Challenge and Expand

I find that it’s way too easy to get stuck in my own visual expression in the day to day jobs or when doing assignments. After having photographed for as many years as I have, you know what works, you have certain ideas of how to approach a given photographic situation and you know what to look for when photographing. The danger is that you stop looking for other ways of telling the story or expressing the photographic idea or even looking for new ideas. You have your style, it works but after a while your pictures start to look the same way. In reality then, I have put my creativity on halt.

To be creative actually means to find new solutions to known situations, using what you already know in new combinations or just letting go of everything you already know and take a chance. In reality that’s often more difficult than it sounds. As I said I have found a formula that works for me, and unconsciously often stick to it. Maybe too often. That’s why I search for ways to train myself to disconnect from this automated or mindless approach. And just so it’s said; I don’t believe in a new creative style or approach just for the sake of being new. What I want is really just to expand my vision and photographic expression, while at the same time it needs to serve the purpose of the picture or whatever I am trying to tell.

To keep my vision and the approach to a photographic shoot alive, I do various kinds of exercises that break with my regular way of shooting. I give myself personal assignments which have the purpose of forcing me into new ways of seeing – and of course to add to my portfolio of interesting pictures. It’s a way of challenging myself. Sometimes it is exercises that only bring about new ideas I can use in other situations, but sometimes these personal assignments actually result in new and great photos. I don’t know if the personal assignment I show a few pictures of in this post really does the latter, but I am actually quite happy with some of them.

For maybe a year or so I have been shooting our backyard – on and off. It’s challenging me in various ways. First of all just the subject itself. Although my interest in photography started with nature photography, today I find most pictures of nature – landscape or wildlife – quite uninteresting, even from the best in the trade. They are nice, but boring – to me. I have always enjoyed outdoor life, and of course I take pictures when I am out there, but maybe because I know how intense the experience can be when you are climbing a mounting on your own or kayaking through an open sea surrounded by water and big waves or scuba diving in freezing water, pictures of nature doesn’t get to me. Of course a backyard, photographically speaking, is even harder to make interesting then.

Then when I am shooting in the backyard, I challenge myself by restricting my approach. One day I only shoot with a 400 mm, one day with only long shutter speeds, one day with limited depth of field, one day with moving camera, one day in the dark, one day of only details and so on and so on. It’s all to force myself to see in various ways, and see how different I can shoot those 40 square meters of a backyard. Most of the pictures are only for internal use and never to be shown, but once in a while I come across something I find interesting. Now when I go out in the back yard with the camera, it can be pretty hard to motivate myself to start shooting again, simply because I think I have already explored what is to be explored. But then when I start, at some point things move around in my head and I begin to see the backyard differently again – and that’s when the fun begins. Sometimes it takes half an hour, sometimes two hours. But as long as I keep pushing myself, something will eventually happen.

It’s be a really fun assignment, and now I look forward to spending more time in the backyard.

16 thoughts on “Challenge and Expand

  1. Photography is amazing and also great fun. You are sharing and making a nice and good points always, I love to read your experiences and knowledge about photography. Thank you dear Otto, with my love, nia

  2. Thanks Otto for sharing your creative journey and your personal assignments. I enjoy reading your reflections…have a great week! 🙂

  3. Me ha encantado esta forma de trabajar, para progresar y no caer en la rutina, aunque yo aún estoy aprendiendo, gracias por compartir, saludos

    I have been charmed with this way of working, to progress and not to fall down in the routine, though I still am learning, thank you for sharing, regards

  4. “It is a dead sure thing that if you cannot make pictures in or around the home, it is positively hopeless to go abroad and find them.” ~ Quote by Nancy Ford Cones. This has been my inspiration lately and seems fitting with your inspiring post.

  5. “To be creative actually means to find new solutions to known situations, using what you already know in new combinations or just letting go of everything you already know and take a chance.”

    Food for thought.
    Otto, I really like how you further restricted yourself in your backyard with your one-day assignments.

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