3 March

The Power of Play for Creative Expression

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Many photographers have an agenda when they go out to photograph. Whether it’s to capture a portrait, a destination or a representation of a specific subject we often have a preconceived result in mind before we even press the shutter. We know exactly what we hope to capture and what we want the final result to look like. This is not necessarily good or bad; many of history’s best images came as a result of the photographer seeing the photo in their mind’s eye before the camera was ever lifted to the eye. When I look at my own favourite images, a significant portion were visualized in advance and my job was to make that visualization a reality on film or the digital sensor. But just as many of my favourite photos came about from serendipitous discovery and the most creative and refreshing of those discoveries came when I was just goofing around and playing with the camera, when I was experimenting with no serious intent in mind. I think many of us would benefit from not taking photography too seriously and just going out open-minded and ready to have fun. My best results at photographic play have happened when I leave the ‘serious’ gear behind and just respond with a point-n-shoot or small dSLR. I also abandon all the ‘should do’ photographic rules and techniques and just respond organically. It’s so freeing. Many times I just get junk photos, but just as often a gem emerges. I have no expectations either way but simply go out in the world in joyful play. Let me give a couple of examples.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - oopoomoo.com

©Samantha Chrysanthou – oopoomoo.com

Sam and I used to lead photographic workshops and tours in the Canadian Rockies based out of the Kootenay Plains and Abraham Lake. In the early years most photographers were just happy to be in this amazing locale and make photos of all the things that inspired them. Later on, images of the methane bubbles on Abraham Lake started to circulate on the internet and all of a sudden making images of the bubbles was on the bucket list of most photographers. Our job then became one of leading photographers to the bubbles in sunrise and sunset light so that they could achieve their preconceived result. Amazing images resulted but frankly they all looked pretty much the same. There was a sudden loss of desire to explore the area for all the other visual delights there.  Instead there was a fixation on getting bubble images. I also kept repeating the successful bubble formula images because it helped sell workshops.

©Darwin Wiggett - The image that started the bubble craze.

©Darwin Wiggett – The award-winning image that started the bubble craze.

One day in between winter workshops I went out for a mid-afternoon walk with just a camera and a zoom lens slung over my shoulder. I remember walking the shoreline of Abraham Lake just chilling. I was beach-combing, picking up stones, pieces of ice and pine cones just like a kid. I spent some time balancing myself on one leg on big stones and then rock-hopping stone to stone. In short, I was in goofing-off mode. I was not even remotely thinking about making pictures. In fact, I wanted to escape ‘having to make photos’. I saw some fins of ice along the shoreline and wondered if I could squeeze my way under them. I managed to get under the plate-like slabs of ice and just lay there looking up fascinated with the texture of the ice. Every slight move of my head revealed a new kaleidoscope of wavy distortions. It was mesmerizing. I must have spent twenty minutes just jostling my head around before it dawned on me that I had a camera. A couple of snapshots later and I had some of my favourite images I ever made of Abraham Lake ice. The power of play revealed its creative power.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett

Here is another example of the power of play. I am a huge fan of dogs and so as a photographer it was not a big stretch for me to end up photographing ‘man’s best friend’. Anyone who has photographed dogs knows it can be tough unless you have an obedience-trained dog that will take your directed commands. Most dogs are not well trained which says more about the owners than the dogs, but that’s another story. I had some early success with my own dogs that had basic obedience training and, when people saw the images, some of them asked me to photograph their dogs. My expectations of how a dog photo session should go, well orchestrated with trained dogs, went out the window fast. I was frustrated, the dog was stressed and the owner was not happy with the results. The whole thing was not fun. The solution to the problem came when I dropped expectations, and just started playing with the dogs. Forget the damn camera! I worked fun back into my time with the dogs. And then I tried something unorthodox. I put the camera on program mode, turned on the auto-focus and the motor drive and just pointed the camera in the general direction of the dog while we played together. Most of the results were terrible but occasionally magic happened! In the film days this was an expensive experiment, but once digital came along, the fun was cheap and I could play even more. Samantha and I refined this ‘play with the dogs’ photographic approach into a more predictably successful technique which we discuss in our dog photography eBook, Sit, Stay & Smile. In the end it was play and the loss of expectations that resulted in fresh imagery of the dogs.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou - The making of the previous image.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – The making of the previous image.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

