Robert Rodriguez Jr is a professional landscape photographer specializing in landscapes of the Hudson Valley, as well as other parts of the world. Robert also offers nature and landscape photography workshops, fine art prints, e-books, calendars, and notecards.
I’ve been deep in the final production stages of the Printmaker Masterclass, which launches next Monday on March 19th. It’s my first on-demand workshop that is completely self—directed. Students can take the course whenever they like with lifetime access, and I will be updating and adding content to the course over the coming year to increase its value as a resource of information for printing in general.
I’m super excited about it, and I’ll have more detailed information later in the week. But for now, I wanted to share one of the lessons in its entirety here for your benefit.
It’s a Capture to Print workflow of a panoramic image I made from my recent trip to Death Valley, CA. There are seven of these videos in the masterclass, so this gives you an idea of what I cover in terms of developing your images for print. Even if you don’t print, I detail every adjustment in Lightroom including my creative approach to local adjustments.
I also show soft-proofing in Lightroom, settings in the Print Module, and photos and video of the final print including paper choice decisions. Enjoy!
Capture to Print Lightroom Workflow - Panorama - YouTube
I’ve written about photographing familiar locations many times, yet it remains a challenge for many, including myself. Novelty is, of course, one of the main reasons we think better photographs are available elsewhere, instead of in the same familiar places. I know the feeling well since I’ve been guilty of thinking the same thing.
The excitement of visiting a new location is real, and there’s nothing wrong with travel and discovery. In fact, travel is one of the things I enjoy most in general, especially when photography is involved.
New places inspire us to look more closely and see with fresh eyes. There seems no end to the immense variety and depth of nature’s beauty when you explore this beautiful planet we live on. It’s the reason I continue to do workshops in inspiring places like the southwest. It’s easier to connect with nature when you’re surrounded by it in it’s most pristine state.
But nature is everywhere and “seeing with fresh eyes” is more about your mindset than what’s actually in front of you. I also think that what we want most of all is to be able to capture what we see and feel, regardless of where we are.
We want to be better photographers and better storytellers. Novelty helps, but “seeing” is what makes the difference. This is why I continue to visit familiar locations over and over again. It increases my ability to find another perspective, another viewpoint, another way of seeing light.
It also gives me yet another opportunity to get lucky. We can’t predict nature, and you can be sure that there will always be a unique combination of circumstances at some point that isn’t quite like what you’ve experienced in the past, regardless of how often you’ve visited.
That’s how this image came about and why I could never have predicted it even though I’ve visited this shoreline hundreds of times. In fact, I often avoid this spot since the opportunities are limited most of the time.
Arriving right around sunrise, the light was strong and direct, and I focused on the scene away from the sun out towards the opposite shore of the Hudson River. At some point, however, the light changed. I looked back towards the sun to see that many clouds had suddenly appeared creating a dramatic backlighting effect in the sky and also along the surface of the river.
What had been up to that point totally familiar to me suddenly became unfamiliar and exciting. I saw shapes, and texture, and an interesting pattern and rhythm in the ice floating on the water leading up to the sky. I forgot about where I was and simply reacted to the visual stimulus and how it made me feel.
“Wow. that’s interesting…Never expected this.”
That sudden shift is all it takes. A sense of curiosity about a creative possibility, no matter how small or unclear it may seem at first. How do I simplify all these shapes on the river? How do I diminish the shoreline and all its distractions? How do I unify all the different elements in the scene?
The answers require simpler questions: What am I most responding to visually? What am I truly noticing? For me, it was the light reflecting on the water and its effect on the ice in front of me—the tension between warm and cool. Energy, movement, dynamics, depth. The opposite of static.
Composing the scene horizontally made it more complex, adding more shapes (ice) that would distract. They didn’t add anything to the scene—all I needed was right in front of me. So I switched to a vertical orientation, which simplified the scene and strengthened the composition from top to bottom. Then I anchored the foreground with the two large blue shapes starting at the bottom left.
This is critical. It simplifies the foreground and allows the eye to travel up the diagonal until it reaches the warmer light which then carries the viewer up to the middle ground and then the sky. Elimination is the key here, or as the saying goes, less is more.
I’m also aware that the light in the sky is getting brighter, so I need to work fast before the sun returns and the opportunity is over. I check every edge and corner of the frame to be sure it’s all in balance. I cut the bottom piece of ice at it’s left edge, but the larger piece needs to be whole to compete the leading line up towards the right and back left again.
I also want to make sure I include some sky to get the brightly lit clouds away from the top edge, otherwise, it leads the eye out to the frame. Finally, I check exposure, allowing a slight amount of the light in the sky to clip, focus at the edge of the second block of ice, and use an aperture of f/11 on my Olympus E-M1 to generate adequate depth of field.
