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Author Topic: discerning good images  (Read 17473 times)
RSL
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« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2010, 10:27:24 AM »
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Quote from: Rocco Penny
I simply have not made a really great piece in 3 months.
So I go out and shoot and come back with junk.

Rocco, Until about two weeks ago it had been at least a year since I'd made what I'd consider the kind of piece upon which I'd be willing to hang my reputation. Then, I got one on the street in St. Augustine. If I'm able to get one of those a year I consider myself lucky -- and I'm shooting every day. Most days I come back with junk -- or something close to it. Depends on where I'm able to get to during the day. Most days while I'm in Florida my shooting takes place in the morning along the Palatlakaha river, but you can only shoot so many birds before most bird shots become incredibly boring. Sometimes landscape is interesting: usually in some place like West Texas where the landscape is minimal and expressive and includes the attempts people make to live there. I live at the foot of Pikes Peak and I've shot plenty of mountain scenes. One of those is going to be in an ad in the next issue of B&W. But landscape becomes pretty "so what" early on unless the hand of man is in the scene. To me, the only thing that presents infinite variety and meaning is human activity. Sometimes that means people on the street. Sometimes it means the artifacts people have created.

But that's my personal take on things. There are plenty of other people who immerse themselves in landscape photography with excellent results. There are others who dote on wildlife and make it live in their photographs. You can see their work in pubs like National Geographic. The bottom line is: don't beat yourself up. Learn what turns you on when you photograph it and pursue that. Never mind about the equipment. As long as you have what you need to do the work, equipment is meaningless.
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Rob C
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« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2010, 02:59:20 PM »
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[quote name='RSL' date='Apr 16 2010, 04:27 PM' post='360335']
 
"To me, the only thing that presents infinite variety and meaning is human activity. Sometimes that means people on the street. Sometimes it means the artifacts people have created.

But that's my personal take on things."


Russ - again we show very similar ideas, except that in my case it is reduced to humans themselves, and women in particular.

Apart from that, my heart ain't in it and only skips a beat on the odd occasion when a paying job comes along despite retiral from the life. We are what we are, and we enjoy what we do enjoy and there is not a lot more worthwhile to be said about it!

Ciao

Rob C
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RSL
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« Reply #22 on: April 16, 2010, 03:14:03 PM »
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Rob, I ain't gonna knock it. I may be 80 but I'm not dead yet. I've always had a song in my heart for beautiful women. It hasn't gone away.
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stamper
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« Reply #23 on: April 17, 2010, 03:16:27 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
Stamper, To answer your initial question: I don't think so. Art isn't "like other pursuits." As Rob pointed out, you don't pursue "art." You pursue something you're trying to express. If you do that well enough that others can react to what you created in the way you intended, it's art. Chess is something different. In chess you're not creating; you're exercising logic to win a game. I do think you can reach a ceiling in that kind of pursuit. But in visual art I think your vision can expand indefinitely. Which is not to say you won't hit plateaus along the way. Art is from the inside out. Chess is from the outside in. Different kind of thing.

If the ability to "see" doesn't improve then you must hit your limits sometime? Working hard at it doesn't guarantee success. In another post of yours you talk about going out every day shooting but only get about one worthwhile image a year. That is a lot of work for very little? On the other hand the exercising of the body and mind is worthwhile. There are photographers who can walk around a well known area that you have scoured and see things that you have missed. It means that their innate ability is better than yours. When you look at something you must have a good imagination in respect as to whether it is worthwhile or not? One thing that I have learned is not to show images to people that aren't interested in photography. It is bad enough getting an "objective" appraisal from a knowledgeable person never mind one who doesn't care. I spent six years in a camera club trying to understand some of the other club member's ideas. It was perplexing at times.
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Rob C
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« Reply #24 on: April 17, 2010, 04:00:35 AM »
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You're right, stamper, and that's probably the point of photography as a non-pro pastime: we can each be our own best director, critic and fan.

It strikes me that if people take it all too seriously, then they run the risk of spoiling it for themselves. That's the danger when one starts to listen to those siren voices out there selling potions and elixers; all the perfumes of Arabia etc. etc. won't turn a dodo into a star.