So… the moral is not to take yourself and your photography too seriously. Make room for play and go out and act like a kid. If you want more exercises in play and in creative discovery be sure to check out our Learning to See Workbook and free Born Creative eBook.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett

Darwin jumps in a puddle

©Samantha Chrysanthou

23 January

Inspirations – The Photography of Larry Louie

Here at oopoomoo our logline is create, inspire and educate. We love to feature the work of photographers and artists who meet these ideals but we are really thrilled when a photographer’s work is not only creative but is captured ethically and does good in the world. We really believe photographers should be giving rather than just ‘taking’. To this end, we are proud to present the work of Edmonton based photographer, Larry Louie, humanitarian documentary photographer.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

Larry leads a dual career. By day he runs an optometry clinic enhancing the vision of his patients. On his self-funded travels he explores the life of indigenous people and social issues around the world and seeks to influence people’s view of the world. He also works closely with NGOs such as First Light Photography School in Bangladesh, Seva Canada whose mission is to end preventable and treatable blindness, and Oxfam whose mission is to create lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty. Larry also opened the Louie Photography Gallery on 124 in Edmonton to highlight the work of local and emerging photographers of all genres. And best of all, even with all of his awards and accolades Larry remains grounded, humble and has a great sense of humour. We are pleased to present our in-depth interview with Larry below:

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – Larry you have a successful optometry practice. How do you carve out time for your photographic endeavours?

Larry – Well, my photography is something I do on the side and that’s good and bad in a lot of ways. I don’t have the time and the luxury in terms of going away for a long time and so I’ve got to be very time efficient with my trips. At the same time photography is not a big money maker and I want to shoot things that really mean a lot to me and those kinds of images are not very salable or even things that people want to buy or even look at and so for me it’s more important that I do photography for me rather than for the monetary aspects of it. I use my optometry practice as the breadwinner and the way to pay for my photography and I use my photography as my artistic outlet. For me, being able to travel and experience the world fills me with cherished memories. My wife and I do not have an extravagant lifestyle and we chose to save and use that money for our travel and photography.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – When did you get into photography and when did you know you would pursue photography as a more serious venture?

Larry – It first started in high school. I got a camera as a gift and started photographing the area that I knew which is around Edmonton. I started photographing street scenes and landscapes and so on but what really interested me was one year I went to a boarding house in a derelict part of Edmonton and I met a lot of homeless people and people who were down and out. What I learned from that experience was that these people had a voice, they’re human beings, not inanimate objects and I felt I wanted to tell their story. I found their stories of why they were on the fringes of society really interested my curiosity. I ended up spending a lot of time with them and made a series of pictures of these people. I have always wanted to travel and see the world and experience different cultures. As a kid I was influenced by National Geographic and dreamed about visiting those remote areas. Later, as my practice became more established I had the money to go to these areas. I also had the photographic experience I gained from photographing people in Edmonton and so I could put the two together. One year, about 10 years ago, I went to Nepal and instead of just making the typical tourist pictures I was taken by a guide down to the river where I met similar people as those I photographed in Edmonton, those living on the fringes. I went and visited them several times and that was the catalyst for me to start my major project of celebrating humanity, the people on the fringes of society, people living with hardship and working in rough environments. I just wanted to tell their intriguing stories. I love meeting the people and sharing their stories through my photography.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – Larry, one thing we love about your work is that as a viewer we feel like we are right there and having that connection with the people. There is an intimacy in your work that is poignant.

