Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Concerted Efforts

Whither t'is more noble to focus hard or let the moment be, that is the question.

In the process of working the scene, I have implied in the past that it is actually work, there you can't simply wander round in a daze and expect the image to jump out at you, perfectly composed and ready to be captured - well sometimes you can, but more often you have to work at it.

So, is there a time for dreamy wandering?

Well, yes, I think there is. Working the scene comes after you find something interesting to photograph and it is better before you find that thing to be relaxed and receptive, rather than running around like a blood hound, nose to the ground, holding up your viewing frame and waiting for something to fill it.

So, what state of mind is best for seeing that interesting thing in the first place?

Well, I can tell you what isn't - if you are desperate to find something good to photograph, you are less likely to be receptive to seeing something interesting. I think we can make this rule 1:

1) you need to be relaxed

Something else that doesn't work is having a preconceived idea of what might look good - there are two problems. First the odds of finding what you anticipated would be good are not that great - even if it is there, the weather or the lighting may not be right or the wind is too strong or the water level is too low or... The other problem is that if you have a preconceived idea of what you are looking for, just how original do you anticipate the results are going to be? Not! O.K. I think we have rule 2 here.

2) Leave your preconceived ideas at the door - or at least get them out of the way so you can enjoy the moment.

Desperation leads to failure, failures aren't fun, so better to out with the idea that being there is its own reward. If photographing football games, then unless you are being paid big bucks, then you'd better enjoy the football experience. If outdoors and hiking then the hike itself should be enough reward. If shooting portraits then you'd better like people and chatting with them and learning about them.

3) Enjoy the experience as much as the results.

Nothing breeds success like success because it takes away the pressures from the next trip or two. If you only photograph a few times a year, apart from the lack of practice concerns, you have so much riding on each event that it puts a lot of pressure on you to be successful. Perhaps you can only afford one African safari a year (if that) but you could go to the zoo, visit a farm, photograph local birds, shoot a horse show. Have some sucesses under your belt before you go to the big event.

4) Don't put all your eggs in one basket, especially if you are prone to tripping.


Alan Rew said...


These articles on the psychology of 'seeing' etc are very valuable. Very few people write on this subject, yet I'm sure that many learning/amateur photographers struggle with seeing, or 'working' a scene, or having preconceived ideas etc.



Diane said...

I just have to say, I've really enjoyed reading your blog. I'm a beginner at photography, but have found the topics you discuss to be extremely helpful and thought provoking.
I've discovered that each time I return to a site, it becomes a whole new adventure. In the beginning, I often thought that I could return to a site on another day and expect to find similar conditions to a previous day. But that only led to disappointment. Try and find the same conditions at the shore twice! Ha!
Now I try to spend a good amount of time observing my surroundings, instead of rushing thru.
Anyway, thanks for publishing such an approachable, informative and thought provoking blog.

George Barr said...

Thanks Diane, feedback like this makes it worth the effort.

Good shooting,


Gilbert Maker said...


I would also like to add one more idea. If you can, spend the first hour or so just walking around the area, or find a nice spot to sit and just relax and let the place slowly seep into you. I have found that if I do this, I begin to see many differnt ideas of what to shoot.


George Barr said...

absolutely. I find this works really well if I run out of ideas, time to sit back and enjoy the scene.


mkinsman said...

I agree with what has been said - including Gil's idea. I just attended a day shoot during which one of the instructor's - a multi-published photographer spent most of his time walking the scene beofre setting up his tripod and shooting. Meanwhile, the rest of us scurried about firing off shot after shot to his two or three total images. I would put my bets on his results over ours.
Often times just stopping to observe has opened my mind up to what many would pass by unnoticed.