A creative mindset is critical to keeping yourself pleased with photography, either as a professional or serious amateur. I know it’s time to shake up my mindset when I start seeing complacency, where I “master” a technique or style and find myself applying it to everything. Remember the saying about a boy with a hammer seeing the world as a nail? It’s like that but with a camera. Suddenly all my images look like HDR, or macro, or telephoto. Boring, even when I feel the images are composed or exposed well. Ever looked over a week’s worth of your images and realize they all look pretty much the same? Time to shake up the Etch-a-Sketch®.
Advice I’ve gotten from several photographers is to give myself a personal project, building a portfolio of intentional images probably not fitting in my typical style or shooting schedule. The objective here is not to necessarily create a group of images for sale but rather to give my brain a chance to rearrange how it’s seeing the world. And then having that new arrangement seep into other parts of my brain to affect (and hopefully improve) my usual range of images.
I’ve got one of these going on, periodically adding to it as the opportunity arises. Now another opportunity as been presented. The recreation area near us just burned off a section of their property so new growth has a chance to pop up. The Great Plains traditionally saw fire as a means of renewal and stimulus until we came along with our aversion to flames and uncontrolled change. So it’s good to see the area managers turning to an old school way of stewardship.
With this I’ve decided to do a “growth” series on the burned area, recording the changes in the terrain as spring urges plants to take over areas previously covered with a barrier of old grass or leaves. In my youth I helped my father burn off property before planting pine trees so I know how fast all those latent green shoots respond. Expecting dramatic images of change and renewal I’ve scheduled a shoot each Monday for the coming weeks. At some point I plan to build a final collage or image assembly, either for a gallery show or to offer the area managers for their marketing and communication materials.
In the same vein, one of my classmates has been pursuing a personal project of her own – photographing people in formal and informal portraits. Doing so is an extension of the lighting classes we had last summer only Kate is taking the techniques to places of interest to her. Each week it seems she’s posting images of people, some she already knows and some she recruits because she thinks they’ll look interesting in a photograph. From her posts it obviously a learning environment she’s created for herself, intentionally getting away from more comfortable, non-people photographs in order to learn new techniques but also to find new ways to approach her other photographic subjects. You can see her work and follow her self-imposed education on her blog.