Here’s a quote written by Marcel Proust, a French Novelist that lived in the late 19th century and early 20th. In my English Literature class we touched on his writings, but it wasn’t until I started teaching online with the PPSOP, and conducting my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops that I happened upon one of his quotes. It’s a quote that has stuck with me and one that I constantly tell my fellow photographers that say they can’t find anything worthwhile to shoot anymore.
Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
When I think about the part that says “new eyes”, My Artist Palette immediately comes to mind. I teach my fellow photographers how to use the elements of visual design and composition to create stronger photos. We work on “making pictures” that include Texture, Pattern, Line, Shape, Form, Balance, Perspective, Vanishing Points, and Negative Space. It’s a lot, but they all fit comfortably on a palette.
Before students have taken my online class or my workshop, they’ve gone out and photographed what they saw. The problem is that they never thought about “seeing past first impressions”. A tree is just a tree to them. They are of the mindset that looking at a label is fine, never mind that they’ve haven’t a clue as to what’s inside.
I had a student that lives on a ranch in Montana. She told me that there was nothing left to photograph, and was ready to give up photography. I had her create a path or trail if you will, that surrounded the house, the barn, farm machinery, the pens for the animals, and the fence line. I told her to follow the path exactly the same way each time, going past the exact same things each time. The first couple of times I just wanted her to take pictures of whatever she saw. As expected, her photos lacked substance, and meaning. It was obvious that she had become bored with her ranch.
Then I told her to take her ‘(imaginary) Artist Palette’ with her and look for the elements that were on it. When you go past the fence, forget that it’s a fence. instead, think of it as a way to frame one of the other buildings, Think of the areas between the posts as a Shape…a long rectangle that’s created by the Negative space that surrounds and defines it. Look at the texture, and try getting “up close and personal” to it. Image the top and bottom of the fence as converging lines that move the viewer around the frame…maybe to one of the structures. Most important, I told her to walk the path at different times of the day. Walk it at sunrise, the middle of the day and sunset to see how the light can play a huge part. How about side lighting the sides of the bard, to emphasis the texture.
As I knew it would happen, she started seeing things she never knew were there before. It was a true “voyage of discovery” that she was able to see with her “new eyes”.
So my fellow photographers, you don’t have to travel to take good photos. Sometimes you only need to look in your own backyard.
Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2014 workshop schedule. I have a few places left at The Maine Media Workshop starting this coming July 27th. It’s the granddaddy of them all, and a wonderful campus filled with energy and photography talk everywhere. It’s the week of the Lobster Festival in Rockland just down the road and the State Fair in Bangor. A great week to forget everything and immerse yourself in photography. I also have three places left for my coordinated trip with Epic Photo Tours in Myanmar next February. a fabulous country rich in photo opportunities. Come shoot with me.
Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to:AskJoeB@gmail.com for a video critique.