Category Archives: Photography Experiences
Our photographic images – in fact, all types of creative efforts – not only need a life outside of our heads but outside of our cameras and hard drives, as well. We know this, yet we tell ourselves that our work isn’t good enough to “go public” yet. But long before we think our work is ready, our teachers, mentors or friends do think it is ready and they begin to suggest to us, that as emerging artists, it’s time to take that next step.
We knew this day would come, but maybe just not so soon. Rather than going through rejection and discouragement, we convince ourselves that we’re not ready, that our work hasn’t reached the quality for which we are striving or that our photographs are not as striking as the other work we see “out there”. What if we display our photographs to our friends and “real” photographers and it’s revealed that we really don’t have anything original, interesting or beautiful to show. Perhaps our photographs are no more technically sophisticated than the snapshots in the albums at the back of someone’s closet.
We need to talk ourselves through this roadblock. It’s not a question of should we begin to show our work but rather how should we begin. There are any number of approaches to take and each of us needs to find and take the ones that work for us. How to begin? Here are a few ideas for you to consider.
-Create a webpage. I created my web site over time (in fact I continue to redesign it). Don’t worry about who will see it at first because until you hit “publish” it’s available only for your private viewing and enjoyment. In addition, once your web site is published you will need to diligently set out to notify others that it exists. You will discover how encouraging it is seeing your images on a screen.
-Mat and frame your photographs and give them as gifts. Your friends will appreciate the personal gift and perhaps they’ll honor you by hanging the photograph in a prominent place in their home where others will see it and talk about it.
– Enter your best images in local competitions and exhibitions. For the most part these competitions are not as competitive as national or international competitions. Sometimes local organizations use photo competitions as a type of marketing or fund-raising event and will charge the artist a nominal submission fee. Take advantage of the fact that having to pay a fee will decrease the number of competitors which increases your odds of being awarded a prize or a place in the exhibit. For me an opportunity came when I was told that a certain group was organizing an exhibition but was having difficulty soliciting enough photographs. In addition, there was a small entrance fee. I decided that, although there were no guarantees, the odds were in my favor so I submitted 4 photographs; two were selected by the judges.
-Join a camera club. There are many reasons to become a member of a local camera club not least of which is participating in the competitions that these clubs are known for. Joining one in your area is a good way to make a solitary pursuit a bit more social, and to gently begin to open up your work to others. In addition, you benefit from the advice and encouragement given by fellow members. Look for a camera club that has a relaxed congenial membership.
Here are a few photo competitions that are coming up that seem to be appropriate for the emerging photographer who is looking to take the next step. Montgomery County, MD is sponsoring an amateur photography contest and is looking for photographs depicting working, playing and landmarks in the county. Another fun and exciting photo competition being held by Maryland Public Television called Capture Maryland is on-going. You can upload your photos to their site and people can vote and comment on each other’s images. Comments are always positive and the winners get a chance to have their image on the 2014 MPT calendar! Perhaps a bit more competitive is the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photography Contest . What a great opportunity for an amateur photographer to compete in a competition sponsored by one of the world’s great names in professional photography! Once you commit to the idea that it is time to share your creative work you will begin noticing how many opportunities are available for the beginning photographer!
As an emerging photographer, the way I walk my self through the process of submitting my work is to see it like this – by choosing to introduce the public to my work, I am not claiming that my images are perfect or even finished but rather I’m merely saying “this is what I know and this is what I can do right now”.
The images of mine which appear on this page are the four that I submitted to my first photography exhibition. Which do you think were the two that the judges selected?
One of the pieces of advice that veteran photographers often give to the beginner is to slow down. In many respects it sounds counter-intuitive because the popular image of photographers is of their working in rapidly changing situations. Photojournalist, sports photographers and even nature photographers need to be fast and intuitive : to know the right place to be, with the right equipment and right settings at the absolute right moment. Failing this, the resultant image could very well be a pass or swing with no ball anywhere in the scene. Or a picture of baby cubs walking off in opposite directions who just two seconds before had been frolicking together. Even the garden photographer must work under the same time constraints as he tries to capture a bee on a petal. For these photographers the best advice is really not so much “slow down” but rather “/f8 and don’t be late” or some other admonishment to be ready at any moment.
But not all photographers need to operate under such time restraints and really can and should slow down. I am the photographer who shot the above photograph of the tulips. It was just beginning to sprinkle, but there was no real need to rush through the shoot, but I did. I didn’t take the time to ensure that the image I was about to capture was, in fact, the image I wanted. I missed capturing a pleasing composition which was easily within my grasp because I committed a novice’s error. Had I slowed down, I would have noticed that part of the red tulip was covered by green leaves . That is the kind of oversight, beginner’s mistake, that makes an otherwise striking photograph unfit for exhibiting or framing …. it is only suitable for use as a cautionary tale.
