That song is driving me crazy

Ever get a song stuck in your head? One that loops or part of it loops, over and over again. It just won’t seem to go away like a never-ending punishment for some karma thing you did. It turns out that part of the reason this happens is that we can’t finish the song or remember the rest of the song. In many cases, just listening to the song will help us move past the mind-numbing loop. Our photograph can be a little like that at times. We have some aspect of our work or our process that never seems to finish. We can’t let it go either, so it loops over and over. We might try to avoid it, but we know that it will just keep coming back. In this week’s podcast, we take a look at how these loops can happen in our work and in some ways they impact what we do and how to break the cycle. 

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Stick a fork in it

Listening to a couple at a restaurant recently, I overheard one of them say stick a fork in me I am done. After what I presume to be a big meal, they were not going to finish their meal. Over the coming days, I got to wondering about can we stick a fork in our photograph and be done? Are we ever full?

This week’s podcast examines some of the reasons why I don’t think you can stick a fork into your photography. From editing to inspiration to learning a new craft, there is so much that we are taking in from all aspects of photography that we aren’t ever really done. We might be done with a print or an edit, but even then we learn from that image as we look at it on the wall or the screen. That looking informs us of how to approach the next picture. As you look at your work and process, I am sure that there are times that feel like being done, but if you look back at your past work and imagine work in the future, I imagine that you to might realize there is no fork for photography.

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Inspiration requires a little work

Watching the bees get to work in the garden reminded me of the importance of inspiration AND the work to get inspired. Inspiration is a topic that comes up a lot among my artist friends. We talk about how we get it, find it, avoid it and respond to it. As I sit and listen to them talk, it occurred to me that inspiration is a process; not the actual inspiration, but the rituals that lead up to your inspiration. In this week’s podcast, I talk about the importance of recognizing the things that you do before you feel inspired. Maybe it is writing with a favorite pen or drinking your morning coffee in a special cup. By noticing what you do before you feel inspired can help you understand what you need to do again to feel inspired. Your challenge this week is to spend the time to recognize what happens in the days, hours and moments before your inspiration moving you to create. 

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Check your attitude at the door

In this week’s podcast we talk about how our attitude towards our photography, subject, learning and viewing photographs can make a huge difference in our ability to view and see through the camera. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed or starting the day off great can make a huge difference in how you process the days events. My challenge to you during and after listening to the podcast is to find a way to check your attitude all the time and make sure that you really putting into your work the experience, ideas and feelings you want to have with the work. If you want sad, angry or bland work for some reason then do so with intention. Make sure that no matter what you are doing in your creative life it is with the approach and passion you want. 

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Are technically good photos well seen?

This week’s podcast is a free form rant of sorts about how we talk about seeing in photography. While there are skills necessary to understand how and why a photograph might be seen as a good photograph, that doesn’t mean it was well seen. Knowing that using the rule of thirds and a blue shirt in an image makes people respond to it more doesn’t say it was well seen. Seeing a photograph is about more than having a good composition or technical skill set. It is about something more and more profound that has to come from inside each of us. So this week, I spent a lot of time thinking about how we see and view images and why is it that seeing well is so hard. Without much of an outline or script, I spent the time in front of the mic riffing on so of the randomness that comes to mind. 

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Thinking about space in compositions

If you have ever taken or seen a pole coming out of someone’s head in a photograph, you know the problem with making a 3D world appear on a 2D medium. 

When we compress three-dimensional space into two, things that should have distance between them are reduced or disappear. In some cases, they might even seem farther apart than they are. Either way, as photographers our goal is to be able to understand better how to tell the story we want in our image and use the spatial effect to our advantage. 

In this week’s podcast, I talk about how to think about and approach foreground, mid-ground and background areas of your photograph. Starting by focusing on where the subject or subject matter is in the picture and how to make sure the elements of light, tone, color, and shape all help separate the subject from the environment or place it in the environment. I also talk about how to make sure each object in the frame has the appropriate space around them so the can breathe and allow for a movement of light, tone, and texture to build depth into the image. 

Finally, I have an exercise for you to do that should hopefully help you see and separate objects and the various background and foreground objects. 

Don’t forget if you are a fan of the podcast, you can always leave a review or drop me a line with any topics you might be interested in hearing about. 

