Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fighting the resistance in your photographs

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

This book really has me thinking a lot lately. I guess I'm like a lot of photographers and like to read about photography. But lately more than the technical how-to books that I've tended to pore over in the past I've been looking for something that focusses more on the creative aspect of what we do.

Why would I do that you ask? Well for me the technical stuff always seems to be a matter of you can read about a technique and practice and practice and practice and hopefully you'll figure out how to do it yourself. Either that or you just think how the hell did McNally do that? There's no way I ever wanna do that but it looks amazing!

But the creative side of what we do comes from another place entirely. You know what it's like when you put yourself in a situation with your camera and you just instinctively know how to frame it, how to expose it and when to push the shutter button. But how do you know that? Or more to the point how do you feel it? And why don't you always feel it?

Anyway these are some things I've been pondering lately as I look back over my work from the last fifteen years or so. Anyway my search led me to a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He's the guy who wrote the Bagger Vance novel, but apart from a few Tiger Woods references (bet he's regretting that now!) it's not about golf.

The basic premise of the book is that there is an overwhelming force which he calls Resistance. It comes in the form of fear (Am I really good enough? What if this fails?) and procrastination (Oh I'll sit down and add those captions and metadata tomorrow. Oh I'll start that advertising when the time is better). You get the picture. We've all experienced it, and continue to experience it.

It's a truly wonderful book that firstly talks about Resistance and all the forms it takes, then goes on to talk about how working like a pro helps you overcome that Resitance, and finally goes on to talk about the creative Muses and how they tend to visit us the more conscientiously we work and practise our craft.

And it reminds of the picture from my last post. You see that giraffe looking down at the cheetahs? I nearly didn't get that shot thanks to good old Resistance. I had been on an afternoon drive to this waterhole the afternoon before and hadn't seen anything particularly exciting so when friends said they were going back the following day I nearly decided to sit beside the pool and take it easy. Resistance in the form of Rationalisation 'There wasn't anything yesterday so I'm sure there won't be anything there today'. It worked on my mate John who stayed back at camp but I ignored the naysayers in my brain and went out.

Not only did I get an image of six drinking giraffes all lined up together (my first drinking giraffes after 9 months in Africa!) but afterwards these two cheetahs came down to drink. One of the big giraffes tried to scare them off and one of the cheetahs stood right at the giraffe's feet and just stared back up at it. A Mexican stand-off in the middle of Etosha National Park! The cheetah then walked straight through the giraffe's legs to have a drink. As if to say 'stuff you buddy I'm thirsty'.

Then after it had had a drink it walked into the shadow cast by the giraffe and lay down while the giraffe looked down at it incredulously. The ultimate in cool cat!

Needless to say my friend John was pretty upset that he'd let Resistance get to him and decided not to go out. Anyway if you've ever felt the same kind of fear, procrastination or rationalisation then I definitely recommend this as a great book.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why travel photography resonates

Of all the different forms of photography travel is obviously the one which resonates with me the most. While I appreciate the artistry of wedding work, can marvel at the intricacies of studio-created masterpieces and really appreciate good commercial stuff - none of it moves me the way travel photography does.

And I'm guessing if you're here reading this blog then you're feeling the same way. And maybe I'm totally off my rocker but I have some theories about why travel photography resonates with so many people.

One of them is that travel represents for many of us an escape from the reality of our lives. We might be perfectly happy (or think we are) but hopping on a plane is a chance to escape the seeming mundaneness of our existences. Maybe it's our way of convincing ourselves that we can put up with the job we don't necessarily hate, but certainly don't love, if it means we get the chance to go somewhere exotic every year. And photographs of travel remind us that there are others like us escaping to capture the images we would love to ourselves. Or at least escaping somewhere we would like to as well.

Travel also reminds us that ours isn't the only way of living. And that just because we're affluent and live relatively comfortably, doesn't mean that we have all the answers. Travel photography enables us to glimpse into the lives of others whose cultures may be vastly different but ultimately more satisfying than ours. The grass is always greener as they say.

And finally I think that travel photography is such a powerful form of the art because when we travel we really feel alive. We live in the moment, experiencing new sights and smells. Having adventures (both good and bad) and not worrying about the ordinary thoughts that tend to overtake our everyday lives. We spend less time thinking and more time just being.

And the photographs remind us of what that feeling is like. We look back and can recall the details of the photographs like yesterday, even if they happened nearly 20 years ago. Kind of like a pop star who dies young and good looking. The subjects of our images stay happy and vibrant long after we have lost our our own vibrancy.

So the allure of travel photography I think comes down to a desire to escape from the ordinary. A chance to forget about our own lives and to experience that of somebody else for even just a brief period of time. For some their yearly fix is enough to see them through, for others nothing short of making it a career will suffice.

But you know how you always seem to take wonderful images when you're on holiday? Because you're living in the moment. Breathing, feeling, sensing the world around you as if with new eyes. The real trick is not to wait until you get off a plane and step on to the tarmac to feel that. The trick is to feel that every day. To slow down and appreciate where you live the other 350 days of the year. To open your eyes to the unusual, the unique and the foreign in your own land. And when you can do that you'll get the same feeling of elation and aliveness every day.

So I encourage you all to get out there in your own local area and look for stuff to inspire you. If you absolutely have to go somewhere then drive to the next town down the road. Look at it with new eyes. Imagine you are a foreigner visiting for the first time. What would you find interesting? What would you be dying to photograph? And then once you tap in to that line of thinking you can get the thrill of travel photography every time you pull the camera out.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

Life in Cairns - Images by Paul Dymond

I know, I know. I'm late. So to make it up to you I thought I would give you not 1 but 28 images from fantastic Cairns and far north Queensland. To see the slideshow in all its full screen glory just click anywhere inside the slideshow box and that will take you to my home page where you can see it nice and big.

Enjoy the images from the fantastic part of the world I call home.

Oh and if you hold your mouse over the images as they scroll past you can see full captions for all of them. Feel free to email this on to your friends through the email button at the bottom right corner of the slideshow box! Enjoy.