Do you prefer to photograph what you find, as you find it, or set up your compositions like a stage?
In many areas of creativity in the past I’ve found that imposing limitations on myself is freeing, converse to what might seem logical.
By defining the edges of the box, we’re able to start filling it as many beautiful ways as we can, instead being daunted by the infinite possibilities of a box with no edges, then not creating anything at all.
For example, with poetry I had a phase of writing nothing but 5-7-5 syllable haiku, and my creative rivers opened. I composed hundreds in a matter of weeks, and totalled something like 1200 in a year or so.
Similarly, a spell of sticking to different types of short fiction (sometimes called flash fiction) unlocked a regular flow of six word and 50 word stories I enjoyed greatly.
With photography you’re probably familiar with my experiments with older, slower, resolution digital cameras like the Sony DSC-L1 and Olympus C4040 Zoom – both a mere 4MP – as well as my One Month One Camera project this year, and occasional ventures like One Room, Fifty Photographs.
I also like a few invisible rules for when I’m out shooting photographs.
Mostly I set out on any one photowalk aiming to shoot just colour or just black and white, so I can get my eyes and mind focused on the kind of compositions and subjects best suited to this choice.
Another even stronger unwritten (until now!) rule I have is to never stage a photograph whilst I’m out on a photowalk.
What this means is to simply capture what I find in its untampered with glory. I don’t so much move a branch or leaf.
Yes, I’ll certainly explore different angles of the same scene (literally – my daily yoga practice helps with this!).
But I don’t touch what I’m photographing, even if it might add drama or impact. It’s just not cricket.
This way, I can say all of my photography is “Found Photography”.
I simply make an image of what I find, then leave it in exactly the same state as when I arrived.
The opposite of this we might called Staged Photography.
In a studio setting where you might be photographing portraits or food or cars or products, then of course this is the best way to get the optimum lighting, positioning and so on, to create the photographs you want.
It makes complete sense to control the conditions and stack as much as you can in your favour.
But for me, all this imposed will disappears when I’m out on a photowalk.
I remember once reading about a photographer who went out on a dry day with a mist spray bottle of water so they could spray flowers to simulate early morning dew and then photograph them.
I was aghast!
No, this is cheating, you’re turning a natural scene, something you find, into staged photography!
If you want to photograph dew on flowers, go out early in the morning in the autumn when it’s there naturally! Which is what I do.
So my simple rule is to focus only on Found Photography – photographing what I find, without touching or moving anything.
Keep it simple, keep it natural.
How about you? Do you follow a similar “Found Photography” approach? Or does anything go, and you happily to rearrange what you find in nature to change the scene more to your liking?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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