Pie in the Sky


As a photographer, my mind is wired to shoot in series. From the beginning, I have found myself naturally concentrating on a single obsession subject at a time. From nature macros to street art to shadows to windows to reflections to geometric abstracts – this is a summary of the thematic interests that have dominated my photography over time.

For me, having a favorite subject serves the same purpose as a shopping list. Without a goal, a visual “to-do” list, I would be overwhelmed and over-stimulated with the possibilities, the choices. I am uncomfortable when there is “too much” to see and find that my photography is improved by having an objective, a specific purpose.

Searching for the next image in a series provides focus and concentration. It gives each outing the excitement and adventure of a hunt. What will I find today? And there is also the challenge of discovering new interpretations, different twists on the same subject. How can I keep this interesting?

Exploring deeply into a given subject provides great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. It makes it easy to see my technical and creative growth, both within and across my chosen themes. It lends consistency to my portfolio and a cohesive style to my body of work.

This is not to say that I ignore everything outside the parameters of my chosen themes. When the sun plays hide-and-seek, shadow shooting becomes impossible so I must look for inspiration elsewhere. When traveling or exploring a new location, everything is fresh and exciting and there are wondrous possibilities around every corner and I just try to be open to whatever presents itself.

And yes, there are times when my photo walks morph into photo trudges. I travel the same streets and tell myself that I simply cannot take another photo of another window or another shadow or another reflection.

But then, there is the moment when a new trend makes itself apparent. When a fresh perspective suddenly arises. Or quietly slips into your consciousness until it is simply there, waiting for you to notice. And there is that jolt of inspiration, that recognition of a fresh direction, a new compass heading.

Welcome to my latest series – “Pie in the Sky”. A wedge of architecture; a slice of geometry. Pointing me onward.



Written for “Find Your Eye: Journey of Inspiration”


Posted on November 11, 2011, in Photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I know both Artists and Photographers who typically create a series of work. The funny thing is if I think in those terms and then try to create either a piece or artwork or photography its like a mental block that I can’t move past. I’m also that way with lists, so many people create lists to help them focus but I find them overwhelming and stifling. When I go out with my camera I have no specific goal in mind, I just try to make myself open to what’s around me and I shoot what draws my attention. I’m sure my work would improve if I could set myself goals or be more specific in my approach but I haven’t been able to do that yet. Maybe in time . . . . .

    • Kathryn,
      Don’t beat yourself up about this – making lists, having specific objectives – they are only ONE way of working. For me, I need that organizing principle. But the downside is that I may miss intriguing shots because I tend to have on blinders – but I need those blinders so that I am not paralyzed. Your way of working is what is right for your internal compass. And I bet if you went back through your archive, you will find that you have indeed followed themes in your work – perhaps unconscously. I don’t think you have to set out to work on a series but that it will arise naturally from your interests.

  2. Once again, your images just amaze me, as does your insight and wisdom. I’m inspired to try this, to have a goal in mind of creating a series of images. I laughed to myself as I saw that you crossed out the word ‘obsession’…very telling, you know.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful gift!

    • Deb,
      Oh yes – I certainly have an obsessive streak in my personality and my approach to photography. Like most things, it has positives and negatives. It gives me focus – but can box me in. Not sure about the wisdom part 🙂
      I am betting as you look through your archive, you are going to find series subjects revealed to you. I look forward to seeing what they will be.

  3. I admire your approach to photography, Brenda– it is so organized and tidy! And look at your results –beautiful! Your latest “obsession” is a great subject and I look forward to seeing your new series.

    In contrast, I seem to have a very messy approach, with multiple themes and styles. When I go out on a photo walk, I rarely have a subject in mind. Hmmm….maybe I should take a page from your book. Thanks for another thought provoking post!

    • Gina,
      I have just found what works for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t often wish for some spontaneous messiness in my life and my art. I think we all yearn for what we think of as the “greener grass” – those traits which we feel we lack. I say embrace your messy – it is what makes you YOU!

  4. Brenda! I love your new series. Your ‘Pie in the Sky’ shots are stunning and strong. Each one a delight for the eye. Each one incredibly unique, yet within the same form. I love that! And, I love the way you put it, that photo walks can become photo trudges, where nothing fresh seems to appear. And, then, just as you wrote it, there is a moment, when a something new appears and the creative process is into its next phase. Onward, indeed!

    • Juli,
      This series began only 2 weeks ago, so I am in the initial flush of delight at discovering it. The only downside is that I come home with a stiff neck from shooting straight up at the edges of buildings. And today, I was pelted by a sleet/hail/snow mix. It will soon be time to come up with an indoor series.

