Out of Comfort Zone

One of the biggest challenges for any photographer – or any artist for that matter – after he or she has found their style, is to keep developing. It’s so easy to fall back on tried and true methods that have proved to be working well for many years. It’s just too easy to stiffening up, creatively speaking. I wrote about this in my post Challenge and Expand about a year ago. Then I mentioned that one of my photographic projects to keep developing myself was – and still is – to photograph my backyard. I have purposefully limit myself so much with this project that I have had to go beyond my usually approach to even get something worth mentioning. Even when it comes to subject-matter this project is way out of my usual comfort zone. It’s been challenging, not in the same way as approaching strangers on the street used to be for me in the beginning which I wrote about in my last post, but in a different way. It’s been challenging because it has forced me to see where I would otherwise not look for pictures, and it’s been challenging because it made me questioning my own confidence in what I was doing. I still feel uncertain about the result, but at least I am happy with one thing: The photographs that so far have come out of the project are quiet different from anything else I shoot. I have posted a handful of them here, all taken over time since I posted Challenge and Expand. I have ambivalent feelings about them, and even feel a little challenged by posting them here, but I think it’s time to let some of them get out in the open. So here there are, a few selected ones: My backyard.

85 thoughts on “Out of Comfort Zone

  1. These are fun and interesting Otto. I like the way the third photograph makes me feel. I like the angle and tilt of the second shot and the blur in the fifth. I take many photos on our property or in our rural neighborhood. It is challenging to come up with new ways to look at the same old thing. Good job to you!

  2. Hi,
    I rather like the photos. I love the close up shots of the leaves, but I really like the photo of the garden seat, it reminds me of those stories that always have a hidden or secret garden in them, very nice. 🙂

  3. Truth be told? I had to laugh when I saw not one face in this series of beautiful photos. Of course, this style photography is my cup of tea. I think they are all wonderful, but my favorite is the second to last one. And it does take courage, doesn’t it, to go outside our comfort zone?

  4. I agree wholeheartedly that the comfort of our preferred zone can be restrictive and prevent you from developing your art … that said, it doesn’t appear to me that you are extending yourself here Otto 😉

  5. A nice set of images. I once read somewhere that limitations and constraints enhance creativity, and this is a good example of that. You’re forced to work round what you’ve got, rather than have a large amount of options. But then you realise that within your constraints you actually have a lot of options, and these are a great example – there’s a whole world in your backyard.

  6. I really like these photos.Thank you for sharing them. When I can’t get out, I tend not to take pictures but this weekend I posted some photographs of dew on the grass in my own backyard. Not the sort of picture I’d usually take. Your challenge has now become my challenge. If I can’t get out to take the landscape and beach photographs I want to take, you have given me a reason to keep taking pictures just the same.

  7. What ever the motive to create these images….they are a really great set. Sometimes we think too deeply and forget to just enjoy our photography. Loof forward to more to come.

  8. Great set of images, especially for me as I am a big fan of Black & White.

    I love them all except for the 7th one (the cast iron piece of ???). That one leaves me feeling a bit odd – I’m just not sure about it.

    My favourites are the second one and the second last image.

  9. I really like these photos. They do very much bring to mind the “Secret Garden”. They have a very mystical feel to them. Lovely.

  10. I loved these backyard photographs… There is something deeply hits in them… Reminds me my childhood days… I especially love these kind of photographs, out of comfort zone… Thank you dear Otto, have a nice new week, with my love, nia

  11. Beautiful photos, I especially like the close up of the leaves and the table and chair. We all have different styles and this is definitely my style, thank you for sharing them.

  12. You’ve made a thoughtful commentary. I like the idea that photography is both art and science. It’s the blend that makes the difference.

  13. I think I’ve got the same turtle, but mine isn’t on its back in the leaves. That photo makes me feel unsettled, but I love the others, especially the leaves. Too true about us getting rutted in our comfort zones. I think I’ll try something different today. Thanks!

  14. Quite beautiful-tantalizing textures, values and compositions. I think that it’s wise to set boundaries or restrictions for some projects, to force oneself to appreciate what is right there, to innovate with spare subjects or materials. A wonderful example of such a process here.

