Shooting Sideways

Those of you who follow me on a regular basis, know that I have my little backyard photo project. It’s an unpretentious project in which I seek to expand my vision and photograph in ways I usually won’t do.

The fact that it’s unassuming is very important. It gives me liberty and unrestrained freedom not having to create anything noteworthy. It’s a playground for me, a place to experiment and photograph sideways as the Canadian photographer Freeman Paterson calls it. What he means by that is shooting contrary to your usual routines. If you always compose meticulous then try to photograph without looking through the viewfinder. If you always photograph with wide-angle lenses, then put on your longest lens and give it a shot. If you always make sure that you have a fast enough shutter speed to prevent blurred images, then go for a really long shutter speed and see what the result will be.

Shooting sideways is a way to ensure that I, as a photographer, do not get stuck in my photographic vision, but rather seek new ways to express myself. The more experienced we become in our art, the more we run a risk of sinking into some standard routines. We know what works, and we apply this knowledge in our creative endeavour. And in so doing we actually stop being creative and our art becomes rather boring.

Thus my unpretentious backyard project. Using the backyard makes it easy to shoot whenever I have some spare time. Since it’s my backyard I can access it easily and at any time I feel like. There are no restrictions except what lies within the boundaries of the backyard. Most importantly is the lack of restrictions when it comes to how and what I choose to shoot. It may sound contrary then, that I often make a set of limitations for each time I go out to photograph. I do so because I want to stimulate my creativity—and nothing stimulate it as much as limiting it—and I want to make sure I don’t fall back on old routines and shoot as I normally would do.

The photos in this post was shot not long ago, and this time around I decided to photograph with a 400 mm at maximum aperture. It’s a lens (actually a 100-400 mm but in this case set at 400) I usually never use for anything except when I cover some news event.

If you don’t know my backyard project, here are previous posts with photos captured over time: Backyard Bliss, Experimental Backyard, My Photographic Retreat, My Backyard Project, My Personal Challenge, The World from the Backyard, Instagram my Backyard, Out of Comfort Zone and Challenge and Expand.

76 thoughts on “Shooting Sideways

  1. It is always such a connecting thing to see the same wild herbals in other’s yards across continents as appear in my own! These are always some of my favorite shots, this project.

  2. Shooting sideways is indeed an interesting concept…bound to help in getting out of the ‘rut’. I will need to try it while here in sunny Stockholm 🙂

  3. I like your textures and color palette in these photos. I, too, began a photo-a-day project last year and it has progressed from being fun, to becoming a chore, to being fun once more. I look forward to watching your progress.

  4. I think I own that chair in the top photo 🙂 I enjoy seeing your backyard shots. It lets me look at things sideways too and sparks my own ideas. Thanks!

  5. I like this idea. I have a vision that I will create a beautiful photo using this idea but then I’ll never be able to recreate it! I do find the discipline (or lack of) to photograph something out of character very interesting.

  6. What a fun concept — I love the idea of “shooting sideways.” And what lovely results you’ve gotten too, Otto. Thank you for continuing to teach and inspire.

  7. I too love the processing. Always good to get out of one’s usual parameters and try something different. I particularly like the last 3 images. They seem to evoke something of times in the past when everything was more simple and natural.

  8. Love the photos. The idea of your backyard project as a playground for you made me smile. May you continue to use freedom to find creativity and inspiration!

  9. Enjoyed your photos! I think I unconsciously do this when I have not gone anywhere to shoot in a while. It is fun to put your different lenses to the test.

  10. Lovely intimate photos with great detail and texture in a narrow depth of field, also like the framing that compliments this. This is good timing because I recently found myself shooting with the “wrong” settings – a good reminder to experiment a little and “shoot sideways”. I am a fan of Freeman Patterson and was delighted to be gifted with one of his books. It’s a keeper. Thanks Otto, and enjoy.

  11. I have the belief that there is always something to photograph, no matter where you are…and especially in your own back yard. But I don’t think I’ve tried to do things I haven’t done before..and that is good advice. Wen you are in a spot for a long time and think you have photographed everything there is to photograph and perhaps you are feeling restless, maybe the best thing to do is start shooting sideways.

  12. now THIS is my kind of photography… i’m not going to do street photography in Cuba … but would love a course in shooting like this 🙂 but of course, i don’t need a course in shooting like this lol

      1. i’m too tired lol i don’t really really shoot much any more… i didn’t mean i don’t need a course lol i shouldn’t have said that lol

  13. That’s a smart thing to do…I try to mix it up regularly, but I think it’s much easier for me, since I ahven’t been photographing seriously as long as you, and I haven’t been involved in commercial work, with all its demands. The idea of setting a technical limitation as well as the spatial one is smart, too. Limitations are fantastic for creativity. I think the 4th photo is my favorite – there’s a mystery there, and the processing enhances it.

