Seeing by Drawing

“The greatest tool and the source of individuality for any photographer is the way they see the world.”  Kat Sloma

For quite a while I have been trying to slow down and take more time when I am taking photos.  The tripod helps me slow down, but I don’t always have to use it.  Sometimes I just think I have to snap the photo and move on…and I really don’t know for sure where that came from.  It’s a habit that goes way back.  But it is time to do something about it.
To help us learn to really look at a subject we want to photograph, Kat suggests we draw it first.  Yup. Pencils, pens, paper.  Nothing fancy, no expensive materials.  Just take the time to sketch what you are wanting to get an image of.  
This is my new creative breakthrough.  And not an itty bitty one (Susan knows what I’m talking about).  This one has my attention.  
This little piece of pottery is a favorite of mine, and I have taken photos of it before. Most of them look much like this one.  I keep it on a shelf with other special things and some of my art work.  It feels good when you hold it…don’t know how else to say it.  I took this photo today before trying to draw it on paper.   And you should know that I used my favorite lens, the 50mm, which allows for low light images, but you can only get so close.  
Then I got out my paper and pencil, sat down, and began to draw.  
I noticed the circles, the shape of the sides, so that is what I put on that first drawing.
Then I drew another picture of it, looking at it again.  This time I saw that the top edge had and elliptical shape, and I saw the light and shadows.
I drew a third image, from a different angle.  You know, I had never noticed until today that there are little bubbles in the finish, little imperfections.  And I knew there was color in it, but never really saw how many different colors until now.  
All of those tiny imperfections, colors, textures, and the shape come together to make this piece a true work of art.  
What kind of image would bring out the best? How would I do it differently?
First, I changed to my 18-55mm lens so I could actually zoom in closer.  Then I blocked out the light from the window so that there would only be one light source, one shadow.  
Now you can see what I saw…this simple yet lovely work of art, filled with small bits of color and tiny imperfections, made more beautiful by the play of the light and shadows, brought to a place that honors the creation that it is.
I totally enjoyed this assignment. Thank you, Kat!

Creative Breakthroughs

Maybe you know what it’s like.  Something clicks.  You see what you want to create, you know you can do it, the light is just right, and you are there with the camera and lens to make it happen.  And the image turns out to be just what you wanted, and more.  You feel like you’ve gotten past something, some creative hurdle.

What is it that got you to that point? Can you define the steps, or the process that got you to that place where you knew you could do it?  That is what Kat is asking us to explain in this assignment for her photo course, The Journey of Fascination.  After some careful thought, here is what I believe has had great impact on my creative journey in photography.

butterfly ready to soar

I have used my 70-300mm zoom lens many times and been disappointed in the results. Now I know that it was the person behind the camera not understanding the limits and capabilities of that lens.  Then last September, on a bright sunny day, I stepped into the front yard with that lens on my DSLR and was able to get this image of a butterfly.  

Ash Cave, Hocking Hills

Just a few weeks later I spent a weekend with my friends at Hocking Hills State Park, specifically to take photos of the fall foliage.  It was the perfect weekend for this.  We all used tripods to get clear images in low light settings, and I used the kit lens for my camera so I could get a wide angle on this fabulous view.  This one is my very favorite, and that is my friend Becky in the corner.  Sometimes it helps just to hang out with other creative types and let their goodness and skill rub off on you!

By this point I had begun my first 365 Project, making a promise to myself to take photos each day for a year.  That’s important.

In December I set out one evening at dusk with the specific purpose of taking low light images.  What I started out taking images of did not produce the results I wanted, so I decided to cruise around downtown before heading back home.  Using only my 50mm lens that evening, I found this little restaurant full of lovely, warm light.  I parked the car, stepped outside, and snapped just a few images. Hand held. No tripod.  

Red Berries

Last month on a cold winter morning with lots of snow on the ground, I set out to my favorite park to take winter beauty photos.  Red berries in winter just do something to me, I so love the color of them.  I used the 70-300mm lens again for this.  It’s not perfect. But you know…it doesn’t have to be.  I like it.

What made it all click for me?  Several things.

First, the camera.  There is a real change in my photography once I had a DSLR in my hands.  Learning what it can do, day by day, makes it even better.

