Why make an image?

Have you ever thought about what caused you, at any particular moment, to make an image? I say make because there was some thought process at work when you thought “Hey, that’s nice, I think I’d like to have a photograph of that.” Taking a photograph has always sounded a bit sketchy to me. Like running into a gallery and grabbing the first photograph you see and heading for the door. We should always make photographs not take them. So what where you thinking when you made that photograph? It sounds like an easy enough question but at times you just don’t know or do you? Think about it for a minute, something inspired you to make that photograph. Was it the light? How about the subject? Was it possibly a combination of the two? Maybe it was an event that would never be repeated? Where you at a location that you might never get back to again?

Think about it next time you want to make an image… Why should I make this image?

Deep In Thought
Deep In Thought

Where have you been for the past three weeks?

In the previous post, I said I was going to post a photo a day of my yard. So, what happened? Well, that’s a very good question. As happens often with me when I set out to do a personal project, the universe has another plan! Several things have been going on some good and some not so good. I’ve felt a bit ill on a few occasions, staying in bed trying to sweat out a fever is not my idea of fun but it beats being really sick for a few days. I have signed a contract with Digital Photo Academy to teach classes and getting everything they need to get things started has taken up quite a bit of time. I have been running back and forth like crazy making sure the boys get to their after-school activities and I have been to a few Meetups that I organize. Busy yes but should I let it get in the way of creating images? Well no, I shouldn’t, but I have. It’s not like I haven’t been making photos at all, just not of what I set out to make photos of. And therein lies the story of my photographic life.

You see I truly believe that the photo universe will give you hints as to what you should be shooting. These hints can be very subtle or a right kick in the pants! When I was assisting other photographers I said all I wanted to do was stock photography. Go to nice place shot everything is saw and then market those images to various photo buyers. Yeah, do that and life would be grand! The one thing I did not want to do was to shoot people! Well guess what, most of the work I have been assigned to do has been… you guessed it… photograph people. The photo universe loves to play wicked little games with us photographers. Well, maybe its just me.

So what does all this have to do with the last three weeks? Like I said I have been making photos of different things but those things are just not what I set out to do for a month. Is that a bad thing? I think not. But, if you were hoping to see what I came up with from the part of my yard that you can see from that window, well, you might be saying… “Get out there and shoot something!” and you would be right!

Month long project

The view out of a window here at my house.

I sit at this window every morning from late fall to early spring watching for the school bus. When all the leaves are off the trees until they come back in the spring we have a clear view of the bus stop just before ours. We live on a corner so the boys just have to walk to the end of the drive way and a short way before they are at the bus stop. This morning I was sitting there thinking that there must be something interesting to photograph in all that. So I started to really look and see the possibilities.

I have been following Michael Kitada’s blog at TakeBetterPhotosNow.com for some time now. I read a few of his posts about making images in his back yard, something I have been doing on occasion in my backyard. Since I started reading his blog I have liked his tag line “Be inspired!”. I have been using a similar tag line of “Create Every Day!” for years. Its something I don’t do, photographically at least, often enough. Michael’s blog is full of ideas to help you find inspiration and I guess he and his blog are more than just a little bit responsible for the inspiration for what I came up with.

Sitting at that window on this rainy, cloudy, dreary morning, I came up with a plan: make a photograph a day for the next 30 days of that area of the yard and only from that area. Doing a photo a day is not very original idea but I look at it more as a challenge than just making an image a day. In this view it does not look very inspiring and that is part of what I mean when I say I look at it as a challenge. Creating images is easy in some places. All you need to do is get to the right location. What I think will be the biggest challenge is finding images I want to post and share with people from just the part of our yard.

If you want to follow along I’ll be posting the daily images to my Tumblr account for all to see. I’ll post weekly updates here with a recap of all the images from each week. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I hope you like the images I come up with.

A few ideas for finding inspiration

I’m like most photographers that I have known, in that I have a very active imagination. Ideas fly through my mind at what seems to be an alarming rate. Here one second and then gone. While I am walking to another room to get something that I need an idea or image pops into my head. I start thinking about that idea or image so intently that by the time I get to where I needed to go, I have forgotten what I needed to get! Many people call these “senior moments”. Well, I’ve been having these senior moments for most of my life. Is it a senior moment or creative mind at work? I’ll go with creative mind at work. But what happens when the ideas just won’t come as easily. How do you find the inspiration to create images when ideas just won’t come? Here are a few ideas to help get those creative ideas flowing again.

Go to the library or bookstore and browse through the books and magazines. Take a look at books written about the things you most like to photograph. Plants, food, wildlife, cars, fashion and weather are some of the subjects you might want to explore. Look at books about the subject you like, not books about photographing the subject. Take a look at the images in those books and check them out from the library, or buy a few from the book store and use those images for inspiration.

Go to an art gallery and look around. I’ll be honest, I’ve never liked Picasso’s work but after having been to art school I understand what he was trying to do with a three dimensional object on a two dimensional canvas. I’m more of a Salvador Dali or Jerry Uelsmann fan. Take a look at work that you “get” or you like as well as some that is simply beyond your understanding. Remember you are trying to get out of a rut. Maybe a good jolt of something that you don’t like or even understand may do it for you. Go beyond your comfort zone because staying within that comfort zone might be the problem.

Go out into your backyard and really look around. How many images are there that you have been missing all the time you have lived there? You can do the same thing at a local park. When I say “really look around” I don’t mean just look, see. There is a big difference between looking and seeing.

Go somewhere you have never been before. I know there are quite a few places I can go within an hour’s drive. If you live in a city take a bus, subway or walk to a new neighborhood. Look for anything that might inspire you.

Take your camera but just go to look. If you go with the intention of making images you probably won’t make any. Feeling you have to get out a make some images might be the reason you are feeling so uninspired in the first place! Just get out, look around, and really see the possibilities. I don’t think it will take long before you find subjects for images you want to create.

Railroad Bridge over the Rappahannock River Fredericksburg Virginia at Night
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