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.

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Backyard Bliss

Some of you, who have followed me for a time, may know that I have this ongoing, unpretentious photo project. It’s as simple as photographing my backyard. There is no prestige or any achievements associated with the project. I do it in order to have a project I can turn to whenever I have a spare moment and don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort to get started. It’s as easy as can be to just pick up a camera and step outside into the backyard.

What more is, I want to have a project in which I can experiment to my heart’s desire, throw myself off the usual rut, do anything differently just to do something different. On assignments, I can’t take chances, not to the same extent at least. Neither do I want to when I am working on one of my “serious” projects. Therefore the backyard project.

It’s really not a photo project about the backyard, I am not trying to make a story about it or convey some of its mood or the feeling it can evoke. The pictures don’t have to say “backyard”. The only condition I have set to myself is that all pictures will have to have been captured in the backyard. Furthermore, I have imposed onto myself to not photograph the way I usually do, but rather break anything and do opposite of whatever I do when I am in my usual flow. Everything is allowed and nothing is ruled out.

My first post of the backyard projects goes back to July 2011. If you want to look up previous posts and photos, you’ll find them here: 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.

Facts about the photo: The photo was taken a Canon Eos 1D with either a 16-35 or a 24-105 mm lens. The photos were processed in Lightroom, Photoshop and Nik Color Efex.

On a different note. If you would like to have a photo critiqued—almost like I do in my workshops—remember I only keep this offer open a couple of more days. By the end of the month I will again close the picture critique. If you have a picture you would like to have feedback on, post a link to it on my Picture Critique-page.

Experimental Backyard

Those of you who have followed me for a while, may know or remember that I have this little backyard project of mine. Every so often I go out and spend some time in the yard and try to capture pictures I would not normally do. It’s my little playground where I can have fun and experiment as much as I want to.

My backyard project is a very unpretentious project. That is the whole point. No requirements and thus no performance anxiety related to whatever I do in the backyard. On the contrary, I let myself loose, I try out new approaches or techniques and I don’t care if it all turns out bad or boring. I go out in the yard and shoot deliberately with settings that would normally be regarded as mistakes, I break every rule the book, I shoot contrary to standard beliefs, all in order to have a place where nobody can tell me what to do, where nobody is hanging over my shoulder—not even myself.

Part of it is just to have fun without any pressure; part of it is a way to expand my visual language and my photographic voice. And I really enjoy every time I go out there. I don’t always get photos that is really worth the time spend shooting in the backyard, but I don’t care. It’s just lovely to not have any goals or requirements once every so often. Those approaches I try out in my backyard, I won’t dare to do on an assignment or at an important shooting. But back there it doesn’t matter. What more is, sometimes the trials come up with results that amaze me because they are so different from anything I could consciously have conceived or produced. Moreover, some of these «techniques» actually end up being part of my regular repertoire.

This time, for the pictures you see here, I deliberately went out and over-exposed the images with two stops. In addition, I selected a shutter speed of around one second. Sometimes I tried to hold the camera still, sometimes I intentionally moved it during the exposure. Long time ago I actually did this as a mistake during an assignment and I was taken by some of these images, that I hadn’t intended to make. They turned out quite interesting (of course it was nevertheless a catastrophe for the assignment). Now, in the backyard, was the time to try it out a little more purposefully. Since there is no way to actually have control of the final expression when I was shooting, I wanted to see how many photos I needed to take before one came out that could be worth saving.

The result is interesting. I am actually quite please with a few images. You may think they are boring daubs, and that’s quite OK. I think I like them for the resemblance with the expression of some of the impressionists from around the previous turn of the century.

For other posts with pictures from my backyard project, you may look up this entries: 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.

My Photographic Retreat

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Do you have a photo project you return to for inspiration and to unwind from daily pressure and stress? And, maybe even more importantly, a project that you can easily throw yourself into when you have some time off?

I am a big believer in working on personal photo projects. It keeps you focused. Furthermore, nothing can add so much to your photographic development as working on a project. However, just the word «project» may throw many off the ground. It sounds a little pretentious or even prestigious, doesn’t it?

Well, a personal photo project does not have to be either, nor something you need to go far away to pursue. In fact the closer it is to home and the less you put into it of prestige or high-flying prerequisites, the easier it will be to carry on working on the project.