Larry – That’s deliberate. I want to be physically close to these people and spend time with them to make them feel at ease with me. This closeness and the time I spend to know them, that could be 10 minutes or 5 hours, gives me a small connection that makes them relaxed and accepting of my presence, so the pictures don’t look composed, staged or artificial. To make connections I don’t bring the camera out right away, I meet the people first. Sometimes there are communication barriers but a smiling face, a warm handshake and a few words of their language goes a long way to put people at ease. Also being at ease yourself is the most important thing. And asking permission is key. A lot of times I am really close because I just use a 24mm lens and so I am not sneaking around taking pictures unawares. I am connected with the people first and then close with the camera which makes images that feel that you are there.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – How would you describe your photographic style?

Larry – My work is environmental portraiture. The main focus is the people and the connection. I shoot a lot with my wide angle lens because I want to share a contextual story of the person in their environment. As a viewer you not only see the person but also the story of their life. I chose black and white because it takes away the emotional colour and I want to use the content of the image to provide the emotion. Also lighting is the essence of photography and with black and white that essence comes across stronger. A lot of my work has dramatic lighting and black and white accentuates that more than colour photography.

©Larry Louie - larry louie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – You seem to get to some spots off the beaten path, things most tourists never see. How do you find these places?

Larry – We work a lot with NGOs and many of the places I go to are out of bounds for tourists and photographers and also can be dangerous. To get to these places requires background work and, by working with NGOs active in the area, we can get introductions and access that would be hard to get otherwise. In giving back, we don’t give money to people to photograph them. Instead, we pull our resources together through the sale of prints or through the fees I get for my talks and give the money back to the organizations we work with to support local projects. It’s full circle. I photograph for the love of it and hopefully giving back to the people I took some time away from.

oopoomoo – How would you define the term ‘humanitarian photographer’

Larry – Humanitarian photographer is respect, respecting the people your are photographing, respecting the story to be told and not to exploit the situation but to make viewers aware of the situation so that possibly positive change can happen. And then to pool your funds to help an organization to help the group of people in the area you photographed.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – Do you think that humanitarian photographers are becoming a rarer breed?

Larry – I think so because now it is all about the mighty dollar. Newspapers, magazines and so on are asking for the most sensational photographs. Instead of trying to tell the story they want to sell the story which means the more unusual or shocking, the better. Those stories then tend to be heard by the public and so sometimes the stories are distorted both factually and visually. Some news agencies like Reuters are now asking for unaltered images, like the Raw files or in-camera JPEGS so that there is no manipulation of the image so that it has been altered or exaggerated to sell the photograph.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – Because you fund your own trips why do your prefer to go abroad when you could do humanitarian photography right here in Alberta?

Larry – You’re absolutely right, many people ask me why I don’t photograph here. The truth is I love to travel and I have an attraction to the far east, the culture, the crowds, the chaos, the energy… it just gets me going. I thrive artistically on the chaos of these busy, crazy places. And you rarely make great images on your initial visit. You need to go back again and again to develop relationships and make connections. That requires time and so I want to go back to these places like Kathmandu and Manila many times. Each time I go back I see something new and different and expand on the story I am trying to tell.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – Speaking of the Alberta connection, you have opened up the Louie Photography Gallery on 124 in Edmonton to highlight the work of local and emerging photographers. As we know, photo galleries are not really for-profit ventures, so we think that is a noble, local thing to do. But it’s something that also eats into your time and money. Why bother?

Larry – A lot of galleries are displaying work that will sell, like beautiful landscapes and not images that tell stories and so I had some space in my building and I wanted a place to showcase work from local photographers who do the kind of work that might not be represented in more mainstream galleries. I started this three or four years ago and have had several shows and the focus is mostly documentary work because that is not really shown anywhere in Alberta. Last year and this year in February our gallery is part of Exposure Photo Festival and we are happy to be part of that Alberta initiative.

