Photoshop trainer Dave Cross recently published five suggestions for photographers to challenge themselves and shoot better photos.
I sometimes find myself in a photographic rut, not so much because I fail to try new things as being limited via time and daylight.
I found his list interesting, and I'm going to consider a couple of his ideas. What really got me going, though, was the simple phrase: "Challenge yourself." I had recently finished "competing" in the Ravellenics, which sports a stated goal of challenging oneself. Every snowflake and every new pattern are challenges because I typically make them up as I go, and the challenge is multiplied if I attempt to write the pattern, particularly if I'm on a bumpy commuter train and trying to type on my phone.
Photography, too, can be a challenge for me every single time I remove the lens cap. I want every shot to be different than what everyone else is shooting. In addition, I don't like harsh flash shadows, and not every available light opportunity is successful without a tripod. Unfortunately, I don't always carry a tripod. Just too danged inconvenient!
In considering Dave Cross's challenge, I realize I have a built-in challenge right smack dab in the middle of my time and daylight limitations. Trying to snap a great photo when I'm trying not to be late is incorporated into my everyday routine. Getting a great sunrise when all around me are telephone poles and powerlines is SO.DARNED.FRUSTRATING!!! Even worse when I'm stuck on the train when the color hits the sky...
And then there's that not-enough-daylight thing. I've got the answer to that packed in my purse, where it's been for more than a year now, and not once have I attempted to tackle it.
I think maybe I should do a little bit of painting with light this weekend.
Back to the Dave Cross challenge...
His challenge: Stop chimping. (Chimping is checking the shot on the rear screen.) My reply: Not if it's a shot I can't duplicate and it's imperative I not miss it.
His challenge: Pretend to use a roll of film instead of a huge memory card. My reply: Can you imagine me using only 24 shots at The Wave?!? GET REAL!!!!!
Lived that 24-shot-roll life for 33 years; no interest in ever going back. Sorry! Besides, I always seem to run out of memory when I get to the best shot. I'm SO grateful I don't have to worry anymore whether the film leader catches on the sprockets and spindles.
His challenge: Used a fixed lens. My reply: I hate zoom lenses. My workhorse is a macro portrait lens, which can be a real challenge when I should be using a wide angle. It forces me to work outside the box.
His challenge: Self-assignments. My reply: After 14 years of newspaper journalism, assignments become sort of habit. I've been in my second career for 20 years this summer, and I've still yet to break the habit of assigning myself to new and different shots.
His challenge: Find something new in old territory. My reply: I do that every day.
My version of this particular challenge: Make a good shot from ugly circumstances.
Sometimes I see the most brilliant and colorful sunrises and sunsets. From the train. Or from my bedroom window. Back when we still lived in an apartment, the most beautiful sunrises always seemed to happen when I couldn't get out of the parking lot.
I began taking pictures without the city lights, power lines and signs. Just sky.
And that's how I began digital quilting with sunrises and sunsets. I had to do something creative with all those cloud shots. I call them my Quilted Skies Series.
While I was writing this post, DIY Photography came up with a post on a completely different topic that really piqued my interest. Allen Mowery uses the example of one of my earliest influences, Ansel Adams, to unhinge the myth a photographer must have all the latests and greatest equipment with all available bells and whistles to take meaningful photos. Ansel Adams often used heavy old cameras and prefered black and white to color.
"Knowing what I know now, any photographer worth his salt could make some beautiful things with pinhole cameras," Adams said.
One of my favorite photos from Snow Canyon in Utah was made with an iPhone. Not even the latest iPhone. A reconditioned model I picked up for 50 cents.