There are always limits to any individual's capabilities; that doesn't mean that he can't come up with some pleasing stuff now and again, and therein lies one of the problems for the wannabe pro: before he gets there he is free to do what he can when he feels like it, but from the moment he crosses that line into professional life, he has to do it all the time and every time, feeling like it or not. That rapidly loses its fun factor unless you have a lot of luck or a lot of balls and stay within your pleasure zone. Alternatively, you can be like I was, not have any particularly large supply of said balls, but develop a fine tunnel vision instead. It comes to the same.

Rob C
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RSL
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« Reply #25 on: April 17, 2010, 06:24:40 AM »
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Quote from: stamper
If the ability to "see" doesn't improve then you must hit your limits sometime?

What does the word "limits" mean with respect to photography?

Quote
Working hard at it doesn't guarantee success. In another post of yours you talk about going out every day shooting but only get about one worthwhile image a year. That is a lot of work for very little?

Stamper, I didn't say I only got one "worthwhile" image a year. I said that if I get one image a year upon which I'd be willing to hang my reputation as a photographer, I consider myself lucky. I get plenty of "worthwhile" images a year, but the kind of image we're talking about is different from "worthwhile." Also, my judgment regarding that photograph is a personal one.

Quote
There are photographers who can walk around a well known area that you have scoured and see things that you have missed. It means that their innate ability is better than yours.

No. It means that their innate ability is different from mine. If we turn things around and they go first, I can do the same thing.

Quote
One thing that I have learned is not to show images to people that aren't interested in photography. It is bad enough getting an "objective" appraisal from a knowledgeable person never mind one who doesn't care. I spent six years in a camera club trying to understand some of the other club member's ideas. It was perplexing at times.

I couldn't agree more. And that brings us to Rob's comment. I did enough pro work in the sixties to know that I hate it. If you're a pro, what you have to produce is what your client wants -- not what you want. And what your client wants is cliches. You client isn't interested in photography as an artform, and he's not interested in your photograph as an object; he's interested in what your photograph can do for him -- as a memento (wedding photography) or as a sales tool (fashion photography, architectural photography), etc. What most people expect to see in a photograph is what they've been taught to expect, perhaps with a slight variation. That's why in most galleries the photographs that sell are landscapes or wildlife or variations on these forms. Those are the pictures people want to hang on their walls because they're the kind of cliches their friends and neighbors understand. They'd never think of hanging something like Gene Smith's powerful picture of a woman in a Haitian asylum.

But if you're not doing commercial work you're doing one of two things: you're shooting to build your ego by pleasing others (your camera club members), or you're shooting to please yourself. Shooting to please yourself is the most difficult, but most rewarding activity of all. When you're doing that you spend most of your time frustrated at your results, but there's no ceiling to what you can do. And every once in a while you get something that really satisfies you. That's the payoff.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #26 on: April 17, 2010, 08:41:59 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
What does the word "limits" mean with respect to photography?



Stamper, I didn't say I only got one "worthwhile" image a year. I said that if I get one image a year upon which I'd be willing to hang my reputation as a photographer, I consider myself lucky. I get plenty of "worthwhile" images a year, but the kind of image we're talking about is different from "worthwhile." Also, my judgment regarding that photograph is a personal one.



No. It means that their innate ability is different from mine. If we turn things around and they go first, I can do the same thing.



I couldn't agree more. And that brings us to Rob's comment. I did enough pro work in the sixties to know that I hate it. If you're a pro, what you have to produce is what your client wants -- not what you want. And what your client wants is cliches. You client isn't interested in photography as an artform, and he's not interested in your photograph as an object; he's interested in what your photograph can do for him -- as a memento (wedding photography) or as a sales tool (fashion photography, architectural photography), etc. What most people expect to see in a photograph is what they've been taught to expect, perhaps with a slight variation. That's why in most galleries the photographs that sell are landscapes or wildlife or variations on these forms. Those are the pictures people want to hang on their walls because they're the kind of cliches their friends and neighbors understand. They'd never think of hanging something like Gene Smith's powerful picture of a woman in a Haitian asylum.

But if you're not doing commercial work you're doing one of two things: you're shooting to build your ego by pleasing others (your camera club members), or you're shooting to please yourself. Shooting to please yourself is the most difficult, but most rewarding activity of all. When you're doing that you spend most of your time frustrated at your results, but there's no ceiling to what you can do. And every once in a while you get something that really satisfies you. That's the payoff.
Russ,

Absolutely right on, on every point!