©Larry Louie- larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie- larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – Your images have a timelessness to them, almost a throwback to film in their purity. Can you comment on that?

Larry – Well, I am old school even though I use a digital camera I see things in black and white. I love vintage black-n-white photography. I don’t want my images to look too modified. In documentary work, if there is garbage on the ground, garbage should stay there. I don’t want to beautify the place or change the look just because it might be distracting to the viewer; it has to be true to the story and I think this reality comes out in my photos. Technique wise you still need appropriate lighting, proper exposure and good composition that fits within 35mm proportions. I don’t crop anything; everything is full frame. To me, that’s important. My ability is in connecting with someone and then being able to compose something quickly that cannot be reproduced again. I find I have to be able to anticipate when something will happen and then be quick to respond. My goal is to capture in the camera and not in post production. I am very bad at Photoshop, and so this is why my photos might look like film.

©Larry Louie - larry louie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – Many people might be surprised that you use prime lenses, a 24mm and an 85mm instead of zooms. Why give up the flexibility of zooms?

Larry – I don’t carry a lot of gear, I do a lot of walking, there is the possibility of being robbed. I want to blend in so I dress down and bring minimal gear. I often just bring one body and one lens, often the 24mm. To me it’s all about the interaction with the subject; the camera is just a recording device and I don’t want it to be too big, bulky and imposing for my subjects. When people ask me about gear, I always say it does not really matter, it is all about seeing, expecting and responding. I like prime lenses because they are smaller, more compact, sharper and faster which is especially good for interior work.

©Larry Louie - larry louie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – How important have your numerous awards being in boosting your photography career?

Larry – These are just little pats on your shoulder. It’s great to have people acknowledge your work and that’s great for the ego but the bottom line is it’s just icing on the cake. Regardless if I have those awards or not, I am still going to do the same thing. I am not going to change the way I shoot; I shoot the way I like to shoot. Having the recognition is nice, there is no doubt about it, and it allows me to tell my story to a wider audience.

oopoomoo – Some photographers after winning awards start making images catered towards winning more awards. There is an honesty to your pictures that suggests you are true to who you are. How do you keep humble after all the recognition?

Larry – I think my wife does it to me; she puts me down all the time! She says “You’re not that good, just work harder!” (laughs). Interestingly, travel photography tends to do better in magazines and publications because it’s a way for people to sell travel. And so these magazines and contests promote travel and things that allow them to make money. Some of my past wins were more about travel but my humanitarian work is not so publication friendly. And so now my platform to show work through magazines and contests is more limited because my images don’t fit that niche anymore. And my stuff is not ‘sensational’ for newspaper work. But even if my outlets are more limited, I am not going to change my humanitarian work to travel photography because it’s not what I like. The accolades are great but the biggest gift I get is the connection with the people I photograph; those memories are priceless.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – How do you maintain a passionate eye in situations where your heart pours out compassion?

Larry – To me, I do have a purpose when I go to these places. I have a goal in mind and so I am focused that way. And so when I photograph these people, even in very bad situations, I do try to remain objective. I connect with the people but I am there to do a job. After I am done, that’s when the emotions come out. When I am shooting I am focused on that. Afterwards, even hours later when looking at the photos or revisiting the people then the emotions surface. I am removed emotionally while shooting, I am analytical and concentrating on the moment, the light, the composition. At the end of the day it’s hopefully your compassion and connection that allows the image to come through. For instance, when I was in Nepal I saw a scene with a young boy and his mother and a collapsed building behind them. The boy looked up to the sky and I responded immediately to that moment. Afterwards, when looking at the photo my heart was pulled hard and so there is a separation between the shooting process and the emotional processing of the moment.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

oopoomoo – After years of doing your humanitarian photography work has your sense of hope for humanity increased or decreased over the years?