  15. I like the black and white quality. Your ideas are so encouraging. Also started photographing my backyard.


  16. Backyards are wonderful places. I couldn’t see your first six images because it wouldn’t load but got a glimpse into the rest of the backyard and it looks very peaceful. I like the black and white quality as well…thanks for pushing us out of our comfort zone. 🙂

  17. You have some really interesting takes here. I think my favorite here is the bench and the fence (second up from the bottom). I like your use of black and white in these photos. Great job, all the way around!

  18. I love this set of photos Otto! I was looking through them prior to reading and I was shocked that you have mixed feelings here. They have a certain “atmosphere” to them, as if you were just relaxing in a back yard and looking around and these images embed themselves in your subconcious while you are thinking of other things. They are beautiful!

  19. Not easy to look for the magician out of our comfort zone, but you made a good job for sure worthwhile the effort to do it. I specially like the second, the fourth and the seventh. And the one with the chairs. At the end I like most of them because not only show your backyard but give a sense of being lost, out of time. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Using B&W for this Post I think raises the level of difficulty. The light is exciting. I’m very lucky to have a very large back yard – there’s always something new to capture. But I’ve never shot anything in black and white out there. Maybe I should try B&W for a change.

  21. Vengo del post anterior que mencionas en este, y me ha encantado también, me gustan las imágenes de tu patio, parecen tomadas en una película, me gusta muchísimo la primera, abrazos

    I come from the previous post that you mention in this one, and I have been charmed with it also, I like the images of your court, seem to be seizures in a movie, I like very much the first one, embraces

  22. Again, thanks so much for your May 14th blog! I am just starting in the world of photography and practice is great fun for me. Your so right . . . my backyard is a haven of opportunity and I could be practicing, practicing, practicing so easily. Great insights. Thanks again! Your blog is a great read.

  23. I think there’s something about monochrome photos which makes us look much harder at them than we would at a color photo of the same scene, maybe because the lack of color cues makes it more difficult for our brains to decipher what is really there. In any case, the photos do demand our attention, which may be one reason I tend to prefer them over color in many instances. There is also that sense of mystery which other commenters have mentioned, which also might be created by the lack of full color information presented to the eye. Out of your comfort zone or not, I think these are quite evocative, thoughtful photos.

  24. So many gorgeous shots. The B&W’s have always been a favorite of mine; those, and sepia. It’s always hard for me, deciding whether or not I want to keep a photo in color or change the tonal value. It’s almost magic how they end up looking so different from one another.

    ~ Blessings,

  25. these are beautiful!!!…each one has its own history, its own appeal..my Auntie Ragnar’s garden, in the middle of a cow ranch and pine trees, resembled your second to last photo…she used to say it was full of trolls and fairies..I really like the macro shots of the plant leaves

  26. Love the images – especially the bench. Yet the words are applicable to all professions – that is to keep challenging to expand. Well said.

  27. Well, based on this couldn’t you say that it might be better to never obtain a “style”? That is, if you can maintain an objective quality of work (something that is very subjective i guess anyway) Instead of the style dictating the image, have the image and imagination dictate the style?

    Having said that though, I think it’s almost impossible, after a period of time, to not have a look people can recognize.

  28. Love the hazy black and white…looks like a snapshot from Ingmar Bergman film!!!!!!!!!!

  29. I have tring to drag my art into the third dimention.
    Sculpting – but more along the lines of costumes
    masks and puppets – I almost always fail but
    continue my forays into this region hoping that
    somday I’ll strike gold.

  30. A fascinating collection. I like this challenge very much indeed and do something similar myself. It certainly focuses the mind. You have added a further constraint by using only B&W. It would be interesting in some instances to see B&W and colour images side by side..