Eric

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stamper
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« Reply #27 on: April 17, 2010, 09:30:05 AM »
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Quote

What does the word "limits" mean with respect to photography?

Unquote

I was referring to ability to see and produce quality images. Everyone must have limited abilities in this respect. Some photographers are better than others, just as in any other pursuit. Photography is probably more subjective than most other pursuits. It can't be measured how good a photographer is compared with others because it is mostly a matter of opinion. I have seen a lot of what you have posted in the forum and have an opinion as to how good they are. Other posters will vary greatly in respect to my opinion.


Quote

Rocco, Until about two weeks ago it had been at least a year since I'd made what I'd consider the kind of piece upon which I'd be willing to hang my reputation. Then, I got one on the street in St. Augustine. If I'm able to get one of those a year I consider myself lucky -- and I'm shooting every day.

Unquote

The way I read this was that you were only getting one image a year that you were happy about? That was the context I took out of it, hence the confusion?
« Last Edit: April 17, 2010, 09:35:36 AM by stamper » Logged

RSL
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« Reply #28 on: April 17, 2010, 06:52:13 PM »
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Quote from: stamper
I was referring to ability to see and produce quality images. Everyone must have limited abilities in this respect. Some photographers are better than others, just as in any other pursuit. Photography is probably more subjective than most other pursuits. It can't be measured how good a photographer is compared with others because it is mostly a matter of opinion. I have seen a lot of what you have posted in the forum and have an opinion as to how good they are. Other posters will vary greatly in respect to my opinion.

Stamper, I think we agree on this, except I have trouble with the word "quality."  I'd be more likely to use the word "moving" in place of "quality" in that first sentence. "Quality" can mean too many different things. It can include "moving," but it also can be confined to the "qualities" that appeal to pixel-peepers: sharpness, etc. I certainly agree with the rest of your statement. Quality judgments are very subjective.

On the other hand, when you say that some photographers are better than others I think you need to be more specific about the particular area of competition. I've always thought there were thousands of photographers who were better at landscape than Cartier-Bresson, but I doubt any of those better landscape photographers would pretend they're better at street photography. I've gone through most of your flickr gallery and I find your photographs to be technically very excellent but pretty much confined to a category outside my main interests. That being the case I'd have a hard time making valid judgments about them. In my own case my photographic tastes are pretty eclectic. If you've checked my web you know that I shoot all sorts of things. But I'd rather be judged on my street photography than, say, my landscapes. I wouldn't expect to be judged on what I post on LuLa, though I've posted a few that I'd consider among my once-a-year collection.
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stamper
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« Reply #29 on: April 18, 2010, 03:19:10 AM »
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I haven't looked at your web gallery but I will. I have mostly seen your street photography which I haven't done for some time. The nearest I get to that is political demonstrations - which I do a lot of - that probably isn't interesting to most photographers. As you stated we aren't far apart in understanding. Quality is subjective and it is up to the photographer to decide what they feel is quality?
No photographer can be good at all aspects of photography. There isn't enough time in the day to try, therefore the more experienced ones specialize in something that suits their tastes. An interesting thread overall?
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Ray
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« Reply #30 on: April 18, 2010, 04:47:06 AM »
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There are many reasonable points made in this thread, but they all tend towards waffle in my opinion.

I'll make just one point. Artists, whether writers, painters, musicians or photographers, create because they have to, are compelled to. They create because it's the most meaningful thing they can do in life.

Okay! I'll make a second point because I'm a tiny bit voluble.

There have been artists in the past who are so compelled to create, in spite of the fact that almost no-one appreciates what they do, that they prefer to starve to death than cease painting.

Vincent Van Gogh almost came into that category. His poor eating habits contributed greatly to his physical and mental suffering. There's a great deal of evidence suggesting that chronic hunger had a significant role in the direction of his life. He bought paint and canvases and brushes before he bought food, so his hunger for art took precedence over his hunger for food.

If you are well-off and comfortable, and have the latest and best 35mm camera but are not sure what to shoot, then forget it. You are no artist.




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stamper
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« Reply #31 on: April 18, 2010, 05:22:38 AM »
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Quote from: Ray
There are many reasonable points made in this thread, but they all tend towards waffle in my opinion.