My daughter, Elena, had a wedding to attend in West Virginia last week-end and I invited myself to go along for the ride. Elena and her friend, Megan, left me at Reservations to join 20 other Delta Gamma sorority sisters to start the festivities. I looked forward to taking photographs around Charleston, a town I had never visited.
I asked the young woman at the front desk if she could recommend places in town that I might like to photograph. She very obligingly took out a map, came around to my side of the desk and began circling and talking about areas and attractions. I anticipated a long afternoon of strolling and stopping and wanted to “travel light”, one camera and one lens. Do other photographers have trouble deciding what lenses to carry?
I set out on this walk the way I usually do – with a destination in mind. Today’s goal was an independent bookshop called Taylor Bookstore. The weather was perfect that afternoon so I decided to walk towards the bookstore by way of the Kanawha River which runs through Charleston. There are two paths along the river, an upper (which borders the street) and a lower. Joggers, couples both young and old, children with and without parents, were enjoying the day along the river. The occasional boat passed by and frequently the train whistle sounded as trains pulled up at the train station across the river. During summer evenings along the river at Haddad Riverfront Park there are live performances that Charlestonians can enjoy while relaxing on the riverbank or on their own boats. I don’t know what the city of Charleston has planned for this area, but I liked that there were no stores or restaurants along the riverfront, competing for my attention. Without that distraction I could see better and think clearer.
While Kanawha River borders the south side of Kanawha Boulevard, several well preserved art deco buildings line the north side. You can see images I took of these in my Urban Landscape Gallery.
At one point in my wanderings I turned a corner and came upon an early 20th century building with the words Kanawha County Public Library chiseled across the top. There is almost nothing I love more than an old public library. As I walked up the wide steps, I imagined the original wood floors and oak tables, wrought iron railings leading up to an open second floor and perhaps some well preserved WPA art on the walls. Opening the wide doors and stepping inside, my heart dropped. Various “updates” or modernization over the years had removed any historically significant architectural details from the library reading room, a space that I can only describe as desultory. Most of the patrons seemed to have settled in for the day and could only be what I recognized as “homeless or near homeless” and the staff was lackluster. With keen disappointment I walked out.
I did finally arrive at Taylor Bookstore. I was not disappointed. There was an impressive selection of recent fiction and non-fiction, popular as well as literary and academic. The magazine section included mainstream and small press publications. There was a small gallery along the left side of the bookshop that displayed fine local craft work such as glassware, jewelry and paintings. Very pretty to look at but you could also purchase a piece if it appealed to you. To the right of the main section of the bookshop there was a small cafe where you could look through your purchases or meet with a friend while you enjoyed a latte or tea and a pastry. Truthfully, I could have spent the rest of the afternoon in that bookstore…I had reached my destination, after all. But my camera was tugging at me, telling me to finish that latte and apple pie and go take more pictures.
We used to have winter here in the Washington, DC area. Winter was often snowy, frequently windy and always cold when I was growing up. I wouldn’t describe winter that way anymore and I live only five minutes from where I grew up.
For several days now, significant snow (jokingly referred to as “snowquester”) has been predicted for our area. I was skeptical because, after all, it is March. With few exceptions, snow storms in March, although not unheard of in DC, are infrequent. Yet, as it began to look as if the “snowquester” would actually occur, I started to think that maybe, if it snows, I would try out my new camera in some interesting and possibly extreme weather conditions. I do, after all, call myself a landscape photographer with an eye on weather (hence weathereyefocus.com). What better day to introduce my new Canon 5D Mark III to the outside world?
We didn’t get the snow that was predicted but we did get some extremely unpleasant weather; windy, an interesting combination of snow and rain, slush an inch thick, and, even at 34 degrees, very cold air. Snow or no snow it was still a perfect day to try to capture some extreme weather.
Being that it was the first time out with my new camera, the weather was so unwelcoming and I didn’t want my camera to be in the rain/snow too long, I put my camera in autofocus. To make myself stay outside as long as possible I set a goal for myself, the magnificent pussy willow at the end of the block. Then we set out on the first of what I hope will be many walks together in unpleasant and pleasant weather.
The photos I took of the pussy willow were disappointing because of the wind and my choice of autofocus. Had I been in manual, which is how I prefer to shoot (or even in shutter priority) I would have been pleased with some images. What I learned today – learn your camera!
If you’d like to see the photographs I took today, go to my Gallery page under Winter.
I look forward to your comments on my photos or on shooting on days like today.