Larry – Decreased! Working with NGOs the last several years and helping people one at a time here and there does make a slight small difference. I have to say it’s a little bit of a helpless situation. The situation in Nepal for example. The earthquake was natural, but when all of this aid comes in and none of it goes to the people; when there is an embargo from India and no gas or fuel goes to the country… it’s political. So, no matter how good you are as an NGO worker, volunteer, or organization, until the people are willing to make a change themselves, until the government is willing to be less corrupt and support the people, it’s not going to change. Corruption and greed is the root of all these problems. Until that changes progress can’t be made. Humanitarian photographers and volunteers do help because it is the best thing we think we can do on a small scale but we can’t change the government. Our support might be concrete to provide eye care or to support an educational facility that helps a small portion of people. One step at a time. But all in all, looking at the global picture, I have to say I am a little bit pessimistic, seeing it from the inside and the outside at the same time.

oopoomoo – Has your pessimism reduced your desire to continue?

Larry – Oh no, definitely not – it increases my desire to continue! If you are a photographer or artist of any sort, you have to push the boundaries a little bit. If you are not willing to push boundaries, you are not going to get far. You can’t use the same comfort zone to get to something better or different. The boundaries are political and economic: I am pushing against these. I am not going to make drastic changes but I must do my share.

©Larry Louie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

©Larry Luoie - larrylouie.com

©Larry Louie – larrylouie.com

Larry produced a 2016 calendar that had 100% of proceeds go to the efforts of Seva Canada for the elimination of avoidable blindness. The sale of the calendars raised $5500! To purchase  any of Larry’s amazing prints please visit his website to find the photo(s) that you want and then contact Larry at larryylouie@shaw.ca.

Thanks Larry for all you do!CoverPage

LarryLouieCalendar

 

31 December

#myoopoomoobest2015 – The top 15 images by oopoomoo creatives

Samantha and I have curated what we think are the top 15 images submitted by our awesome Newsletter subscribers. To be considered, subscribers tagged their image with #myoopoomoobest2015 as a request to be considered in this blog post. Some sent their image by email and some posted to the oopoomoo Creatives Facebook group. We encouraged people to submit one image that represented their best work based on the following criteria:

  • represent who they are photographically as an artist or demonstrate something they learned this year
  • be as well-composed as they can do at their learning level, and
  • be taken ethically.

We kept these guidelines in mind when choosing the photos for display here on the blog. It was a tough choice with over 100 images to choose from but the ones below best represented fresh seeing, original creative vision and good story-telling. So many images ‘almost’ made the cut and Sam and I wrestled and argued and debated the final 15. So, bruised and beaten, we present our choices. Enjoy and happy 2016!

Al Dixon

©Al Dixon

©Al Dixon

Andrew Barron

©Andrew Barron

©Andrew Barron

Bill McQuarrie

©Bill McQuarrie

©Bill McQuarrie

Chris F Payant

©Chris F Payant

©Chris F Payant

Gerry Hiebert

©Gerry Hiebert

©Gerry Hiebert

Henrik Fessler

©Henrik Fessler

©Henrik Fessler

Kat Enns

©Kat Enns

©Kat Enns

Liz Forrester

©Liz Forrester

©Liz Forrester

Nathalie Kulin Greenwood

©Nathalie Kulin Greenwood

©Nathalie Kulin Greenwood

Riana Vermaak

©Riana Vermaak

©Riana Vermaak

Roy Mclaughlin

©Roy Mclaughlin

©Roy Mclaughlin

Ryan Crouse

©Ryan Crouse

©Ryan Crouse

Sherry Christensen

©Sherry Christensen

©Sherry Christensen

Vartkes Peltekoglu

©Vartkes Peltekoglu

©Vartkes Peltekoglu

Vicki Brown

©Vicki Brown

©Vicki Brown

28 December

Best of 2015 – oopoomoo Best for Darwin Wiggett

This year, Darwin and I decided to curate each other’s images to select what we felt was that photographer’s oopoomoo best for 2015. Just as we stipulated in the oopoomoo Newsletter announcing the challenge, an oopoomoo best had to meet three criteria:

  • represent who they are photographically as an artist or demonstrate something they learned this year
  • be as well-composed as they can do at their learning level, and
  • be taken ethically.

