Inspiration. I Have a Camera, What Next? Part 2
by Peter Zack
Note: So I hope some of Part 1 has helped inspire your shooting. As is the funny thing with a blog publishing setup, the articles are posted by date and you may be seeing the second part first. If so, go read Part 1 and then come back to the conclusion. Or should I say, the conclusion up to this point.
“Most things in life are moments of pleasure and a lifetime of embarrassment; photography is a moment of embarrassment and a lifetime of pleasure.”
Benn’s quote applies to me directly. I absolutely love people shots and hate taking them. But I do it anyway. I have learned to put my nervousness and embarrassment aside and shoot the people I see that are interesting. The earlier Seniors home ideas would be a good example of that. It takes real courage for many of us to consider a project like that. But it is rewarding once you try it.
My first camera was bought the year this book was published (1978-79): Peter Barss IMAGES OF LUNENBURG COUNTY. In that book is a profile shot of an old fisherman wearing a hand sewn shirt, with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling cord. Incredible photo and probably the reason I own a camera. I bring this up because it’s an beautifully simple B&W shot but I found myself coming back to it over and over again. Shooting older people in their environment can be very rewarding. Their faces tell a lifetime of stories. To add to that idea, I recently heard about a group of amateur photographers that took up a collection. They each donated $10 and went to an orphanage with a few bags of crayons and coloured paper. The photos were worth any effort. The kids enjoyed the visit as well. Maybe your local camera club has a few members that would join in.
If you saw my article(s) on Macro shooting, you’ll see an avenue that can offer unlimited exploration. The small world. You can sit at the kitchen table and shoot objects in the room right there. Take that outside when you can. Look down at your feet. The water drops on a blade of grass. The interesting plants in your lawn. Another thing, can be the minimalist approach. Take a shot of objects that are isolated in their environments. Create a project for yourself. We featured a blog with Daniel Phelps who decided to shoot one image of Lego each day.
Pick a topic that you might otherwise ignore and see where it can take you. Create a project that is weekly or daily and stick to it. “Trees”, “Street people”, “The medicine cabinet”, “My neighbourhood”, “The Farmers Market”, Churches”, “Architectural” “No words” “Movie Posters”, “Coffee cups”, “Flea market items”, “Flash Shadows”. The topics can be endless and are only limited to your imagination.
Photography is about several things. Capturing the moment, going out and hunting for your favourite bird, getting the perfect sunset, family and friends and so on. But don’t always jump in the car and go to your favourite shooting spot with the hope that by standing on the edge of the lake, nature will provide you with the great shot. Often you will be disappointed. Like all things in life, the shots don’t always come to you free, you have to do some of the work and decide what you want to capture and then go find it. But if you look at the end of this article, I have a bonus I found, to share with you to help generate some ideas.
Keep a PDA or notebook with you all the time. I will often come across a spot I think would be interesting and can’t stop that day. Make a few notes about the location and why you thought it was interesting. Writers do this all the time. They are looking for ideas and one day riding on the bus, they see an old lady with shopping bags. She might be a great character for the next novel. An idea forms, they write it down while it’s new and fresh. Make the notes as detailed as you can to bring your mind back to that spot. How many times have I written down a phone number on a scrap of paper and forgotten to write the name there? 2 weeks later I find the note and scratch my head. Why was that number important? I have had these Homer Simpson moments all my life. But it’s getting better. It’s a matter of training yourself to observe life and take notes both on paper and in your head.
I could list a thousand things to shoot. Every one of them has been shot hundreds or thousands of times. It’s up to you to look at any subject differently and find something unique that moves you. It only has to move you as well, (another topic for another day) it doesn’t matter if anyone else likes the shots you produce. As Nike famously proclaimed, “Just Do It!”
See what’s happening for events in your area. This was shot at the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Nov 2008. A great place to get some street shots and also remember those that protected our freedoms.
Look closely around you and imagine the possibilities, you will learn a lot about your interests and skills. Those lessons will carry you forward for years to come.
Oh yeah, the bonus. Congrats to those of you that read this far. For you there is an inspirational bonus. Check out this site of ideas: Inspirations.
But I want to offer one word of advice. Open the site and shoot the first thing it suggests that day. Don’t push the button 83 times till it says “shooting while seated on the sofa”. The idea is to challenge yourself, get off your butt and try something different.
Cheers and good shooting –Peter Zack