Throwing Caution to the Wind
Recently, I spent an afternoon hiking around Fort Rock, a gorgeous rock formation in Oregon's high desert. It's a stunning spot with an evocative history. Archeologists in the 1930's discovered sagebrush sandals there that are more than 9,000 years old. You can see one of these incredible sandals on display at the Oregon Historical Society, should you be in the area.
While there, I wandered around taking photographs. I loved what I saw, but didn't feel like I was making any strong images - just pictures of rocks. As we were driving away, I took one last photograph through the passenger-side window of the moving car. Since I shoot with a Rollei twin-lens, it's really impossible to look down into the ground glass while holding the camera up in a car window (unless you're a contortionist, I suppose). So, I just pointed, hoped, and shot. That image (above) is my favorite of the bunch. It's far better than any of the pictures I composed with care. I decided to wing it and wound up with an image I love. The blur of the foreground rushing by, the steadiness of that stately rock, and the power lines overhead just do it for me. Throwing caution to the wind? Highly recommended.
I often talk to students about the value of giving up control in photography. Oftentimes, photographers feel burdened by the technical and mechanical aspects of the craft - and the drive to make every image perfect. Technical/mechanical considerations are important (we can't use our tools at all if we don't understand the basics), but depending on them too much can be limiting. Allowing too much rigor in the creative process can result in mortis (to paraphrase one of Bill Jay's inimitable quips).
When we give up some control, we open ourselves to spontaneity, experimentation, and happy accidents. These are good things! Experiments can lead us in new directions and inspire new modes of seeing. They can help us jump out of creative ruts. They can add joy and flexibility to the creative process. As Diane Arbus said, "Some pictures are tentative forays without your even knowing it. They become methods...They can make you recognize something you hadn't seen in a way that will make you recognize it when you see it again".
The next session of my online course Candela: Finding Inspiration Through Photography begins on May 28th. The course is designed to help photographers move beyond the technical focus that often subsumes the photographic practice. Photography is about so much more than the bells and whistles! For six weeks, we'll explore the intuitive, emotional side of photography as we set the stage for a more meaningful creative practice. I'd love you to join me.