‘Tis the season of self-improvement, and what better way to improve oneself than setting a creative goal like becoming a better photographer! But ‘better photographer’ is pretty vague, isn’t it? Sometimes it helps to come at these kinds of things sideways. We often advise our students to try a project for a set period of time if they feel like their photography is in a rut. The project should be as detailed as possible, with a finite time and a measurable goal. You also want your project to be realistic so that it is achievable. Many shooters were inspired by the ‘Daily Snap’ project Darwin took on at his old blog in 2010 but photographing every day may not be realistic for all of us. A good project that is very effective but a bit less time-intensive might be to choose a nearby location and visit this spot once a week for several months, making images at different times of day, in various weather and when you are in different moods. This kind of a project helps you learn to see by challenging you to find something worth photographing even after you become familiar with (and often desensitized to) a location. It also improves your self-awareness of what motivates you to click the shutter and how your state of mind influences your photography. By keeping your images, you’ll have a ‘photographic record’ of your evolution through the project…and maybe even an image or two that you are proud of taking and that is worth sharing.
How do you continue to develop your artistic skill as a photographer?
I thought I would share my images from our Minnewanka shoot, since they are quite different from Darwin’s. Without fresh snow, the shoreline was pretty grungy. And we tracked up the shoreline with our big boots as you’ll see in the last image. But I had fun making more compressed landscapes and playing with my telephoto lens on the distant fire burn (I think on Mount Astey). The purplish hue in the last two images is from me accidentally leaving my Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer on my 70-300. When I took the lens out of the bag, the Polarizer stuck in the cold air and I couldn’t get it off! I kind of like the purple haze, so I left it in processing.
Nikon D300S, Nikkor 70-300mm lens, 1/30s at f16
Nikon D300S, Nikkor 70-300mm lens, 1/15s at f16
Nikon D300S, Nikkor 70-300mm lens, 1/2s at f8
Nikon D300S, Nikkor 70-300mm lens, 1/2s at f8
Nikon D300S, Nikkor 17-55mm lens, three image vertical stitch
The following contains images that are not for the faint of heart! It also does not have much in the way of photo tips and suggestions, so if you are in a rush, you may want to avoid this post wherein Darwin and Samantha bare all (ok, almost all–this is a PG site after all) on their road to health, happiness and a better world.
In the last year or so, I’ve found myself making the occasional odd photograph. What I mean by odd is that they seem to have the air sucked out of them; they are pressed landscapes, flattened like a pretty flower in a heavy book. It’s an optical illusion created in part by compositional design and focal length, of course. But I like it because I can use my creative photographic toolkit to portray reality in an unusual way. Gets one thinking!
The one thing I’m learning about being self-employed and running my own business is that I have—seemingly simultaneously—too much control over my daily tasks and no control at all. Let me explain. When I worked in a law office, someone else (my boss) decided how much work I should have and generally the hours I had to be working there. Even if I did not have much to do, I still had to show up at work. In the office, we used to call this ‘face time’. If you didn’t appear to be just snowed under with work, you soon would be, so while you had to be at the office, you also might lay low to avoid a big file landing on your desk at 6:00pm on a Friday. But if you had too little work, then you weren’t going to make your billable hours that month which would hurt your plan to ask for a raise at contract renewal time. So stressful!
Now, no one sets my hours, and I don’t have to do face time. But ironically, no one tells me when it is safe to quit working either. Weekends? What are these days of the week called ‘weekends’? Oh sure, you are saying, you don’t need a weekend because you can just pack up and go to the mountains any time you want! But it is not that simple. When you run your own business, you do the work of 10 staff people. You are not just a photographer, writer and teacher, but you are also your own secretary, ad-man, graphic designer, copy editor, CEO, COO, CMA and, well, you get the idea. There is always something to do which means you have to physically book your time off (and then not cancel on yourself when a big problem lands on your desk at 6:00pm the day before your scheduled day off). It is harder than it seems.