A Conversation between intellect and emotion
I've recently returned from my latest workshop. The Lake District marks the end of a busy autumn period of doing daily workshops at Batsford Arboretum which was proceeded by consecutive weekend workshops at Anglesey, Norfolk and Northumbria. It has been exhausting but also inspiring to meet so many new clients and first-timers on a photography workshop.
With so many new people the message and guidance from me, apart from the usual instruction and demonstration of camera settings, was focused primarily on how we see subjects, make decisions on how to frame and what to convey inside that frame. I know that all beginner's go on a huge learning curve to shift from literal and visual to visceral interpretations and likewise the majority of beginner's wrestle with reducing framing down to only the vital.
Developing your creative vision takes time and comes in stages.
I recently read an article by Don Giannatti - He talks about the meme of practising something 10,000 times will mean you become perfect - I agree wholeheartedly with him that practising something incorrectly for 10,000 hours just makes you a master of making the same mistakes.
His article went on to explain that all photographers start with a snapshot and desire to make something better, but then we start to imitate other images from those we admire and whose style and interpretation resonates with ours. We then move onto assimilate and start to make our decisions, interpretations and question ourselves about our choices and the rights and wrongs of our images. I know many who have over the months and years progressed from the mechanics of it to the reason for it. The internal battle they face with themselves over what is right, wrong and widely accepted and appreciated is interesting to me. It's a stage I recognise well as we often dip back and forth and overlap between two stages as we find our own way.
1. We start with a snapshot – it doesn’t say much other than this is what it is or where it is!
A. Imitate Learn to use the instrument competently. The Mechanics of it
B. Assimilate Make choices about the subject matter, genre, and personal style. The Reason for it
C. Innovate Develop a body of work that ties together your own vision. The Personal Execution of it
This becomes a conversation, and often a battle, between intellect and emotion. The intellect whispers in our ear about all we have learnt about the mechanics of it. Am I using the right shutter speed/aperture/ISO, metering, focusing, filters, lens, focal length, remote release and so on? It can also be a conversation about rules, guidelines and considerations about composition, framing but on a formulaic basis rather than feeling instinct. The emotional side just wants to capture the magical feelings of awe and the connection we feel to the outdoors and nature. How we achieve the latter is the hardest part for any photographer to master.
My advice is to remind clients that rules, guidelines and so on should not inhibit your creative thinking and most importantly awareness of the decisive moment and use of light in your composition. Throughout Batsford and the other workshops the thing that I came to realise more than any other single aspect is how I take granted that I photograph the light more than the subject itself. The subject is, of course, important but relies on light to give it depth, form and emotion.
The feedback over the last few months has been great with many people commenting on how they now think about their framing more carefully and recognition of different light to make something ordinary looking one minute become extraordinary the next. Many people imitated my shots, I am fine with that if it helps them to understand. However, I am always quick to remind them that photography is about your personal interpretation and it doesn’t have to be 100% unique - But it should be 100% authentically you.
Here are a few shots from my trip to the Lake District last weekend. Residential Weekend Workshops really are the best way to get the intensity of improving your skills together with time to get into the zone. Take a look at the next series of weekend workshops and feel free to contact me with any questions.