Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise
Prairie Sunrise

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Creative Edge: Finding The Right Stuff

Many photographer friends of mine are excellent photographers. A good number of them are outstanding while most are solid practitioners of their craft. From all of them I see elements of inspired creativity and from all of them I have learned a great deal about applying technique in the field. A few of them clearly stand apart from the others in their ability to be creative and unique. Often I will gain inspiration from their work, but more importantly, I gain a greater perspective of what it takes to truly stand apart from all the rest. What I see in them is their ability know the difference between creating good, routine images, to understanding and applying a creative edge to their photographs. The Truth is...they possess The Right Stuff.

There are times I am able to observe other photographers in-the-field work flow. I watch what they do, listen to them explain what they are thinking, and I see the fruits of their work. From these observations and applying what I've learned to my own attempts, I've come to understand that taking the leap from being a good photographer to one who is truly creative is often a matter of continuing to think beyond the ordinary, to push the thought process to another level, to take each new image challenge a greater distance. Think of it like this; One does not become an expert at playing the piano except by pushing to play increasingly more difficult musical scores. Only by working through the new challenges does one become stronger. The same applies to photography.

Too often I discover too late that I failed to push the creative process far enough. In other words...I settled for what I had. The results, although sometimes promising, often fell short of my expectations as a photographer. But each time I examine mediocre results, I learn a little more, begin to recognize the limitations I placed on myself, and move closer toward finding the right stuff. I've discovered that failure in a photograph is never truly a failure if you learn from it. Oddly enough, I've failed so many times one would think I would be a lot farther along my creative learning curve, but the curve is long and undulating and in some places very steep.

Finding the right stuff as a photographer I do believe requires one to try many kinds of photography. Always doing the same thing over and over tends to reinforce old, bad habits. Trying something new forces you to rethink what you are doing both in technique and in creative thinking, and it builds upon what you already know. Then, when you do return to your comfort photographic area, your ability to look at what you do from a fresh perspective opens the door for more in depth creative thinking.

Finding a Creative Edge requires a degree of imagination. I often see (and take) technically good photographs, yet they often lackthat all important artistic element, one that is difficult to teach. In workshops I have taught I almost always emphasize the concept of looking and thinking beyond the ordinary. This alone, once mastered to the point it becomes instinctive, helps you the photographer to visualize your final product before you ever release the shutter. Sometimes we get lucky and things simply fall into place in spite of our efforts, but those with the right stuff have an uncanny ability to create with their imagination, then capture it with technical skill that lies beyond the scope of what most of us possess.

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