Direction

IMG_0974**Originally written February 22, 2015**

Where are you going?

Sunrise out the windows of Heathrow airport early in the morning is quite a beautiful site. I find myself sitting and asking myself, where am I going?

No, I’m not trying to figure out what plane I’m getting on or where it’s going, that I know; rather, where am I going in life.

I don’t like to think of my life sitting still, or myself for that matter, yet over the last few weeks I have done a lot of sitting still. There have been meetings as our team has worked through process updates, planned our major story pieces for the next several months and done some team building exercises.

This has given me a lot of time to think about where I am going in my life and craft. I have been setting challenges and goals for myself over the last year and as I look ahead to my year and my travels I am looking forward to opportunities to see how I have grown as a photojournalist and what goals I can set for the future.

Not everyone likes to plan ahead or map out goals, there are articles written on both sides of this, reasons to set goals, how goals are killing productivity. I’m not trying to add to the noise one way or the other, maybe goals aren’t for you or your office, they are for me and for the organization I work for.

For me, it is a matter of direction. Without goals I will likely be running around in circles and an unproductive mess. I, therefore, continue to map out where I want to be as a photojournalist over the coming year, what connections I want to have in my city, and overall where I’d like to see myself as a person. All of this is giving me vision and direction for my life and craft.

But for now, its time to catch a plane.

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)

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.

Aesthetics vs Technique

This past weekend I got to participate, along with thousands of others, in a great photography workshop hosted by creativeLIVE and David duChemin. The event was free to watch live, which is a great opportunity and something that I am greatly thankful of. To the folks at creativeLIVE and Chase Jarvis Inc, a big thank you for all that you are giving back to photography through this.

The workshop was centered around “Vision” and was focused more on developing vision than technique. Some may see this as a short coming but, asking “what does it look like” instead of “what does it do”, there is a growing population of photographers who are more concerned with vision and the aesthetics of a picture than with the technique behind it.

Don’t get me wrong, good technique is important, but in the end a great picture requires much more than just technique. I tend to be a little on the analytical side of things and in photography this sometimes hinders vision. I will go out on a photo walk and not take any pictures because in my head I’m analyzing my shots and deciding that they are no good before I have even pressed the shutter. I was challenged this to leave that behind me and to go out and allow my vision to be stretched through photographing something I may have mentally deemed worthless.

Sketch images, images that seemingly don’t fit into your final goal, will allow you to better define what that goal is and how to get to it. They give you the grace to fail, and they give you the opportunity to train your ability and your vision. You don’t just pick up your camera, press the shutter and bam! have an amazing picture, it takes developing and practice to train your vision and craft. Take sketch images and review them, through this you will begin to see things that you like and that look good and things that don’t. Use them to develop your skills and you will begin to see things in new ways, and therefore you will photograph them in new ways as well. A good exercise for this is to go to a place you have not explored or maybe have overlooked, and then photograph everything you see. You can also pick a color or object and photography everything that somehow relates to that subject.

The point of vision is that we are working on the aesthetics of the picture, not the technique. “The most valuable tool we have is our creativity” and if we allow that to be controlled by technique we will soon be shooting things that no one will want to look at.