The battle for Vision

Siberian churchWhat is vision? We hear it talked about a lot especially in photography circles. Whether its online, in your local camera store, or even amongst friends at a camera club gathering, it’s everywhere; but what is it and what is it all about.

I will begin by saying that David duChemin has written extensively on this subject and I would recommend that you check out his stuff.

But I would like to say a few things on what vision is to me and what it is like from the perspective of someone who wrestles with it constantly.

In photography, vision is everything. What separates an average picture of something unremarkable and a stunning image is VISION. There is so much that going into creating a great image. What am I taking a picture of? Why am I taking this picture? I am a believer that every picture is intended to tell a story. A great picture is one that invokes a response (emotional, physical, etc.). The content of the picture is part of a bigger story that is being told. Scott Bourne puts it this way:

“When you view a photograph – it’s as if time stood still for that moment. You get to really, really look deeply into that precise moment in time and study its inherent power. You get the chance to revel in it. You get the chance to marvel at it. You get the chance to catalog it in your brain forever. You get to celebrate it.”

When I was first getting into photography I, as many people, had this idea that a great photographer just pushes the shutter release and bam, straight out of the camera comes a compelling image ready to be published. I actually went into my first few assignments with this mentality. I came to the conclusion quickly though that it was not going to happen that way.

I looked at images captured by photographers I followed and wondered what they were doing differently. I was trying to do something I didn’t know anything about. The results, frustration. I lacked vision. I didn’t know why I was photographing what I was and I didn’t know what story I was trying to tell with my images. It wasn’t until I realized the organic nature of vision and that there is no formulaic quality to great photography (outside the formula of practice, practice, practice)

So why do we wrestle with vision? We first have to understand that our vision is constantly being influenced by what is going on around us. The things that we are taking in and processing are shaping our vision, so in one sense our vision is constantly facing change (I would like to state that I am not talking about our photographic style but rather viewing vision and style as two separate things). Vision is something we must train and develop, it is woven into our very being, we just don’t always know how to express it. Our vision must be developed and honed. We may have vision but if we don’t know how to use it we might as well check it at the door.

I find that the more pictures I take the more easily I can see things. By challenging my vision and developing it through the process of getting out and taking sketch images that more than likely will not turn into anything, I am learning to see things that I would have otherwise missed.

Vision must be developed and put into practice, otherwise we are just taking pictures that will add to the millions of other images floating in the photographic abyss of blah.


a lazy afternoon

sunshine through branchToday is a good day to be lazy. I don’t know why but it seems like as fall is coming around it is just easier to sit and do nothing. The windows are open, there is a nice cool breeze, we don’t have anything we have to be doing, we can just relax. So my wife and I are sitting in our living room working on our computers (ha, seems kinda sad).

She has been writing some articles on Prague and Budapest lately and it got me thinking about some pictures that I took while in Prague and how I have grown so much as a photographer since then. I love taking time to look back and see where I have been because it helps me to see the progress I am making as well as keeps me focused on the path that I am taking and the direction in which I am wanting to be going.

I was reading recently on Corwin Hiebert’s blog about how he hits the “reset” button on things in the fall, I don’t know that I have a “reset” button but I definitely find it beneficial to keep a regular inventory of these things throughout the year.

The irony of all of this though is that in January I will be going back to school full-time to get my Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies. This is a necessary step for my wife and I as we are planning to move back overseas to continue in using media and photojournalism in missions.

The hard part for me is knowing that photography will not be as prominent in my life. I don’t know what it is going to look like for the next few years, but as I enter this fall knowing that it’s the last bit of free time (photographically speaking) that I will have for a while. I am excited to see what this coming year holds and how I will be able to continue to develop my craft and grow as a photographer.

OK, so this seems like it is sad, but really I’m excited to see where this will all lead. I have seriously grown so much over even just the past year let alone the past two years in photography, and I know that these last few sessions I have this fall will be so much fun, but reality is it’s all gonna change. No reason to fight it, so I’m gonna embrace it and see what the Lord has in store.

the beauty all around us

wispy cloudsWhat are you focusing on? In photography the focal point of an image is a key aspect in telling the viewer what the subject of the picture is, or at least what the key element(s) is within the frame. In life it is the same, we are focusing on the things which are important to us and the things that we want others to pay attention to.

One key to a great photograph is to set your focal point apart from the rest of the frame and therefore to accent your subject. The less busy an image is the easier this becomes. When an image is crowded with random things, even though they may be out of focus they are still a distraction that takes our attention away from the subject. One thought is that if something isn’t leading you to the subject than it is distracting you from it. Many times this can be fixed by taking a second to look around and recompose your shot before taking it.

The same principle applies to our lives. The things we are focusing on become harder to see and discern when we are filling our days with random busy-ness. Many times we are so busy we don’t notice what is going on around us, we fail to see the beauty that we are living in and we miss so much.

As we are entering this fall season, I’m loving all the beauty that is developing all around me. The temperature is starting to cool down, I’m sitting here with all the windows open and loving it, the sky is beginning to take on the deeper blue color that comes with fall and winter, the clouds are becoming wispy and the air has a cool crispness to it. I love it!

This past weekend we were in Charleston, SC and I was able to grab the shot above while we were walking around a marina one morning. I love the clouds and the sky as well as the mast coming up. I have always wanted to go sailing, and despite growing up in Florida on the coast, I never have been.

Sailing is a sport that is totally dependent on the wind and nature. There is so much complexity to the sport and yet it is as simple as putting up a big sail, allowing the wind to catch it and away you go. I wonder what life would be like if we were more like that in our walk with Christ?

What if instead of worrying about all the things going on in life, we put up our sails and said “OK Lord send your wind to take me where you want me to go”? What would our focus look like then?

I’m constantly realizing that I’m surrounded by a whole world that is amazingly beautiful.

Simple joy

Last week I shared about struggles with maintaining vision and the need sometimes to just step aside and do whatever you need to do to recharge yourself both physically and creatively.

So I did that. Last week I was pretty low key as far as photography and creativity, knowing that I had a shoot on Saturday I wanted to be prepared and charged.

When Saturday rolled around, I was so excited. It was an opportunity to catch up with some old friends as well as photograph their children. It felt so good to pick up my camera again. I had spent the week mentally preparing for that moment and when it came, I was ready.

This was a new venture for me; I don’t have a lot of experience photographing children. I was excited to jump into this and see what happened. The weather was great; we went out to a local park and got some great shots. Since the shoot, I have been so encouraged through the comments from others about the pictures. It’s great to create something that others truly appreciate and are blessed by.

I am blessed by being able to make pictures for people that bless them. That’s why I do what I do. There is nothing in photography that is more important to me than being able to use my craft to make a positive impact on someone’s life, which is what keeps me going and what recharges my batteries the most.

So now that I’m feeling fresh, I have a list of editorial work that I need to get back to.