I Dream in Color

London reflectionI’ll be honest, I don’t dream much while I sleep, but I do dream a lot while I am awake. I’d like to think it is more vision casting for my life than daydreaming. I keep a notebook on Evernote dedicated just to these dreams and thoughts. Some of them see the light of day, while others sit and collect dust.

I often think about those dreams and ideas and sometimes it feels as if I’m not seeing an idea clearly but rather a broken reflection of what I’m really aiming for. Those dreams require a bit of wrestling to clear up. They must be worked out in order for them to come to fruition.

I have followed David duChemin for several years now and he has written volumes on the idea of working out your vision (specifically in the realm of creativity and photography). He states, “Our vision is a reflection of who we are, and since who we are is always growing and changing, our vision is a little bit of a moving target.” He further states, “Art, whatever else it also is, is about questions. It’s about exploration.” (from Exploration & Expression)

duChemin gets it right in so many ways and it shouldn’t come as a surprise as he has devoted so much of his time to working these things out in his own life.

So as I work through these dreams in my own life, I look forward to the adventure that awaits. The beauty of the unknown.

Imagine for a second what might be around the corner. For me, the challenge of growing as a photographer and ever flexing my creative muscles is leading me into new and uncharted territory as a photojournalist. I find my skills and my profession ever developing in an ever changing world.

Having dreams is important and it is even more important to work through them, even to see some of them come to fulfillment.

What are you dreaming about?

(another great read on this topic would be Why Your Life Needs a Mission Statement from fastcompany)

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The Process

Heritage Farm days farm festival
Life is full of processes, some we know about, others happen and we only see the products. In my life I have spent a lot of time learning about what is going on behind the scenes. I find the process for a particular event adds a uniqueness to its product and that many times we are moving through life so fast that we are missing out on the key factors that are making our lives what they are.

The reality is that most processes go unnoticed, we just breeze through life enjoying things without regard to how they were produced. Take for instance a car, how much work, creativity, design and production goes into a car that we will drive for thousands of miles? How often do we think about that?

Growing up I was always the analytical and inquisitive in the family (I get this from my dad), never satisfied with the simple answers when I knew there was something more. I would look at a bridge and study it to see how it was put together, or I would take apart a computer to learn about it’s configuration and components (I dissected a Commodore 64, luckily I got it put back together). I think this is what attracts me so much to photojournalism.

Photojournalism is all about the process. It’s about putting the pieces together to share with the viewer what you are seeing, to share about the how of something in order to relay what is happening.

I love Autumn, the colors of the trees are changing, the air is cooling, winter is coming and its American football season. Recently my wife and I drove over to Boone, NC for a fall festival and fair. It was such a great time. The mountain air was clean and crisp, the sun was shining and the people were warm and inviting. We had a great time.

While there we came across a woman who was making Apple Butter in a kettle. It was quite a long process from start to finish. I stood there watching for a minute, taking it all in, then started looking around and seeing what all went into making it. The process was extensive, washing and peeling the apples, cutting them, soaking them, then cooking them for several hours while constantly agitating them.

I am always looking out for what the process is behind something, for me that is where the true story is. In photography, especially in photojournalism, we must be looking beyond our subject to see what the process has been to create this moment, many times the process will be more of a story than the moment.

A sense of longing

Lately I have been struggling to express myself creatively through photography. It’s that feeling that you have all these great ideas but there are other factors in life pulling you in so many other directions, leaving photography somewhat on the back burner.

I find myself longing so many times just to pick up my camera and shoot. I have gotten to do a few big projects in the past few months as well as work on some editorial work, but nothing close to what I would like to have done and I am left feeling drained both creatively and physically.

Many times I think about my desires for photography and how they shape my life daily. I think about ways to use photography to give back to the community around me, using it to invest in the lives of other photographers, as well as to push me to advancing further in my craft. But when I’m feeling drained, I don’t feel like I’m progressing in any of these areas, or at least not effectively.