That is exactly the point with my backyard project. Those of you, who have followed my blog some time, know I return to this project every so often. It’s my way of finding balance when everything comes falling down upon me, or when I am in some sort of limbo, when I can’t find inspiration or don’t feel like photographing.

My backyard project has no ambitions or achievements associated with it. It’s just something I do for fun. Even more so, I allow myself to do anything that I would not otherwise do, for instance when working for a client or doing «serious» projects. I let myself loose. Let myself go with any whim or impulse that comes to mind. I certainly break all the rules in the book, whether it is shooting without focusing, using «wrong» lenses, or like the pictures in this post, shoot with very long shutter speeds without using a tripod.

For other posts with pictures from my backyard project, you may look up this entries: My Backyard Project, My Personal Challenge, The World from the Backyard, Instagram my Backyard, Out of Comfort Zone and Challenge and Expand.

I truly recommend any of you who are serious about your photography to work on a project like this. It expands your vision, it helps find inspiration when none is, it develops you craft, it makes you less tense when you are shooting more important work, it extends you photographic platform.

Do you have a photo project, that is easily within reach to do and that you return to every so often?

Facts about the photos: All photos were taken with a Canon Eos 5D with a 24-104 mm lens, mostly at the long end of the lens, like 85-105 mm. Shutter speed: 1 second. I hold the camera still for about half the time and then moved it in various ways for the reminder of the open shutter time. The aperture varies from f/16. to f/22. The photos were processed in Lightroom.

My Backyard Project

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As I wrote in my post Finding Bearing some weeks ago, I have been in a bit of creative standstill lately. As I wrote a few posts later, I was slowly finding my way back again and bit by bit replenishing my creative well. So far, though, I haven’t really done much work photographically speaking. I have been working on other projects—among other things I have been writing quite extensively.

But I wanted to get started with my photography again, and I decided to return to my old project; photographing my backyard. A photographic project doesn’t have to take place in a far away location, in strange environments or in exotic cultures. It can be right outside your doorstep—as my backyard project literally is. I don’t even regard myself as a nature photographer, but this project is more for me an opening to experiment without restrictions, pushing myself further, testing out approached that are new to me. As such my backyard project is perfect, as it’s always there, I have no expectations or clients demanding anything in particular, and it’s also very limiting, physically and mentally, which is always spurring the creative force.

As such, these are some of my first photos trying to get out of my creative rut. I am not completely satisfied, but I am opening myself up to the flow of energy again, and finding my way back into the groove. Spring—as is the season where I am right now—is of course an explosion of colours from flowers and foliage coming into life. However, I decided to not go for the obvious, but rather work around and experimenting with more subtle aspects of the backyard. These are a few of the photos I made, they are not in any way extraordinary, but they add some variation to the project as such as well as function to bring back my creative streak. If you are interested, you may find more about my backyard project in these posts: My Personal Challenge, The World from the Backyard, Instagram my Backyard, Out of Comfort Zone and Challenge and Expand.

Facts about the photo: It’s hard to give a general description of the photos, but they were all taken with a Canon EOS-5D and various lenses such as 16-35 mm and 24-105 mm. I processed first in Lightroom and then started to work with many layers in Photoshop, combining them in various ways.

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My Personal Challenge

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The challenges I have announced and asked for you to participate in over the last few weeks have all been about expanding ones vision, see beyond the obvious and capture photographs in a different way than you usually do. To be able grow as a photographer (or any artist for that matter), it’s important to thrust oneself beyond the comfort zone, every so often.

I have my own little project where I keep pushing myself beyond my usual approach to photography. Subject wise it’s something I would normally never photograph. That’s one challenge right there. In addition, I try to shoot the subject differently every time. One day I might only allow myself to use a 400 mm lens, another day only a 16 mm wide angle. Sometimes I shoot handheld with long exposure time, sometimes I move while capturing the subject. And so on and so forth. That’s a second way to push myself beyond the usual. Finally, the subject is very limited in space and options. That’s definitely challenging in a third way.

Some of you may have seen some of the results in previous posts over the years. I have posted about this personal work in posts such as The World from the Backyard, Instagram my Backyard, Out of Comfort Zone and Challenge and Expand. Some of the titles already disclose what the project is all about. Yes, I am photographing my backyard. And I know that for many of you subject wise it doesn’t sound like much of a challenge, but for me it definitely is. I would never have photographed my backyard had I not decided to make it into a challenging project.

The photos here are some of the last ones captured at the end of summer and the beginning of the autumn.

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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.