Monday, August 25, 2008

The Photographer's Attitude

We have many tools to work with when we go out to make pictures. There is the light that gives colour and shape to everything we see. There's the gear we take with us: the camera, lenses, filters and multitude of lesser items. There's the knowledge and skill that we build up over the years. And there's our attitude - the inner feelings we carry around with us, that, like the light, will shape our ability to see. A positive attitude towards your craft sits lightly on your shoulders urging you along to discover and find the best way of seeing your subject. A negative attitude, perhaps arising from some other aspect of your life, or from your lack of confidence in what you are doing, will impair your sight and ability to capture strong images that are technically good and emotionally compelling.

So here are some ideas to help create a positive attitude towards your photography.

Be curious about the world around you. Ask yourself questions: How does that work? What is that bird doing? What might that dog do next? What is the relationship between that bug and the plant that it's on? Why is the light so appealing right now? What does that feel like? Each question pulls you deeper into the subject and the pictures you make will show it.

Be observant. It goes hand-in-hand with curiosity. Don't be satisfied with the first impressions of things. Dig deeper.  Stay with your subject for a while. Change positions and see how that affects your subject or your feelings about it. Take notice of things that normally may escape your view. Look at details as well as the whole.

Be enthusiastic about what you are doing, and life in general for that matter. Embrace them like dear, old friends. Show your passion, be it for motorcycles or moose, soccer or sailing. If you don't care about what you are shooting, how can anyone else? If you are enthusiastic about you shooting, it will show in your images.

Be there. Be truly present both in body and, more importantly, in spirit. If your mind is somewhere else - on a conversation that upset you, on what to make for supper, on tasks that you face tomorrow, on the bills that await your attention, even on the movie you saw last night, it will affect you photography. It might take some mental discipline, but cast aside these distractions and "focus" on where you are and what you are doing. Be truly mindful of the place that you find yourself in at any particular moment. No matter if it is your backyard, or the most exotic location you have ever been in, it is, at this time, in this light, in your state of mind, unique. Don't waste it.

Be patient and persistent. All those great shots you see in photo magazines are rarely the result of quick, cursory experiences. Most are the result of returning to a place again and again, of waiting for the light to be just right, of slogging up-hill for most of the day, of taking the time to know your subject, of not being satisfied with first impressions. Be patient not only with your subject, but with yourself as well. If you don't get it right the first, or even the tenth time, do it again. If it looks good shoot it. If something changes and it still looks good, shoot it again.

Be respectful – of culture, of place, of wildlife. If you are in a foreign place and amongst people of a culture different from yours, be aware that you are the one that should conform, not them. Learn a few simple words in the language. Smile and acknowledge the presence of others. Ask permission to take a picture with a simple gesture with the camera and a questioning look. Leave things where they are. Don't pick the flowers or break the stems of plants. Don't trample the ground cover unnecessarily. A small amount of harm might be inevitable but try to minimize it. With wildlife, try to minimize the disturbance you might cause. Don't move towards the animal until it inevitably flees. Stop as soon as it begins to look uncomfortable. Wild animals are usually doing things with purpose, whether it be resting, feeding or interacting with others of its kind. So it is important not to cause a behaviour change that to you might be minor, but for the animal could be critical.

These are the attitudes I try to bring to my shooting exercises. They work for me. I hope they do for you too.

No comments:

Post a Comment