Monday, December 5, 2011

What are you working on?

When you ask most artists what they're working on, they have an answer. Maybe, "I'm experimenting with encaustic painting right now," or "I've developed a different sort of glazing technique," or "I'm using plant dyes to create patterns and designs on fabric," or "I'm working on a series of collages using old player piano rolls."

When you ask a photographer what they're working on, the response doesn't seem quite as defined. "I'm trying to get out more," or "I'm playing around with a new lens," or "I'm learning Lightroom."

Is it time for us photographers to focus more sharply on what we're doing? Rather than wandering about looking for things to photograph, what if we had goals, projects, concepts to pursue? More clearly defined projects to work on?

A new year begins soon. What will YOU be doing next year with your photography? Still wandering around looking for things to shoot? Nothing wrong with wandering. In fact, I live for that. But maybe in addition to that seemingly idle wandering we would learn more, expand our vision, hone our craft by consciously looking for something in particular.

One of my goals for the coming year is to work more with extreeeeeemly shallow depth of field. My fastest lenses are an f/1.7 20mm (which focuses quite closely), an f/1.8 50mm, and an f/2.8 100mm macro lens. In addition, I've got an old Lensbaby which deserves a bit more time, and shallow depth of field is what that lens is all about.

I also have an idea for a book, a book that is handmade and will incorporate physical papers and photographs. So I'm going to be doing shooting that's specific toward the concept of the book and I'm going to have to learn how to MAKE a book!

And I also have an idea for "mail art," a series of photomontage postcards/messages that look real but aren't. And will also continue working on my letter photomontages, such as you see here.

So. I ask you today, just a few weeks away from a brand-new year, what will YOU be working on? Is 2012 the year you conquer your fear of photographing people? Is it the year you begin your "photo a day" project? The year you put together a book of your tree photos? Your "faces in nature" photos? The year you spend a month searching for compositions incorporating the color blue?

Having a specific goal will make you a better photographer. It will encourage you to look at your surroundings differently, with a different focus, a different purpose. By narrowing your vision you will actually expand it. Stick with it and by this time next year you will be a different person, a more confident photographer, and a more creative photographer.

©Carol Leigh, who is conducting an online class beginning January 1 where we'll be photographing letters of the alphabet, one a week, for six months. Could be just the perfect project for YOU in 2012!


  1. Well written, Carol! Besides being artistic, you're also a great writer :-)

    Being inspired by others is the main way I keep "focused" so I constantly work on keeping inspired. The best thing I've done recently is join Google Plus (G+). I'm now surrounded by a new community of incredibly talented artists/photographers from all over the world so I'm inspired daily. The amount of talent out there is mind boggling!

    I comment on their work and they comment on mine. This feedback is something I've been missing and now look forward to every day. With a smartphone, I can be notified of a comment no matter where I am and I can comment back if I want. Love it :-)

    One of my favorite and most rewarding aspects of this new community are the daily THEMES which anyone is welcome to submit photos to. So you can see what I'm talking about, I'll post a PDF of this list on our Yahoo group some time today. You should be able to click on the links.

    Thanks again for your inspiration, Carol. You already have a little community of your own so G+ might be too overwhelming but I highly recommend being a lurker :-)

  2. Oh I don't know, think I may wander around a bit...maybe take a picture.

  3. Yes, today's post is well said! I've always wondered if talent for imaginative and productive art stems from the ability to organize and clarify things with words and thoughts.

    I've started delving more into very shallow depth of field, shooting small clusters of the last autumn leaves hanging on the trees with an out of focus background that frames and complements the leaves. The next challenge is to get beyond leaves. I go around thinking, "WWCD!"

  4. Diane, "WWCD?" We Want Chocolate Donuts? Why Wait -- Create Drama? Wednesday We Can't Drive? Wildly Wacky Coffee Drinkers? :-)

    Russ, King of the Wanderers!

    And Marianne, you ALWAYS give me new reasons to not get my REAL work done! Queen of the Distractions!

    Carol Leigh


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