50 Shots


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.


Posted on August 5, 2011, in Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. These are great shots. Love all the lines and textures you have captured. I like them all.

    • Leanne – thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. That has been the best part of the FYE experience – making new connections with other photographers who are also making the same journey. I hope you will stop by again.

  2. Wow! I loved this post, every image as well as your descriptions of them. Your subject matter and style are very different from mine, but I love it. Love the lines, the shadows, the textures, the clean simplicity of each one. You did a really great job on this assignment, and I love that you finished it off with the quirkiness of the found flip-flop!

    I also like the way you ordered these photos, and how the color flows from coolest at the top of the first image to the warm gold of the last one.

    • Lee – thank you so much for your insightful comments. Sometimes I worry that my style lacks an emotional element, something that others can connect with. So knowing that you found things of interest in my images, even though are styles are so different, was very meaningful to me. Even though I understand that I make images for myself, I think as artists we still want to be able to touch others through our work.

      And I’m glad that you picked up on the quirky nature of the golden flip-flop! It certainly makes one wonder as to the story behind that one.

      I do hope that you will stop by again in the future.

  3. I can relate to the difference between the image capture and the processed one. I also find that there can be hidden beauty in an image that wasn’t apparent at the scene or that what I thought would work didn’t. Reading your entry has made me aware of that.
    I think the cross-hatched shadows are my favorite, it’s intriguing. Although the concrete print comes in a close second.

    • Monique – it is certainly a mixed blessing, this disconnect between capture and final image. As you said, the best part are those surprises that magically appear upon review of the images. I love that moment when something intriguing, something unexpected appears – either through the way the image is processed or just in seeing something unforeseen. But then there is the flip side – when an image that I just KNEW was going to be fabulous – wasn’t. But this just means that I am still growing, still training my “eye” to see the image in my head – to “make” a photograph rather than “taking” a photograph. Learning to understand what it is that causes me to press the shutter button in the first place.

      And thanks so much for picking out the concrete print as a favorite – those are the kinds of images that are meaningful to me – but I understand that they may be rather “out there” as subject matter for many people.

  4. I love these shots, especially the spiral staircase. Such an interesting exercise. These shots are also making me rethink the processing of shots I just took in the Great Sand Dunes.

    • Nothing is more of a compliment than to know that one’s words or images inspired another artist! Thank you so much for letting me know. This was a great exercise – a way to creatively play with something familiar, something comfortable and use it pull out something more.

  5. I really enjoyed the “roundness” of some of your favorite images here!

    • JJ – thanks for your comment – I didn’t even notice the “roundness” theme until you mentioned it. That’s why the FYE course has been so great – input from classmates to help see things you might have missed!.

  6. The photos are stunning, as always, and your descriptions are really enlightening. I like reading about how and why the composition works.

    • Lisa – it is a good (and somewhat difficult) exercise to attempt putting in words what we love about any creative work, particularily our own. I think if we can describe what works, what doesn’t work, it helps strengthen our vision, gives us a greater enjoyment of what appeals to us because we know the why of our attraction. This is something that I am only in the beginning stages of understanding.

  7. Lovely post, once again. It looks like you had great fun with this exercise. Isn’t it amazing that you can always find more ways to see a subject? This building looks like a great place to find infinite compositions and points of view!

    • Kat,
      I did have fun! It was very interesting to revisit a favorite location and challenge myself to see it again with new eyes. Some of the shots from that day made it into my Inspiration File – a true test of a successful shoot. Thanks for the guidance through the exercise.

  8. It is so fun to see what you came up with on a return trip to a familiar place. I especially love the one with the cross-hatched shadows and the bolt and rust stain. I am always fascinated to see how your eye (and mind) works.

    • Corinna,
      Yes, this was a fun exercise. I was really rather amazed at what I found that was new and different. Certainly proves the point of how photography changes you and the way you see the world.

      Attempting to define “my eye” and the themes that pervade my work has been a unique experience. I believe that the more thought we put into the why of our choices, the better our work will be.

  9. For me….that spiral staircase shot is a huge wow!! I love that. I like looking at your images. Your work with shadows is enviable. I have become interested in reflections and now see those everywhere, but I could use an uptick in finding shadows.
    Great images, and I love what your wrote about your process. Hope you’re not lost in photoshop….we’ll send for help if you don’t appear.

    • Susan

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. Spiral staircases, especially outdoor ones, are a photographer’s treasure trove. What amazed me was that in all my visits, I never thought to take a shot from that perspective, looking straigt down. Isn’t it amazing what we see when we take the time to look?

      WARNING: Shadow hunting is strongly addictive. Proceed at your own risk. Really – I am completely serious here. Now that I am hooked, I see shadows everywhere -sometimes to the exclusion of other interesting subjects. But I suppose I will soon get my fill of non-sunny days and will be forced to find new subject obsessions.

      Speaking of obsessions – Photoshop. I do try to remember to eat. And sleep. But I appreciate knowing that you will be sending out a search party.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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