Seeing Beyond the Literal

sun and water drops on a winter day

The sun shone through the tress and created magical highlights as the snow flakes turned to water droplets.

Normally when snow falls in the Vancouver area, it’s quickly followed by rain. This winter day, however, it was followed by bright, beautiful sunshine. I found myself in a local park, busy with my camera.

I made a few photos that documented the beauty of the fresh snow in the park but really enjoyed working with my lenses wide open, creating soft, out of focus highlights in the background. 

The image above is my favourite. There’s only one thing in focus to give the viewer a clue to what is going on, an ice-encrusted twig. The circular highlights are water drops, falling from the trees as the sun melted the snow. The rich colours of the forest create the backdrop. 

This images illustrates what we try and help people accomplish in our Develop Your Creative Vision workshops. Find something that interests you, photograph it, and then photograph it again, differently, seeing beyond the literal.

If I had been a beginner photographer, I doubt that I would have found this image in the park. But, with experience and knowledge of the photographic tools available to me, as well as time and patience and a willingness to play, I came home with an image I just may want to hang on the wall. It reminds me of the joyful time I had when a Vancouver snowfall was blessed with sunbeams.

~ Dennis

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Why Take a Photographic Workshop?

impressionistic view of a road

Why Take a Photographic Workshop?

Teaching a photographic workshop is a privilege, not because of f-stops, shutter speeds, and secret techniques to produce ‘wow’ images, but because we discuss photography as art. In our workshops the emphasis is on art, and creativity, because this is what provides us with a meaningful and rewarding life.

Whether we compose music, draw etchings, or make photographic images, creativity is based on original thought which originates in our imagination. This means every image we make is highly subjective and original; never to be duplicated by anyone, not even ourselves. That to me is exciting!

In the workshops which Dennis Ducklow and I teach, we assist and encourage everyone on their creative journey of discovery. It’s what we enjoy doing the most.

~ Chris Harris

sunset scene with man on dock

You may create images that are expressively documentary.

impressionistic view of a road

You may create images that are artistic.

abstract image with red and white

Or, you may create images that are purely abstract.

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Creativity needs a push

Make your best shot …

… then push your creativity by photographing it in a different way.

For most of us, our first response to a scene is to photograph it in a representational way. That is, we see something that moves us so we photograph it as we saw it. There’s nothing wrong with this. We’ve grown up seeing this type of photography. But, if we want to go deeper with our creativity in photography, we’re not done yet.

There are many other ways to photograph the scene and we rob ourselves and our viewers of creative expression if we don’t tap into those. So go ahead and make the best image you can but then get in the habit of asking yourself, “What’s another way to photograph this scene?” This will often open the door to increasing creativity with your camera.

For example, last spring I was photographing crocuses in a local park. I made the image at left and then asked myself that question. With simple camera movement, I made several attempts and chose the image at right as my favourite.

creativity with crocuses

The right hand image uses intentional camera movement at 1/8 second.

Here’s another example. Late in December 2017, I was exploring a park in Langley. Across a large pond was a stand of golden trees. The water was covered in slushy ice so there were no reflections. However, by using intentional camera movement, I was able to create an impressionistic image of the scene.

golden trees reflecting in a lake.

This is an unsuccessful vertical pan at 1/4 sec. Because of the camera movement, it looks like the trees were surrounded by water. In fact, the base of the trees was along the midline of the image. Note: I did not make a representational image of this scene. This is included to show you what one would look like.

using the camera with creativity so the trees are dancing

Using intentional camera movement in a modulating vertical motion, with a shutter speed of 1/4 second, I was able to create an effect that looks like a wavy reflection in the water. I later added a texture to the sky to add some interest there. I call this Winter Dancers.

In each pair of images above, the second image expresses the scene in a way that I find much more creative,  interesting and satisfying. After creating a representation shot, my usual approach is to then move to a more expressive image. Sometimes, I can’t think of a way to do it. Other times, I think of many ways. By always asking myself, What is another way to photograph this? I’m constantly pushing myself and my creativity.

This is just one of the many ways we encourage our participants at Develop Your Creative Vision to go deeper with their photography. Spaces remain in our 2018 workshops. Would you like to join us?

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