I'll make just one point. Artists, whether writers, painters, musicians or photographers, create because they have to, are compelled to. They create because it's the most meaningful thing they can do in life.

Okay! I'll make a second point because I'm a tiny bit voluble.

There have been artists in the past who are so compelled to create, in spite of the fact that almost no-one appreciates what they do, that they prefer to starve to death than cease painting.

Vincent Van Gogh almost came into that category. His poor eating habits contributed greatly to his physical and mental suffering. There's a great deal of evidence suggesting that chronic hunger had a significant role in the direction of his life. He bought paint and canvases and brushes before he bought food, so his hunger for art took precedence over his hunger for food.

If you are well-off and comfortable, and have the latest and best 35mm camera but are not sure what to shoot, then forget it. You are no artist.

What do you do if you aren't well-off and comfortable?
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stamper
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« Reply #32 on: April 18, 2010, 05:39:52 AM »
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Quote Russ

In my own case my photographic tastes are pretty eclectic. If you've checked my web you know that I shoot all sorts of things. But I'd rather be judged on my street photography than, say, my landscapes. I wouldn't expect to be judged on what I post on LuLa, though I've posted a few that I'd consider among my once-a-year collection.

Unquote

Russ I have had a look at your web site and I am impressed! It is obvious that we aren't similar in what we do .... mostly. A question. Do you ask permission of the subjects? A lot of them are close up and I believe you use a 35mm type focal length lens and not a super zoom? Where I live this type of photography might be seen as intrusive. An industrial type area  - West of Scotland - rather than a rural area. This why I shoot a lot of political rallies instead. Everyone is fair game and there are always a lot of policemen around which means you don't get hassle unless you point your camera specifically at them. They have their camera teams so my ugly mug is somewhere on their computers.
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Ray
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« Reply #33 on: April 18, 2010, 06:04:14 AM »
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Quote from: stamper
What do you do if you aren't well-off and comfortable?

That depends on whether or not you are a true artist. Everything has a price. If material wealth and comfort is your goal, then you should apply yourself to the activities that create material wealth.

If you are lucky enough to have recognised artistic talent that enables you to make a living, then fine. If not, then that's the true test.
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stamper
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« Reply #34 on: April 18, 2010, 06:10:30 AM »
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Quote from: Ray
That depends on whether or not you are a true artist. Everything has a price. If material wealth and comfort is your goal, then you should apply yourself to the activities that create material wealth.

If you are lucky enough to have recognised artistic talent that enables you to make a living, then fine. If not, then that's the true test.

Quoting your good self.

There are many reasonable points made in this thread, but they all tend towards waffle in my opinion.

Unquote

Waffle?
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RSL
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« Reply #35 on: April 18, 2010, 09:29:42 AM »
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Quote from: stamper
Do you ask permission of the subjects? A lot of them are close up and I believe you use a 35mm type focal length lens and not a super zoom? Where I live this type of photography might be seen as intrusive. An industrial type area  - West of Scotland - rather than a rural area. This why I shoot a lot of political rallies instead. Everyone is fair game and there are always a lot of policemen around which means you don't get hassle unless you point your camera specifically at them. They have their camera teams so my ugly mug is somewhere on their computers.

Stamper, Most of the people in my street photographs have no idea I've made the shot. It's a matter of timing -- something you have to practice and practice in order to get right. In this, the most recent one I'm satisfied with, not one of those kids saw me shoot. Of course it was very dark -- darker than it appears in the picture. Had it been brighter, someone would have seen me and the shot would have been different, possibly even impossible.

[attachment=21572:St_George_Street.jpg]

My favorite street lens is a 50mm f/1.4 -- on a full-frame camera. Sometimes I'll use a mid-range zoom, but the 50mm forces me to get in close enough that the perspective ends up right. The only time I crop is if I can't get to a point where I can compose what I want in the viewfinder. Lately I sometimes use an Olympus E-P1 with a 17mm lens, which, on the four-thirds sensor comes off as a 34mm equivalent.

The reason I don't ask permission is that a posed picture is very different from the real thing. I might have been able to get those kids to pose for me, but what I'd have ended up with is a picture of a bunch of kids going yah.. yah... yah. What I wanted was the interaction that was going on between the basketball player, the girl on the right edge, and the girl in front with the cigarette. You can't get that in a pose.

