Beauty in Forms and Shapes

© Monica Engell

© Monica Engell

© Monica Engell

© Monica Engell

© Monica Engell

© Monica Engell

© Monica Engell

© Monica Engell

© Monica Engell

© Monica Engell

Monica Engell has an affinity for architecture. Look at her pictures and it will be very evident. The way she photographs a city’s look and a city’s feeling is, yes, with a sharp eye, but even more so with her heart. The viewer can almost sense Monica’s emotional response when she captures the lines, the forms and the shapes of the city. We can follow her flow through the cityscape, see what she not only saw but felt for the manmade environment she wanders around in. If you look up her blog Et Lite Øyeblikk (A Small Moment) you will discover the same approach with all her subject, whether it be people, still life or nature. She combines her ability to connect with an almost classical eye for design and composition. And makes it hers. She sees beauty and wonder in whatever she directs her camera at. Monica’s photos, which are showcased here, she shot while taking my eWorkshop last spring.

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Back in Seattle

Seattle skyline sett fra Queen Anne-området. Mount Rainier i bakgrunnen

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Seattle skyline sett fra Queen Anne-området

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I have returned to my second city. I guess that’s fair to say, since I pretty much spend almost half of my time in Seattle. It always feels good to be back. Seattle is a beautiful city, and maybe even more importantly; is a city situated in a gorgeous mountain area, with the mountains only a short drive away. At the same time, the sea literally surrounds this pleasant west coast city. In other words; enough wilderness and scenery of any kind to please an old nature lover. There is one more aspect of Seattle that I maybe appreciate more than anything else. It’s a open-minded city, people are not confined to preconceived ideas of what is right or wrong. Mostly I should add. The quite progressive inhabitants are willing to listen and to discuss, but almost never with prejudice. Well, of course there are always exceptions to any testimonial. Nevertheless Seattle is wonderful, wondrous and welcoming.

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Stories behind Stories

© Nicolaas Kuipers

© Nicolaas Kuipers

© Nicolaas Kuipers

© Nicolaas Kuipers

© Nicolaas Kuipers

© Nicolaas Kuipers

© Nicolaas Kuipers

© Nicolaas Kuipers

© Nicolaas Kuipers

© Nicolaas Kuipers

When Nicolaas Kuipers attending my workshop in Villajoyosa, Spain, this spring he arrived full of energy and with an exhilarating positive attitude. He had been a passionate photographer before, but lately had put the camera away. Just before signing up for the workshop, he had found the old passion again, which was very evident during the workshop. He worked hard with his photography, he was out shooting early and late, and he was willing to open up his mind for new ideas and thoughts I and the other students in the workshop could offer him. Space was one of the concepts he really caught on to, I believe – that is the space that exists around the main subject, the scene, one could say, where the situation being photographed unfolds. Nicolaas began capturing this space, not only as a given element in his photograph, but incorporating it into the stories – whatever they are – in the images, and making that space come beautiful alive on its own. In addition, Nicolaas went beyond the obvious subject, capturing not only subject matter and the palpable story taking place before the camera, but through his approach, the use of perspective and space; and awaiting the special moment, his photos reveal the intangible story behind the story. For me personally, I am happy to know that I will see Nicolaas again in my photo workshop in Cuba later this autumn.

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Diversify and Become More Creative

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We all get stuck. Feel like there is no way out of a rut. That our creative well has dried up. Usually it is only temporarily – and if we have experienced it a couple of times, we may actually be able to not freak out completely, knowing from experience that we will eventually get out it again. It happens to everybody who does creative work, if that is of any consolation. Of course, we have all heard about the writer’s block – and writers certainly have experienced it. However, it is the same thing for all other creatives, although we do not talk about the photographer’s block or the painter’s block or the performer’s block as such.

How do we get out of the block – or even better prevent it in the first place? First of all, I do think it is almost impossible to completely prevent feeling that the muse leaves us behind from time to time. I know artists who have such unremitting amounts of positive energy that they hardly ever get in a rut, but I think they are the exception. For the rest of us, our inspiration will dry up every so often. How we deal with the block then is as different as there are creatives. Sometimes giving full speed may get me out, for instance. I will go out and photograph even when I feel uninspired and stuck. Eventually something changes in my receptiveness and suddenly I find myself in that wonderful flow, which I know, will take me to new places. However, sometimes that doesn’t help. Then, putting the foot on the gas, when the wheels are spinning, almost never helps.

When the well is empty, there is no point in keep lowering the bucket into it hoping for a miracle to happen. When the well is empty, it’s empty and instead of wresting out the last drop of water we should rather find ways to fill it again. I really think the biggest blocks happen, when we run out of raw materials, when we get so busy with what we have that we forget to seek new inputs. You can only draw water from a well for so long if the source dries up.