This morning as I was reading through a couple of blog posts online I came across this quote on David duChemin’s blog,

“The batteries that keep my cameras working might as well die in the darkness of my camera bag if my personal batteries are not constantly recharged by the direct encounters with the natural world that first gave me the burning desire to interpret that experience in photographs.” Galen Rowell, The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography.

It was so easy for me to identify with this; I mean, Rowell has put into words something I have felt so many times. This leads me to the question, how do I charge my batteries?

It is so important that we are recharging our creative batteries. Whether that be through putting the camera down, picking it up to shoot some editorial work, or simply meeting up with some other creative people to talk over coffee, all of it works to recharge you when you are drained.

So I’m proposing that we all take a week to just refresh ourselves, my next shoot is this Saturday and I plan to be ready for it.

Morning thoughts

I woke up this morning really tired, so after convincing my wife she should stay in bed and rest, I’m sitting at my computer, relaxing, this morning instead of the hour long intense workout that is our normal 5 day a week routine.

That being said, I wanted to write out some thoughts I have been processing this morning.

What makes a person a photographer? Is it simply having a camera and taking pictures? Or have we made it to be something more? I spend a lot of time trying to glean from the works of duChemin, Jarvis, Grobl and others, sometimes achieving the challenge sometimes not but always trying.

So currently I have a list of challenges on my computer that I am attempting to accomplish. It is encouraging to me to know that even if I don’t have a photography gig for the week or however long, I still have something to push and challenge my creativity and depth in photography.

Sometimes it’s just hard to keep your eyes focused on the path and moving forward, especially after a really difficult shoot. This past Sunday night I was shooting an event and the lighting was terrible. The idea was to create an environment that just has enough light to see each other, but not too much. This is great for creating a modern space that appeals to group of young adults and teenagers, but trying to photograph the event in that lighting (without pulling out your flash) is quite difficult.

I found myself shooting with high ISOs and apertures between 1.4 and 2.8 depending on the lens I was using, and still I couldn’t get my shutter speeds high enough to really capture the images I wanted. When I got home and looked through the pictures and pulled out the ones I thought were decent I just sat there trying to see the good in all of this. It’s a funny thing because as frustrating as the shoot can be, I look back and love the fact that I got to pick up my camera and take pictures for someone. I got to creatively create something for someone to use to promote their ministry. Isn’t that what it’s all about, using our talent to help others?

So in closing, as I’m sitting here enjoying the quiet morning, I’m learning to use the difficult moments in this craft to push me ever forward, taking these moments and dissecting them, in a healthy way, to learn from them. Asking myself, what did I do right in this situation, what was good about the images I’m going to use, and of course, what could I do differently next time?

This craft is something we will always be working on; there will always be something to develop, someone who is better, and something to stretch us to our limits. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I love about being a photographer.

Creativity

What sparks creativity? Isn’t that the question that everyone wants answered? Wouldn’t making pictures be so much easier if creativity was simply pushing a button?

As much as I would love to think that there is a simple formula for creativity, what I know to be true tells me creativity isn’t something that is necessarily taught.

Creativity comes naturally and sometimes unexpectedly. It is all around you and in you (maybe deep down but none the less, it’s there).  I find that if I’m trying to make something happen creatively it will end up looking over thought and the end result will look nothing like what I had in mind.

Are some people more creative than others? Maybe, I don’t know, but I think that just as God has made us all creatively different, we are also given some level of that creativeness innately in us.

So if we all have some level of creativity, the question then is how to we develop it.

I just finished reading the 7 book Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, and I am amazed at the depth of creativity in these books. I often found myself wishing that I could, just for a few hours, sit down and talk with Rowling about what goes on inside of her head. No, Harry Potter doesn’t have anything to do with photography, but the idea isn’t just taking pictures. Many times I found myself getting lost in the creative depth of Rowling’s books.

It can be easy to focus so much on the technique and science of photography that we lose sight of the real reason we are creating images. What if next time you went out to do a shoot, whether for yourself or for a client, you didn’t think about the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture, but simply took pictures that looked good. Yes you need to think about the technical side of photography to really master it, but if we are letting it dominate over our creativity we need to step back and start over.