You can see what Darwin picked as my oopoomoo best here. And here is the image I’ve chosen as Darwin’s best image of 2015.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

In pouring over Darwin’s work for this year, I’ve noticed a shift in his usual subject matter. Instead of photographing grand landscapes, Darwin has started to concentrate more on intimate studies and abstractions. Some of the same elements of style are present in his work, making them a ‘Darwin shot’, such as a fascination with light and shape and an attraction to colours and tonal contrast. But I sense with this image a refinement perhaps of ‘seeing’, an engagement with the mind rather than just senses. There is many layers to this image and it is quietly intriguing.

This image was taken at Lake O’Hara, probably one of the most iconic of places in the Canadian Rockies. We were standing far uphill on the trail to Opabin Plateau and Mary Lake was being covered by a giant shadow cast by Oderay Mountain as the sun set behind it. Darwin had to work fast to frame and make this shot before the light was gone and the lake covered in shadow. When photographers say that they refuse to photograph iconic places, I feel sorry for them; I suspect they are insecure and may suffer from a lack of imagination. A great photographer can always make a place his own as Darwin does here.

22 December

Best of 2015 – oopoomoo best from Samantha Chrysanthou

As part of our regular monthly Newsletter, this December we asked our subscribers to share with us their best picture of 2015. But the photo could not be just any predictable best, it had to be their ‘oopoomoo best’. To be an ‘oopoomoo best’ the image had to follow these criteria:

  • represent who they are photographically as an artist or demonstrate something they learned this year
  • be as well-composed as they can do at their learning level, and
  • be taken ethically.

If you want to see all the amazing results so far log into your Facebook account and do a search for #myoopoomoobest2015

In the spirit of year-end sharing Sam and I will be showcasing our oopoomoo best image here on the blog but with a twist. Instead of picking our own image to share we are going to chose what we think is our partner’s best image of 2015! Scary stuff to have someone else curate your work.

And so here is my pick of Sam’s best image of 2015. Drum roll please!

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

I chose this image for several reasons. First, it perfectly represents Sam’s creative vision. Sam loves grass and trees and she has both in spades in this picture. Second, Sam creates compositions that are personal and intimate and that drill down to the essence of what attracted her to the scene. We were out shooting in the Rockies and I was photographing a distant lone spruce in a sea of yellow aspens with my 300mm lens (an obvious and easy subject). Sam asked if she could borrow my camera and lens for a minute. She swung the camera away from the obvious fall colours, away from the big peaks in the background and over to a grassy slope just above the road. I could not for the life of me figure out what she was making a picture of! Of course now I see… a quintessential Sam photo, but at the time I thought she had gone mad photographing away from all the big beauty surrounding us. I’m always impressed by how Sam can make ‘something from nothing’ and how she always photographs true to her vision no matter what others are doing around her. So the biggest reason I picked this image is because Sam continues to surprise and delight me with her creative vision. No one can make Sam images, they are unique to her. And so, for me, this image represents Samantha’s answer to the #myoopoomoobest2015 December Newsletter challenge.

11 December

Resolve: Discover Your Creative Self Photography eCourse (second dates added)

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

It seems we have touched a nerve with our latest eCourse offering “Resolve:Discover Your Creative Self“. Our first run of the eCourse sold out in three days but we are offering a requested second session January 17 – 23, 2016 with the same introductory 40% discount until December 15 2015. After the 15th we’ll be charging $79.95 for the eCourse.  To learn more about this unique photography offering please go to this link. May you have a creative 2016!