  31. I think your challenge to proceed very well …
    I really like the black and white … then has a mysterious beauty.
    In my opinion you have to go … you’re very good!
    Vento 🙂

  32. I agree with you Otto: it is SO important to go out of your comfort zone once in a while. There is sometimes this need to destabilize in order to open the door for something new, even if we are not satisfied with the experiment in itself. We don´t feel and recognize it as ours, but it serves it´s own purpose: going out to take something new and later perhaps incorporate it in our expression and evolve. I have to recognize that this process in my case brings excitement while I am experimenting and when it´s done- some kind of fear: “what´s going on?” I let it happen and usually understand after a while that it left some seed somewhere in my usual expression. Beautiful post!

  33. I think it’s about time I leave my comfort zone, too. I always have kinda fallen into the same routine of shooting … i’d like to go on adventure and spend the whole day shooting with someone. Also, isn’t it wonderful the great photos you can take in the comfort of your backyard? I love shooting in my backyard! 🙂

  34. I really enjoy the black and white, and I think each one holds interest. I like the bench with the little flowers. The perspective looking down is engaging. I applaud that you’re exploring some different techniques and broadening your artistic eye! And your backyard looks very inviting! Debra

  35. Last night as I was listening to the radio someone said of true artists that they are always reinventing themselves. That they are highly inovative. I celebrate this post out of your comfort zone. It delight me. I also really enjoyed looking at your photos for me it brought a reverence feel and a quiet which I am always in my own life looking for a time of peace and of stillness. Well Done! I thought of you and of your work as I was attending a funeral taking snap shots of everything with my mind. Seeing moments of deep emotion. I was asked to take photos of the funeral at the grave site and service it was strange to be taking photos as well as attending to family. I did my best, but it was difficult.

  36. Otto…these images are just exceptional. I have to say that my favorite is the second one of the bench…there’s just something about it that I love. Great work and great post…again.

  37. Beautiful series of images, Otto. And another great, thought-provoking post.

    I’ve spent the past 1-1/2 years photographing my backyard. In the beginning I had lots of days when I felt uninspired, walking the same paths day after day after day. I was afraid everything I shot was becoming boring. But then something happened and I started looking at things differently, realizing that things ARE different day by day, even moment by moment. In many ways, the project changed me, and may have helped me develop a style (I’m still not sure…lol!).

  38. Great article and photos! A photography challenge can be pointing out to someone that they always shoot while standing straight up, never thinking about shooting at different angles. Or, your challenge, to shoot your background which is taking on a bigger challenge.

    Here’s a fun challenge I share with photographers. Get in your car, drive in any direction for awhile. Stop the car, get out, take 3-4 steps, stop, and mentally look down and create a 2′ by 2′ square box. The challenge is you have to shoot at least 10 images from where you are stopped. And yes, you can’t move outside the 2′ by 2′ foot square. Each person takes turns driving and deciding where to stop. Repeat the process.

  39. I think they’re beautiful, and prove that in photography we can spotlight the beauty in the ordinary. It’s so true that we need to continue developing and challenging ourselves and growing, though. Great reminder! My toughest time is in the winter around here, when nothing changes!

  40. Liked the accompanying text more than the snaps. Most of the snaps you have shared from the backyard did not succeed so much in instilling curiosity or amazement. The idea to keep developing is amazing and that did strike a wonderful chord! Cliche and photography is something that can be avoided I personally feel.
    Thanks for sharing!

  41. That’s a wonderful series! I particularly love the first image, the details and the light are incredibly beautiful. You have a fantastic and very inviting backyard.

  42. These photos have a timeless quality to them that I find most appealing. For me they are very evocative. To my eye, these work. They make me stop and look. They make me feel, and then think. Kudos to you for stepping out of your “comfort zone.”

  43. I just did a ten day painting workshop on the same thing. A big breakthrough happened when I came back to the studio. I tried not to use familiar colors, shapes, lines and tried not to correct things afterwards with the familiar ways to “fix” things. I’m going to blog about the ten days this next week.

  44. The 2 chairs in the 3rd-to-last shot are having a discussion. (I wonder what would make me think of THAT!) My favorite is the one with the shell-motif detail (from a bench?)

  45. They turned out really nice! I’m glad you posted them. I am often photographing things in our yard. There is often something new, or a new way to look at the same thing.

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