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A big thanks to Opportunity

This week’s podcast is thanks and tribute to the Opportunity rover, JPL and NASA. Opportunity was designed to run for 90 days and cover 1000 meters on Mars. Rather than just meeting mission objectives, Opportunity ran for 15 years and covered more than 28 miles on the red planet. 

As I got to thinking about how Opportunity didn’t shy away from being more than a set of mission objectives, I began to wonder what lessons from Opportunity could be applied to photography and creative living. So in honor of Opportunity and the Opportunity team, I decided to think about how what Opportunity did could make a difference in my photography. 

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Time is more than shutter speeds

As you think about your approach to photography, there are only a couple of factors that come into play. At its most basic level, photography is light and time. 

In this week’s podcast, I talk about how our approach to time can have huge impacts on how we create and view our photographs. Behind the camera, time is one way we bound the frame. We might limit time to fractions of a second, or we can extend it for days, weeks or months. However, what is it about time not behind that camera that causes such dramatic changes in our approach to photography. 

It doesn’t matter if you are making your art for art sake, to learn to live or some other reason. How you find ways to extend, step out of time and return to times that matter are foundational in your approach to your work. In my process, I find that how ideas are found and lost, my approach to living with a print and the speed at which I feel I need to work all have impacts on my work. I hope that in the podcast, you find a way to think about your approach to time and how to get the most out of it. 

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Abundance and fear in our work

I have been in several conversations over the past few weeks about the impacts of fear in our lives. It doesn’t matter if you are talking politics, art or families, fear can show up in many ways. 

As I got to thinking about how fear shows up in my work and what is at the root of my fear, I realized that in my creative life and photography I could work from the limits of fear or lean into abundance. This week’s podcast is about how fear can show up in our work and the value of focusing more on the wealth that comes from our creative wells. 

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Depth of the photograph

I was asked recently to help a friend understand how to use depth of field on a new camera. They had always been using an iPhone and just wanted to know how to use that feature of their camera. 

The idea of depth stuck in my head as a critical aspect of the photograph from the depth and illusion created by the paper to the emotional connection to the work. There are always layers and depths to a photograph. In this week’s podcast, we talk about three key elements to depth in photography.  

First, I discuss the impact of matte versus glossy papers and how they can shift our focus from the photograph as an object to the subject as a focus in print. Second, I talk about how emotional depth allows us to connect to work in a more meaningful way. Finally, I focus on how we can create more depth in our community by avoiding common critique traps and focusing on real relationships with people that can help move our work forward.  

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Podcast #202 Do you know a bad photograph?

I have been struggling lately trying to understand why so many more bad photographs are out there. Part of it is a volume game. Part of it is an education game. However, I am not focusing on the bad photographs from someone who doesn’t aspire to make great photographs. This weeks’ podcast is focused on why a photographer who wants to make great work continue to put out bad photographs. 

As I spent time reflecting on this, I realized that we spend so much time consuming bad photography that it impacts how we see behind the camera. Like eating nothing but junk food, it is hard to be healthy when nothing good is consumed. So how do we get better? We spend time looking at better work. Look at photo books, museums, and photographers we respect. Spending time with great works inspires us to do great work.

To be better at making good photography, we need to find a way to consume good photography. By removing and eliminating the terrible part of our visual diet, we can work to see better and make better photographs. Sure junk food now and then is ok, but you can’t live on cake alone.

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Value of note taking

One of the most overlooked skills to develop as a photographer is good note taking habits. Before the wealth of data provided by digital cameras, note taking was essential to understanding your exposure, subject matter and development needs.

Outside the understanding the technical aspects of photography, note taking can also help you to relate and connect with your work in the field. Note taking can help you remember the emotions, feelings, and sensory experiences you were having while taking a photograph. Because photographs lack all the senses outside of seeing, it is easy to forget that smell, texture or taste might compel us to make a photograph. By taking notes, you can help remind yourself of the experience or better yet figure out how to incorporate that experience into your photograph before you click the shutter.

In the end, we all want to make better photographs. Taking notes can help you learn more about your technical and artistic choices faster. You will have a record of why you did what you did and a solid foundation to build from when you can reference what you were thinking at the time.

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