These days the world is saturated with advertising. Common to all of it, is some kind of promise to make your life better.
Often this is wrapped up in such enticing and seductive language and imagery, that you’d think those offering the product or service were real life magicians, capable of conjuring up benefits for your life that you’ve never believed were possible before – and now can’t possibly live without.
This isn’t true of course, advertising isn’t really magic, but I believe there are some areas in life where a kind of magic is still possible.
One of these is photography.
So how do you make photography magical?
Of course it’s different for each of us, but essentially for me I think there are three key elements that need to come into alignment –
The camera you choose (and by extension, the lens, strap etc) needs to be one that works very well for the kind of photography you enjoy.
A bulky DSLR with a bazooka-esque zoom lens probably isn’t the best choice for hours of candid street photography, and similarly a consumer point and shoot compact mightn’t be the wisest gear for sweeping landscape panoramas you intend to make wall sized prints from.
Aside from this, there is huge variation within each type or class of camera, and this really is where personal preference comes in, along with the design of the equipment.
For me for example, a camera like the Ricoh GRD III I’m using for my One Month One Camera project this month is the epitome of fantastic user interface.
The physical shape and handling, along with the way you can set up the buttons and menus to work so intuitively, means the camera becomes almost invisible in use, an example of the cliche of a camera being an extension of your hand, eye and mind.
Some cameras I’ve used in the past have one or two “quirks” that I’ve found so counter intuitive, awkward or cumbersome, I never got past them so I abandoned trying.
I believe you can only start to experience the magic of photography to its full potential once you have a camera that utterly delights you, and that you connect with so well you almost forget it’s there.
You can have your wonderful photographic comrade ready and willing in your hands, but if you don’t have somewhere to go that inspires you to capture photographs, it’s going to be a short trip, and the magic is unlikely to manifest.
Yes, you can argue that you can make interesting photographs anywhere, and I occasionally remind myself of this with experiments like One Room, Fifty Photographs that I talked about here and here previously.
But I wouldn’t want to confine myself to one room every time I picked up a camera.
Instead there are a number of haunts I head to which nearly all have plenty of trees and open space, few or no people, and often an ancient church or two.
Being in these kinds of spaces, with one of my favourite cameras, means the magic has a much higher chance of starting to flow.
Note of course that your special places won’t be the same as mine, and perhaps bustling city streets, or epic mountain walks, or barren windswept beaches might be what works best for you.
We each need to find those places we enjoy photographing in most.
I would also add that the time of day, the season, and weather conditions are also factors in making an already favourite place even more special. Again it’s up to each of us to experiment and find what – and where – we love most.
So you’re stood there in a location you find beautiful, with one of your most beloved cameras in your hand, surely that magic will now just start to flow?
Well, I believe there’s one more aspect we need to have in place before that happens, and it’s one that’s less easy to describe.
In a word, your mindset.
This includes your current level of interest and motivation in photography generally, the amount of time you’ve committed to this photo walk (enough to not feel pressured and hurried), plus your overall sense of health and frame of mind.
Perhaps it’s this third piece of the puzzle for magical photography that’s the most elusive and complex.
But it’s also the one that can’t come to fruition unless the other two aspects above are in place – the camera, and the surroundings.
Indeed once those two are aligned it can be the nudge you need to engage in the right frame of mind for magical photography.
I know for me that just the anticipation of spending time wandering and photographing in surroundings I greatly enjoy, with a camera I love using, is almost enough in itself to get me in the optimum frame of mind.
As long as I have given myself enough time and permission to immerse in and enjoy the experience, this third element usually falls into place quite willingly.
These then are the three key ingredients I feel we need to start to experience a kind of magic in our photography.
Having them all in simultaneous alignment doesn’t guarantee we’ll capture incredible photographs of course, but it does make it highly likely that the experience will be memorable and very enjoyable, and those positive feelings will radiate back into the rest of your life and world, even when the photo trip has ended.
How about you? What do you feel are the key elements to finding an optimum, magical kind of photography?
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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