But, yes. There are places like your political rallies where street shooting is a joy. I shot this picture on St. George street in St. Augustine, Florida. St. Augustine is a tourist town, and St. George street is a pedestrians-only thoroughfare -- a huge tourist trap loaded with shops and restaurants. Everyone's on vacation and at least half the people on the street are carrying cameras. It's a street-shooter's paradise because no one pays any attention to your camera. I can hang a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom on my D3, a combination that's huge and menacing, and no one even glances my way. There are other places, like downtown Colorado Springs, where everyone spots your camera right away. That makes life more difficult, but not impossible.
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RSL
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« Reply #36 on: April 18, 2010, 09:47:49 AM »
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Quote from: Ray
That depends on whether or not you are a true artist. Everything has a price. If material wealth and comfort is your goal, then you should apply yourself to the activities that create material wealth.

If you are lucky enough to have recognised artistic talent that enables you to make a living, then fine. If not, then that's the true test.

Ray, I'd never claim to be a "true" artist. Maybe an untrue one, or possibly a dissembling one, but I think your dichotomy isn't valid. Yes, someone like HCB was independently wealthy, so he could afford to apply himself full-time to creating art. But how about Ansel Adams? He needed to make a living, and he made it partly through his photography and partly as a concert pianist. He didn't spend full time making photographic art but he sure produced some art. Same thing with Elliott Erwitt. He was on his own starting when he was still a kid. He made his living with photography, but when he shot that picture of Nixon poking Khruschev in the chest he was on an assignment to shoot kitchen appliances. I think the idea that your only choices are between being a hedge fund manager and a starving artist is (to be polite) a bit over the top.
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Rocco Penny
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« Reply #37 on: April 18, 2010, 11:52:03 AM »
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Quote from: Ray
...
If you are well-off and comfortable, and have the latest and best 35mm camera but are not sure what to shoot, then forget it. You are no artist.
...

Thank you for the ideas.
I read this as more of an implication that being comfortable not making something that satisfies my own urge to create,
my own elemental dictates,
a desire that usurps the ordinary and relies on metaphysics,
oh well,
I just want to create art now,
and am frustrated by creating fluff.
Over and over,
and here's the rub,
it gets worse when I try harder.
Ohhh well to the fishbowl and at least some glimpse of my buddies out there.
Wildflowers too,
too much going on around here anyway....
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Joe Behar
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« Reply #38 on: April 18, 2010, 04:37:38 PM »
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Quote from: Rocco Penny
I just want to create art now,
and am frustrated by creating fluff.
Over and over,
and here's the rub,
it gets worse when I try harder.

I'm reminded of the old vaudeville line that goes something like;

"Doctor, it hurts when I do this"

"Don't do it then"

But seriously Rocco, read your own post. The harder you try, the worse it gets and the only thing you can think of doing is trying even harder.

I think I said it before, but I'll say it again. Take a break, don't force it. I assume you're not running out of time on this planet. A few weeks is probably all it will take to clear the mind and come back refocused and refreshed.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #39 on: April 18, 2010, 07:43:50 PM »
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Quote from: Rocco Penny
and here's the rub,
it gets worse when I try harder.
Rocco,

You've gotten some good advice here, but I want to add my own two cents.

It took me many years to get over the "trying harder" trap. After trying and trying and trying harder, I would finally give up. I didn't put the camera away, I just put my photography time into doing technical exercises (in those days largely to do with exposure, Zone system, composition, etc., etc.)


Then, after a period ofnot looking for masterpieces, I would suddenly see something that grabbed my attention, and I'd shoot it before thinking. And often those happy accidents turned out to be keepers.

But as soon as I started looking seriously for "great images" again, frustration started all over again. After many cycles of "trying harder" alternating with "not trying at all" (except the tech exercises), I finally realized that trying to make Art was my biggest impediment. These days I spend a lot of time just looking, but without too specific goals, and my hit rate is much higher than it used to be.

So I suggest you try taking your photography a little less seriously for a while and see what happens. So I'm really just echoing what Joe just said. Good luck!

Eric
« Last Edit: April 18, 2010, 07:44:58 PM by Eric Myrvaagnes » Logged

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