One of the best ways to revive a creative well that has run empty is by finding new sources from which to fill it up again. The more streams that lead into the well, the quicker it fills up again, and the less likely it will dry up in the first place. More figuratively speaking we should encourage ourselves to draw from a whole range of new impulses outside of our artistic field and give ourselves some nice experiences without having to be creative ourselves. Just take in from everywhere. It could mean going to a concert. Enjoying a moment of silence. Going for a walk. Watching a movie. Treating yourself with a nice meal. Visiting an art museum. Doing meditation.

It’s really about expanding your horizon, finding impulses from outside your regular world, and it’s about finding new dots to connect in a different way. The late Steve Jobs once said that creativity was nothing more than connecting dots. If that is the case, we need to collect more dots before we can make connections between them, and the more those dots come from different sources, the better. Diversification is simply the best preventive measure against creative blocks. We will learn much more, and find more interesting ideas, if we look beyond the lessons already learned by our peers, and look elsewhere. Why do landscape photographers spend most of their time looking at other landscape photographer’s work? Or photographers in general look at photography? When I think we should rather spend as much time with other works of art or even collect inspiration outside of the artistic world?

On his blog the Photographer David duChemin once wrote: «The best dots of all, so long as we’re talking about collecting them before we can connect them, are the people with whom we choose to surround ourselves. The more divergent from our own field, our own work, our own thoughts, the better. Connections beget connections, and nothing makes us more the people we are, creative or otherwise, than connections to people that inspire us, that push us, and that create new connections for us, than amazing people.»

So, go out and collect more dots, collect more diverse dots and try even to collect dots you don’t think would be interesting to you. How do you expand you horizon? How do you diversify? It would be fun to know.

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Spiritual Seekers

© Lynne Hayes

© Lynne Hayes

© Lynne Hayes

© Lynne Hayes

© Lynne Hayes

© Lynne Hayes

© Lynne Hayes

© Lynne Hayes

Lynne-5

For her personal photo project while doing the eWorkshop I taught last spring, Lynne Hayes chose to focus on a Songkarn Festival held at he local Buddhist temple in Tampa, Florida. What she did best while working on the project was to get close to the people and the worshipers who visited the temple. She captures their contemplation and their religious reverence, but more importantly she captures the human spirit behind the religious rituals. In her images she shows the human spirit that seeks comfort or gratification in a divine being. The worshipers are first and foremost human beings. But they are human beings seeking something beyond their physical constrains. There is peacefulness and a deep respect in the way Lynne captured the spirit at the Buddhist temple. For more of her work please look up Lynne’s blog Six Degrees Photography.

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Accidental Works of Art

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As obsessed with photography as I have almost always been I have as well always been interested in finding out what makes photography different from any other media or expression of art. I have blogged about it a great many times. It’s partly been looking at how the technical aspect of photography defines its expression, for instance in posts such as The Essential Property of Photography, The Inherent Property of Photography and The Uniqueness of a Gradient. I have also explored the subject on a more principal or philosophical level, such as in the posts The Heart of Photography, What Does It Matter! and At the End of the Rainbow.

But there is at least one more aspect of photography that I find very intriguing. Photography is the only medium in which there is even the possibility of an accidental masterpiece. You won’t find that in other arts. You cannot make an accidental masterpiece if you are a painter or a sculptor. It’s just not going to happen.

This is simultaneously photography’s great advantage and its Achilles’ heel: It’s the easiest medium in which on some levels to be competent. Anybody can be a marginally capable photographer, but it takes a lot of work to learn to become even a competent painter. With this much said, I think at the same time while photography is the easiest medium to become competent in, it is probably the hardest one in which to develop a distinctive personal vision. It’s the hardest medium in which to separate yourself from all those other people who are doing reasonable good stuff and to find a personal voice, your own vision, and to make something that is truly, memorably yours and not someone else’s. A recognized signature style of photography is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve.

The fun part, though, is that even without a distinctive voice, we can all happen to make captivating images, through accidents or incidents or just by pure luck. And, yes, we may even be able to produce a masterpiece. The stimulating outcome is that sometimes those accidental works of art that are capable of engaging beyond the simplest recognition, offer us a new view on our media, give us new ideas and provide us with a fresh approach, that we may utilize next time – and by so doing starting to develop our distinctive voice. It has always amazed me that just when I think there is nothing left to do in photography and that all permutations and possibilities have been exhausted, someone comes along and puts the media to a new use, and makes it his or her own, yanks it out of this kind of amateur status, and makes it as profound and moving as formally interesting as any other medium.

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Personal Street Photos

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

© Bjørn Kvaal

Bjørn Kvaal attended my photo workshop in Villajoyosa, Spain, this spring, and showed some considerable and impressive progression during the five days the workshop was running. Before attending he was used to photograph for the articles he writes as a journalist – with a detached style, but during the workshop he was pushed towards a more personal approach. Bjørn took the challenge and started photographing people in the little Spanish village with a personal involvement that at first was hard for him, but eventually got the better of him. By the end of the workshop he could show a strong portfolio of intimate street portraits. He got close to the people he photographed, both physically and emotionally, which clearly comes across in his images. Bjørn captures those small moments where people relax and show themselves as the persons they are.

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