Second, the lens.  The kit lens that came with it is great and I do use it quite a bit.  Next in line, and fast becoming my lens of choice, is the 50mm lens.  The light in it is just wonderful.  And that 70-300mm lens is becoming more useful to me as I continue to play with it.

Third, but probably first as well… taking some online photo courses.  My absolute favorites have been Kat’s.  And no, this is not a paid endorsement.  She just makes me think, asks tough questions, but somehow gets to the heart of the matter of photography.  I credit her lessons with helping me See creatively through whatever lens I use.

Fourth, and gaining importance as I continue…is committing to a 365 Project.  I know.  It doesn’t work for everyone.  But it sure is helping me.  It has become a part of my daily practice, my ritual, my way of looking at the world and finding the beauty.  As I practice this daily habit there are days when the *click* happens, and many when it does not.  

It’s all worth it.  I’m sure there will be other factors that come into play as I continue this journey.  Meanwhile, knowing my camera and lens, learning more from courses and from spending time with other photography friends, and just making the commitment to practice daily, all of it contributes to those creative breakthroughs…at least for me.



Learning about types of contrast

As I write this I’m thinking of how I felt a week ago compared to how I am feeling today… and there is a big difference. It must have been a flu bug that morphed into a sinus infection, in the meantime just knocking me off my feet and putting me on the couch for the weekend.  
I’ve seen enough TV to last quite a while, though it was entertaining…a marathon of episodes from “World’s Worst Cook”, a few episodes of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and that last episode of Downton Abbey (at least until season four).  
(There had better be a season four.)
Now that I’m feeling much better, thanks to drugs, I thought I’d work on my photo course a bit and share with you what I’m learning.
For the Journey of Fascination course, Kat invited us to look at our images and think of the types of contrasts that we could find.   My photo walk did not happen, but this evening I have taken the time to just look around in my room where I do my creating and found a few contrasts that I’ll share with you here.
New camera (on my cell phone) versus my very first camera.
This contrast in age, if you will, makes an interesting conversation starter.
 Empty spools contrasting with one that is full. 
Yes, I love these little things and you’ve seen images of them here before.
This image would be even more boring without that one spool that still has thread on it.
This little terracotta bird is a favorite of mine because of the contrast in the finish.  The shiny, glossy blue and the ‘flat’ finish of the red. And in this little sculpture lies the lesson, I think, that Kat is trying to get across.
Artwork, whether photos or sculptures or whatever, is more interesting when there is a visual contrast or a contrast of ideas.  I confess that this is not something I have kept in mind when I’m taking photos, but after doing this exercise I know I will be much more aware of it.  

Learing from photographic mistakes

Being in a room full of butterflies last summer was quite an experience, one that I wanted to capture in photos so I could remember, so I could share it here. 

As I continue to learn and grow as a photographer, some lessons keep coming along, mostly in the form of mistakes. In the Find Your Eye Photo Course, Journey of Fascination, Kat invites us to look at those mistakes.. and then let them go.

My 70-300mm lens is great for situations like this one.  I have used it many times in different situations and had great results with crisp, sharp images.   But I can’t tell you how many images I have discarded for the simple reason that the focus is just too bad.   This image is a prime example of that lack of clear focus. 

I tend to push that lens to it’s very limits. In other words I often try to zoom it out as far as it will go.  Many times this is not a problem, especially if I am in bright light.  But in a lower light setting like this conservatory, I was trying to push it to it’s limit and shoot while simply holding it in hand, not using a tripod.

Hurry and get that photo.  That seems to be at the heart of my mistake.

Yet that is not the kind of photographer I strive to be.  Contemplative photography appeals to me, a style the invites one to be still.    

So that means I have had to learn to let go of that hurry up attitude.  Is that easy? Nope. The hurry ups keep coming back and I kick myself in the backside every time; however, there is hope.   From all this lack of focus has come some valuable insight and new habits are emerging….

  • My tripod comes with me often these days.  (Thank you, Becky, for your example!)  
  • I am learning about the sweet spot that each lens has and how to take advantage of that. 
  • And for me there is a link between focusing and contemplating…focus the lens, focus my mind.

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