  5. Brilliant Brenda! So glad this exercise connected with you. I love your new series and I’m sorry our Find Your Eye journey is coming to an end. At least the relationships and connections will continue on! It’s been great to have your lovely images and insights in class.

    • Kat,
      It has been an amazing journey, walking with you and my FYE classmates. I have learned so much about myself and my art. Thank you for being our fearless leader.

  6. I love your pie in the sky shots! I quite like a few ideas in my head when I’m taking photos too. I think that’s why i enjoy linking in with other blogs that give prompts. I feel like I can still creatively interpret, but having a prompt helps get me started.

    • Leanne,
      Me too! I have always liked having a place to start from, something to define the edges, if you will. Then I can put my own spin on it.

  7. Your Pie in the Sky is delicious! And what a great name for this series, too. I love the crisp precision of the framing and the edges. You make me want to try it myself!

    • Lee,
      Be warned – the downside is a stiff neck from shooting straight up at the sides of buildings! But other than that, it is a fun one. It is rather amazing how many different varieties there are when you start looking. The name – it just popped into my head as I started writing this post. I hope you will share with me your pie versions.

  8. Although I don’t intentionally set out to take a series of photos I usually end up with a series of things. I think what I will try is to actually begin with a specific purpose and see what happens.
    I really enjoy reading your insight and I appreciate all that you have shared with us. It has been fun getting to know you and your work.

  9. Fantastic series!! What a wonderful idea! I have several series going on, but I rarely go for a walk looking for a specific thing. I’m always just looking and snapping away! I think I’d like to give that a try, choose a subject, and go looking for it! Of course, the occassional shot of randomness will be taken also!

    • Cathy,
      I think the best approach is to do a little of each – have the series in mind as you hunt for another image to add to your collection but to be open to whatever crosses your path. That second part is what I struggle with – I get so focused that I miss other opportunities.

  10. Yes – always something new and different to be found even in the oh-so-humdrum and familiar. Love how you’ve titled this series..and the images you’ve created in response. Wonderful abstract ‘art’ and geometry.

    • Marcie,
      I have walked the same downtown streets multiple times – each time looking for something to fit my current subject of choice. And because of this change in focus, I always find something new and different that I hadn’t noticed before. This amazes me every time.

  11. I LOVE that 2nd shot. Pie in the sky. You are so funny. I don’t know if you mean to be, but you crack me up with your clever words. I applaud your discipline to shoot in series mode. I run around like a chicken with no head bouncing from one thing to another looking for good luck. I’m getting better about that.
    I hear you on the photo-trudge. I belong to a Flickr group called “Our Daily Challenge”….every day there’s a new word or phrase for you to interpret. When I am totally depleted with ideas, these random topics really help push outside the trudge. I also do a weekly scavenger hunt. Looking for the 5 items helps me keep things fresh. Let me know if you’re interested in either of those and I’ll “hook you up”. You might like it.
    I too am sad for the end of these lessons, but we’ve found one another for opposite inspiration and think of all the tools we added to our camera bags!!

    • Susan,
      That “Pie in the Sky” name just came out of nowhere – one of those bolts of inspiration. And my writing style is at least 50% attributable to an extremely liberal use of the thesaurus.
      My “series shooting” is really just the way I deal with visual stimulation – and there is certainly something to be said for having no plan and remaining open to what comes your way – which I find difficult. I think we just all have to work with the way our minds and creative energies are configured.
      I will be finishing up my second 365 project in January. I haven’t decided yet what I will do next – so I may plug in to some of the other prompt ideas like the scavenger hunt. Thanks for the invite.
      And of course, the best thing about the FYE course was making friendship connections with like-minded souls.

  12. Love your Pie in the Sky series. How fabulous! I’m more of the no planning or goal kind of person – sometimes it works, sometimes not. I agree with Leanne that sometimes using other creative prompts is a good way to start of with a few ideas but that’s pretty much my limit! I went out last week with some very particular goals for another course I’m doing – came back with some nice shots but all completely unrelated to the original goals! I love how different our processes are and their amazing results.
    ps Love the idea of an architectural ‘wedge’. 🙂

    • Becs – it would appear from the comments that I am definitely in the minority in my “goal-oriented” approach to photography. And trust me when I say there are many times when I wish spontenaity ruled inside my brain. I think the goal is to learn from each other – to see and recognize the different paths – and perhaps incorporate some of these characteristics into our work habits. To bring some variety and sparks to our work.

  13. What a neat and original idea Brenda!
    I love it!!

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