tripod, moved left or right, switch from horizontal to vertical, or even bothered to change lens in an attempt for an alternative composition. Most of them, for the entire time, just stood there like a statue and stared ahead. Now of course this is all just my opinion, but if you are a photographer traveling many miles, using precious vacation time and funds, I would think you that would want to maximize your chances of success by scouting out the entire area. This is especially true when you are fortunate enough to get some truly dramatic lighting.

Dead Horse Point State Park, How To Boost Your Creativity | Keep MovingDead Horse Point, Utah  #57754

My usual modus operandi is to try and arrive in advance of my intended  photography session. That way I can scout around for the best compositions. Often at places like Dead Horse Point there are several options available. I like to prioritize them, moving from one composition to another as the light changes. In addition, I also like switch between vertical and horizontal formats, shoot low to the ground, and of course alternate different focal length lenses.

Above all, I don’t leave until it is very obvious that the light is gone. Many times other photographers will pack up and go as soon as the sun is set. Bad idea, often the best light occurs an hour before sunrise and an hour after sunset. It is during these periods that you can photograph beautiful glowing tones and well balanced light! Not to mention the wind is also much calmer then. But that is a topic for another post.

Of course there are caveats that you will need to take into consideration. First of all is safety. If moving around for a better composition means edging off a cliff or standing on slippery rocks or in surf, you’re better off passing it up. Secondly, you may be in a situation where the spot is so small or there are so many other photographers that you can’t move around! Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, or Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park comes to mind.

Photographers at Bass Harbor, How To Boost Your Creativity | Keep MovingPhotographers at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse on a quiet day #59012

Here’s another very important consideration to keep in mind when scouting compositions. Don’t trample delicate vegetation, soils, or rock formations just to get that trophy photo! In many locations there are signs and sometimes fences or other barriers. Usually they are set in place to protect fragile environments. Please, please, please, don’t be that jerk that everyone hates who ignores signs and causes irreparable damage! Always follow the rule of Leave No Trace. Visible in the photo below is the erosion damage which thoughtless photographers have inflicted while trying to get a better shot.

Trail repair sign at Picture Lake, How To Boost Your Creativity | Keep MovingMount Shuksan, North Cascades #54384

So here are are my tips for today:

  1. Arrive early for scouting. A day ahead of time is ideal for complex locations.
  2. Explore the entire area. There may be an entirely different view or better compositions just beyond site of the initial main attraction.
  3. Be mindful of safety hazards and fragile environments.
  4. Have your shooting plan ready and arrive with plenty of time to evaluate the light.
  5. Prioritize your compositions and be flexible, be ready to abandon a spot if another is looking more attractive.
  6. One spot may look better in certain light. A lower sun angle may reveal composition enhancing patterns. Or a ray of light may fall on a special rock or tree.
  7. Get higher up or low down, don’t be afraid to get in a prone position.
  8. Change up formats, vertical may work better the horizontal.
  9. Keep working until the light is exhausted.

 

If you work all of these tips into your regular location workflow, I can guarantee that you will not only come back with much better images but with a greater diversity of them to boot!

Would you like to learn more on how to make better photographs? Contact me to set up a private instruction session for you and your friends!

Dead Horse Point State Park, How To Boost Your Creativity | Keep MovingDead Horse Point, Utah  #40240

 

 

 

 

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How to Boost Your Creativity Back to the Basics

How to Boost Your Creativity Back to the Basics

Purcell Mountain Storm Clouds, British Columbia  #25556r

How to Boost Your Creativity  Back to the Basics :  You hear it all the time in every field, from sports to science and everything in between. When you’re having difficulty working something out or getting more creative it always helps to start fresh and get back to the basics.

One of the first assignments I had way back in my days of art school was to go out and create images with only one lens on the camera, a 50mm focal length often called a normal lens. In addition the camera was to be set only on manual. Back then it wasn’t difficult to do since I only had one lens and my Nikkormat 35mm camera was manual only.

The point of this assignment was of course to learn the basics of exposure by adjusting shutter speeds and f-stops on your own and not relying on technology to do the thinking for you. Limiting your choice of lens to only a 50mm also forced you to visualize your subject matter and compose more carefully.

Try this, find a small object, a flower, trinket, door knob, whatever, set it up on a table and try photographing it with a normal lens, no filters or special lighting techniques allowed, just room or daylight. See if you can photograph it in a way that brings out an interesting aspect of the object. I  once worked with a woman who photographed through the bottom of drink glasses, a pretty dull subject matter that she brought to life in a very creative way. I’ll always remember those beautiful colors and patterns.

In my art school drawing class we once had a pile of randomly arranged chairs which we had to draw over and over again for what seemed like forever. The point was to see shapes and patterns of interest in a seemingly mundane object, not a lesson we enjoyed but effective nonetheless.

During my years working with large format view cameras these and other lessons paid off and further honed my skills. View cameras are basically just large boxes with a lens on one end and they have no form of auto exposure or auto focusing. In addition each sheet of film can be very costly both in itself and with processing, the result being a very much forced slowdown in methodology which sharpened my way of seeing more carefully.

