Photography, practised as an art form, has the power to transform your life … or at the very least, the way you look at things.
The power of today’s digital cameras makes it possible for us to create images quickly, efficiently and without thought. But I ask you, is that why you take photographs?
For many people, the simple recording of a particular time or event is sufficient for their needs, and technology allows them to do just that.
However, there has been a distinct loss of the photographic experience in the digital age.
Taking hundreds of digital shots of something will undoubtedly produce the odd capture that appears to be excellent, but the creator will have had no personal involvement to go with it.
This kind of quick photography robs us of the vicissitudes possible in the creation of a piece of photographic art.
Let’s look at how photography can afford you an experience that is both personal and memorable.
Let’s look at slow photography.
The way we use modern equipment has replaced the time-honoured method of taking the time to really look at the scene or subject that you, the photographer, want to record. It has taken away our willingness to feel and decide how to photograph it best.
Slowing down to savour the experience will give you a moment in time you will remember and improve the end result, your photographs.
Of course there are times when recording the moment is the only intent as it may be a milestone; a wedding, a birth, graduation, or other special event. That is not what I’m referring to here.
What I am suggesting is the move beyond that simple recording of an image into the creation of a piece that not only looks beautiful but creates an emotional response.
So, how do you go about making your photography something memorable as well as improving the images you create?
At the risk of repeating myself, I say – slow down.
Each time you head out explicitly to do some photography you will encounter exceptional beauty.
It’s there; it’s up to you to find it.
If the light isn’t perfect or the view not particularly attractive, the beauty still remains.
Be patient, be still.
Look for small details, subtle variations in colours or shades; explore those things that capture your attention. Sense your surroundings.
Take the time to genuinely see what you are trying to capture. Feel the emotions that are being aroused by your interpretation.
Whether it is a broad expanse or a single object doesn’t matter. Look at the details, see the texture, observe the shadow and highlights and enjoy the colour.
Don’t label your subject. Instead, look at it anew, as if it is novel and exceptional. In doing so you will find that it is just that.
This is where your ability to use your digital camera effectively to isolate your subject and to best capture it comes into play.
Turn off all the bells and whistles. They only encourage you to work quickly, thus missing the point of this exercise. Take your time, much as the masters of old with their view cameras did.
Put your exposure and focus on manual and decide what you want to feature and what can fade into the background.
Use creative depth-of-field, exposure and composition to capture your image in such a way that your viewers will grasp your vision.
Think seriously about each setting before making it and how changing it will affect the final result.
This way each exposure is your creation instead of one made by the technicians that designed your digital camera.
These decisions are what make individual artistic photographs and permit you to include your personality and your feelings in your creations.
Being involved in the process provides an experience that you will treasure.
The memory will flood back to you each time you view your photograph.
My personal experience has been that conducting myself in this fashion when I go out to photograph provides me a most enjoyable adventure and keeps the photographic experience fresh.
Try it. You’ll find that time passes without you realizing it and your commune with your environment will be greatly enhanced.
The way you think about photography and the way you view your surroundings will be transformed.
Happy shooting, and remember to leave the environment as you found it.