    1. It’s indeed easier to get stuck in one way of shooting the longer you have done it, and certainly if it becomes a profession. But I think we all need to expand our vision from wherever we come from. Thank you for the comment, Lynn, Much appreciated.

  14. Wonderful set and before I even started reading was reminded of Freeman Patterson. My B&W Photo professor had us do something like this. The assignment was to go to a location and shoot a 24 frame roll looking through the viewfinder, then shoot a second roll at the same location without looking through the viewfinder. I was a little dismayed that I liked the later better!

  15. I finally managed to break through my creative malaise — which turned out to be nothing more than that paralysis we
    all can feel in the face of a very large project. Interestingly, the post’s about Georgia O’Keeffe, and one of her
    comments came back to mind as I read your post: her observation that she never painted a “subject,” but painted from
    whatever she found in the world around her. It helps to explain the variety of her work, from New York skyscrapers to
    floating skulls to those enormous flowers. The engagement with the real world always came first — which is to say,
    you’re doing the same thing with your backyard project.

    I also found this gem, and agree: “I often make a set of limitations for each time I go out to photograph. I do so
    because I want to stimulate my creativity—and nothing stimulates it as much as limiting it.” That’s exactly why I
    find the etherees so energizing. Having to stay within that structure is quite a challenge. Anyone can count
    syllables, but turning syllables into art is something else.

    1. Yes, restricting yourself while writing poems is exactly the same limiting of the creativity in order to increase it. I am happy to read that you got out of your creative block. So I look forward to reading more etherees and other creative thoughts from you.

  16. Intressanta bilder Otto och även intressant som projekt. Själv ägnar jag mig hela tiden åt “Shooting Sideways” och kan inte begripa att så många, så fort fastnar i ett fotografiskt fack. Ok, om man tex är sportfotograf, då blir det inte tid och kanske det ej heller finns intresse för annan sorts fotografi. Jag upplever inte att du sitter fast i ett fack, du om någon har ett väldigt brett register och här är ytterligare ett område. Intressant och säkert mycket inspirerande för “de som fastnat”. Ha det gott, njut av sommaren!

    PS. Instabilden från Bergen tycker jag mycket om!

    1. Takk for kommentaren, Gertie. Jeg tror det er lett å henge fast i en stil eller en måte å fotografere på som du føler fungerer eller gir gode bilder. Det å utvikle seg som fotograf er hele tiden en kamp mot det konvensjonelle, mye slik du selv jobber. Jeg håper at du også nyter sommeren. 🙂

  17. I think projects like these are important for getting one out of a rut and stimulating the creative juices. But sometimes it can lead to angst and frustration. My Nikon broke at the start of 2018 and a few months later my client abruptly ended my consulting contact (no explanation given) after 5 years. So I was without a camera and I did not want to spend money on a replacement until I was working again. During that time a friend loaned me her father’s Canon EOS 5D Mk III and EF 70-200mm lens.

    Previously most of my photography fell into the “wide” range — 12-35mm — with the occasional foray into the 50-200mm. After several months of being restricted to 70-200mm, I am frustrated to the point where I don’t pick up the camera anymore. I know this because my wife commented that I leave the camera at home on every outing.

    Being restricted to heavy 70-200mm prevented me from doing landscape photography, it prevented me from doing street photography (a 70-200mm is too conspicuous in the small town suburbs of New Jersey), and the camera + lens was too heavy to go “walkabout”.

    I miss my 11-16mm, my 18-55, and my 35mm prime!!

    1. Trying new ways of shooting, doesn’t mean that we should give up our preferred way of photographer. I can certainly understand your frustration with being limited to shoot with a telezoom. Like you did, I shoot 90 percent of my photos with a wide angle lens or zoom. I hope things will soon turn around for you, Khürt.

      1. Hi Otto, I made a decision this weekend. I packed up my Nikon lenses (all four of them) for sale. I’m switching to Fuji. I can find gently used gear online. I don’t expect it will improve my photography. That’s not what new gear is about for me. But it will allow me to shoot the way I like to shoot. I want knobs and switches and access to aperture, ISO, and shutter speed without messing around with menus.

        1. New gear seldom result in better images, so you approach is spot on. The camera is an equipment that should work with us in a best possible way. I hope you will enjoy your new Fuji.

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