Today with digital cameras sporting multiple exposure and autofocus modes, gps, and setup with a zoom lens it’s hard not to just jump in and let the camera do all the creative work for you. However if you want to be more creative turn off all those whistles and bells and put yourself in the driver’s seat for a change.

Another basic way to learn to see more creatively is to work in black and white. Monochrome photography strips the image down to the most basic of elements and forces the viewer to see the subject in a more pure state. Take a look at your photos and do a quick conversion to black and white, you may notice that some images are pretty dull and lifeless when you strip out the color. You may also see flaws in the composition that aren’t as apparent with color distracting them.

Now this isn’t to say that monochrome is superior to color photography or vise versa, it’s just another way of seeing and a powerful tool creative every photographer can benefit from.

Of course boosting your creativity by getting back to the basics can be extended to post processing the film or digital files but that’s a big topic for another post.

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How to Boost Your Creativity Learn From the Past

Imnaha Canyon Oregon How to Boost Your Creativity Learn From the PastImnaha Canyon Oregon #45023

How to Boost Your Creativity Learn From the Past  Here’s another easy way to boost your creativity, study artists and photographers from previous generations. You can do this by visiting museums art galleries and book stores that specialize in art and rare editions.

A few years ago I made my first trip to the California coast and while photographing Big Sur I made a point of spending some time in Carmel, the epicenter of early twentieth century landscape photography and home to Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. I wanted to check out the galleries there to see original prints up close by many of the true masters. Both the Weston Gallery and Photography West Gallery displayed numerous prints of both classic well known images and many I’ve never seen before. I came away from there truly moved and inspired to go further in my own work.

In the over 150 years of photography there has been an enormous wealth of creativity that can offer lessons and inspire even the most jaded photographer. Of course everyone in landscape and nature photography knows Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell, but how many know of Wynn Bullock, Minor White, Morley Baer, Don Worth and a host of others?

And what about photographers outside of the landscape genre? Does anyone remember Diane Arbus, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Frank, Walker Evens and more? Does anyone also remember Alfred Stieglitz, the one man who did more than any other to elevate photography as an artistic medium equal to painting and sculpture?

These are just a few of the many who made their mark in photography, whose images have stood the test of time and continue to inspire and move viewers generations later. If you are truly serious about your photography and you desire to move beyond clichéd images then check out some of the names I mentioned here. You’ll soon realize that they are just the very tip of the iceberg, and that there are many newcomers to the field still pushing the boundaries of creativity. Have fun and enjoy the trip!

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How to Boost Your Creativity; Tip Two

Lake Crescent Olympic National ParkLake Crescent Olympic National Park #53926

How to Boost Your Creativity; Tip Two

In my last post of How to Boost Your Creativity I spoke of photo sharing websites, this post I’m going to talk a little about stepping outside of your comfort zone. Once again I’m addressing primarily landscape and nature photographers, although these tips will work for anyone in a creative rut.

Today’s tip is probably the most important in helping you boost your creativity, it’s also one of the easiest to do and nearly guaranteed to bring quick results, or at least get you thinking a little different.

Tip #2: Look Beyond Your Genre If you limit your online and print media exposure to magazines like Landscape Photography Outdoor Photography Nature’s Best and such you’re going to end up with a severely myopic view of the natural world and what it should look like, and consequently you won’t experience much creative growth.

To truly get inspired to create something new you must look beyond the cozy cocooned genre of landscapes and nature.

My first suggestion is to look to the commercial photography field for a change in scenery. For quite a long time commercial assignment photography was looked on as a dull unimaginative field where photographers only recorded on film what the art director and or ad agency dictated to them. Over the years commercial photography has grown in leaps and bounds creatively and many photographers have blurred the line between commercial and true fine art. One example is my current favorite photographer, Colin Homes. His excellent work has earned him a thriving business in both the fine art market and commercial photography.

One of my longtime favorites for creative inspiration is Communication Arts. CA has an extensive website with resources for illustrators photographers and designers and publish lavishly produced annuals for these and other fields in the commercial genre. If you enroll for a subscription make sure it includes the printed versions of the annuals. The photography side of CA often shows a surprising number of photographers that are nearly unknown in the landscape photo sharing circles that create astonishingly fresh images.

Another source I like to check out on a regular basis is A Photo Editor (APE). This site, built by Rob Haggart a former photo editor for several large magazines, showcases some of the more creative photographers working in both commercial assignment and fine art fields. Another aspect of this site I love is the regular sidebar feature of promotional mailers sent to Rob for review, lots of good stuff there.

While up to this point I focused on sources for inspiration in the commercial side of photography, it is also important to look to other segments such as editorial and traditional fine art. If you are strictly creating in color it would be a sore mistake to ignore what’s going on in the black and white world. Successful monochrome images utilize a different way of seeing that may not be apparent to those working in color, and some of those techniques are easily transferable.

A few more sources I like that may help I’ve you a creative boost are Photographer’s Forum Magazine and LENSCRATCH, the later of which will most definitely challenge your way of seeing the world. There are many more sources than those mentioned in this post in which you can check out with a little searching.

So in conclusion if you want to boost your creativity try and look to different genres for inspiration! See you next time.

 

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