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

 

2 December

Working the Scene to Find Your Voice

Photographer at Rampart Ponds - Banff National APrk - Alberta

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

The great thing about photography (or any visual art) is that no two photographers see the world in exactly the same way; give ten photographers the same scene to photograph and you’ll most often get ten (or more) different results. Even a single photographer will produce multiple interpretations of the same scene. Often our subconscious notices the scene; there is something there that we like. If we respond with our cameras right away then often we capture that flash of subconscious interest and come away with a photo that honours what we feel about a subject. But just as often, our conscious brain kicks in and overrides our subconscious to make judgments, and to categorize and analyze what we see. The more we think, the further we get from what attracted us in the first place. However, we can often get back to our original ‘attraction’ if we let go of our noisy thoughts and begin to explore the subject more from the heart than the mind. Let’s look at both of these scenarios in turn.

©Darwin Wiggett - Do you just respond or do you think your way through a composition?

©Darwin Wiggett – Do you just respond or do you think your way through a composition?

Sometimes, your heart’s eye gets it right first thing and further explorations take you further from your visual truth. For example, this past October I went on an outing to the Cochrane Ranchehouse, a lovely natural area park near our home. There, while walking around, I found a curved aspen tree in full colour. I immediately stopped where I was, dug out my camera and because the tree was far away, I put on my 300mm lens and made this photo. In hindsight this image perfectly captures what attracted me to the tree in the first place. I like the bent shape and the contrast of bright yellow against a darker subdued backdrop.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

But then, of course, my brain kicked in. Stupid brain! What if I got closer and used a shorter lens? What if I tried different angles on the tree and different framing and aspect ratios? All of these ‘what ifs’ were intruding on the purity of my expression.

And so I worked the scene further to answer these conscious questions. All of these mental explorations took me further from what attracted me to the tree in the first place. Sure, the resulting photos (below) are still pleasing but none honoured my heart’s view of the tree like the initial image. I have learned that if I make a photo as soon as something stops me that often that image is the most ‘true’ to my original attraction.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Cochrane Ranchehouse scenic, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Cochrane Ranchehouse scenic, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

In the next example, I was driving in the country near Cochrane when I noticed a big snow drift over a grass seed head. I stopped the car, got dressed up and got out the camera gear. In the time it took me to prepare for the cold photography experience, I lost the germ of what attracted me to this scene. The first picture I made was more a document of the overall scene.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

I felt the image above was interesting but then I had leading lines of the snow drift and the fence that went nowhere so I zoomed out to take in more of the scene and to have the lines lead to a vanishing point.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Now the lines of the snowdrift and the fence all converge in the distance to take us visually to the part of the fence with the horizontal cross bar. I immediately realized that the fence was not the reason that I stopped the car so I should not include it in the photo.

In the next picture, below,  I concentrated only on the snow and the grass. I thought of the tenuous existence of the grass seed head under the big snow drift and I made the next image to tell that dramatic story.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

I like the image above a lot and it tells a story of tension but it’s not why I stopped the car. I finally realized that what grabbed me was pure graphic appeal of the lines of the grass and drift. My mind saw lines and that’s what it wanted to show in the final photograph.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

This image above is closer to the reason I initially stopped but as anyone who follows oopoomoo composition teachings will know, there are two areas where the line of the snowdrift is ruined from underlying ‘mergers’. A simple shift to a higher viewpoint and slight change in aspect ratio (slightly more panoramic) eliminated the merger problems and gave me the result I had intended from the beginning.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

This final image, above, honours what I initially saw in my flash of subconscious. I just needed to work the scene to get back to my original vision. I blame it all on the cold.

The value of working a scene can either confirm that you had your voice in the first place or that you needed to rediscover your voice. The creative process is exactly that, a process. Don’t be afraid to work it! Let us know what your creative process is and if you get what’s in your mind’s eye right away or if you have to work hard to get a result that is in line with your creative vision.

©Darwin Wiggett - Sam working a scene to get to her creative vision.

©Darwin Wiggett – Sam working a scene to get to her creative vision. Actually she is looking back at me asking if the coffee is still warm in the thermos!

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