What happens when you shoot with intention?
The next assignment in the Find Your Eye course was to take at least 50 photographs of a familiar subject or location. The purpose of the quantity requirement was to push our creativity – instead of moving on after a typical number of shots, we had to dig deeper and fully explore what we saw with a second, third or fourth look. By asking ourselves “what if” questions, we could move beyond the predictable.
Our local high school is a modern brick and silver-metal structure with myriad windows, a stained concrete courtyard and outdoor spiral staircases. Shadows and reflections abound. In fact, it was here that I began exploring in earnest my shadow series. As a result, it has become one of my favorite local settings for photographic inspiration. But having shot there many times, what could I find that was new?
Before I began, I feared that I would find nothing fresh to inspire me and would instead shoot the same images in identical ways. But what happened was that I was energized by the challenge. I tried out different points-of-view; looked up and down; kneeled on the stairs; got under the stairs. I walked slowly around the entire campus, searching out new perspectives. Sixty-six shots later, I stopped.
What did I learn?
It is fairly obvious that what excites me visually is line and texture; my images are often geometric or abstract. I like clean images – I work really hard to compose my shots so that there are no distracting elements in the background.
Post-processing is also a critical component of my creative experience. I crop to enhance the play of line or shapes within the composition. I always boost contrast. I can spend hours at the computer, lost in Photoshop.
I did discover that my favorite images often vary significantly between image capture and completion of post-processing. What looked good to me on location doesn’t always translate once I begin the review/edit process. But I delight in being surprised by a shot, discovering an interesting twist that wasn’t initially apparent. However, I would like to improve my ability to “see” the shot in my head before snapping the shutter button.
Here are a few of my favorites from this morning’s shoot:
The attraction for me in this shot is the diagonal cross-hatching shadows – sharp and crisp at the top; soft and muted at the bottom – and the complex pattern created by the interplay of light and shade. I like the simple color scheme and the repeated pattern of the metal grid along the top. Variation is added with the single bolt on the right, balanced by the long streak of rust on the left.
For some reason, in past visits, I had never attempted this particular point of view of the spiral staircase. I like the complexity of this shot and its depth, created by the stairs and then their shadows beyond as well as the reflections in the center post. The strong radial composition leads your eye around the image.
This shot is all about the texture of the concrete and the mix of muted color tones; the subtle diagonal lines and the contrast of the clock-like tire track creating its half-circle. How did it get there, almost perfect in shape? To me, this has the appearance of a modern abstract painting and I love its minimalist feel.
Don’t you adore this golden flip-flop? I found it abandoned on the school courtyard – tonight some teenager is missing their favorite shoes. Sometimes you just have to be ready for whatever is presented to you. Along with shadows, this is representative of another of my favorite photography subjects – things found on the street. The texture, the color, the odd juxtaposition of a forsaken shoe in this setting all made this an interesting shot to me.
Overall, I found this a liberating exercise. New discoveries from familiar surroundings.