I used a prime 12mm lens (24mm in 35mm format) so there’s no decision about focal length—I work with what I see through the viewfinder, and move the tripod forwards or backward to refine the composition. I also try to avoid falling into the cold water!
This is the path I want the viewer to navigate – there are other things to explore, but this establishes the center of interest (large bock of ice) and the tension between warm and cool.
The green shows the major repeating shapes in the image, and the yellow the minor shapes that continue that pattern, adding to unity.
Back in the studio and in Lightroom Classic, I’m underwhelmed by this image at first, preferring some others which seem better. It’s not until I return to the images a few days later that I realize this image more closely conveys what I remembered from that cold morning.
This is not uncommon for me, and I’ve grown used to it—in fact, I rely on it to provide some sense of perspective. Time lets me relinquish my desire for a good image, my attachment to an outcome, and I can simply look for something that resonates.
It’s taken many years to do this, and I still get seduced by my own bias – after all, it’s my image. But it gets easier. Thinking of every photo opportunity as an experiment is a great way to let go of desired outcomes.
Aside from the basic adjustments, I add important dodging and burning adjustments to emphasize the elements I want the viewer to see, and the path I want them to follow. Letting the deep shadows in the foreground go to almost black is also very important—it simplifies the image and makes the light that much more dramatic. Once again, less is more.
This image is about light and about drama. It needs rich shadows in order to emphasize that, and so a high-density paper like Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag is ideal.
A textured matte paper would indeed complement all the textures in the image, but the lack of density would leave the light less supported; weaker. The higher density of Platine provides a deeper, darker foundation for the mid-tones and highlights, conveying the sense of backlight I experienced.
I printed it at 13” x 19” (A3+) on 310gsm Platine Fibre Rag on my Canon Pro-1000 and was very happy with the results.
There was more shadow detail in the image, but I left then “unseen” in order to simplify the seen and clarify what I saw and felt.
Here you can see the very subtle but beautiful texture that Platine provides, adding just enough surface detail that adds dimension to the print.
Thanks as always for reading and letting me share my experiences of image making with you. I share the details because I think they are important—it’s the subtle details that often determine how successful we are as photographers. I always appreciate your questions and feedback – leave them below.
“I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of not trying.” – Jay-Z
There are many things not worth the disproportionate amount of time we give to them; news immediately comes to mind. Time invested in oneself, however, especially when that investment is in exploring your creative potential, pays dividends not only to ourselves, but to those around us, and even the world at large.
This very short video highlights the importance of taking chances before it’s too late. This is especially true when it comes to pursuing a goal or lifestyle you think can only be dreamed of. I thought the same way too, then decided my limited thinking wasn’t actually helping.
Watch, ponder, and reflect. Are you fulfilling your creative potential?
I started this blog in 2006 after a severe ankle injury left me couch ridden for three months. That seems like a distant memory now, and since then I’ve gone on to write nearly nine hundred blog posts and three books.
I never thought I’d become a writer when I started my photography career twelve years ago, yet I’ve embarked on new creative challenges that both scare and excite me.
I’m taking a 4-day plein air painting workshop in NYC in my quest (and experiment) to expand my creative horizons.
I’m developing a photo workshop specifically designed to help you improve and refine your compositional skills.
I’m finally hiring an assistant as I continue to expand my brand and business.
Growth only occurs on the edge of your comfort zone. Sometimes you need to go over the edge to see what you’re truly capable of. You might fail—in fact you should count on it. No shame there, it lets you know you’re on the right path, the creative path.
It’s the path where the destination is never quite clear, and the time of arrival is often unknown. But therein lies its hidden beauty, because unexpected surprises are always around the corner, if you’re willing to push through the fog.
The secret is cultivating and embracing a sense of deep curiosity. You’ll become less worried about where you’re going and instead appreciate everything you can discover in a single step.
Discovering what works and what doesn’t. Discovering exactly what makes you laugh, or cry, or feel deep gratitude. Discovering how you see the world differently from everyone else. Discovering how to make your voice a little clearer, a little more authentic.
What are you trying in 2018 that makes you scared?
One of the benefits that I offer to students of our workshops, or those who purchase one of my books, is access to the private CreativePath Community forum.
The concept behind the forum was my desire to create a community where members experience a sense of connection to others around a common goal: to support each other in their creative efforts. It’s a private space where like-minded people can learn from each other in a way that is healthy and generous. It’s a place you can ask for help and never have to worry about feeling judged or criticized.
Studies have shown that if we surround ourselves with those who support, motivate, and challenge us, we can reach greater heights than we could have alone. And that’s the mindset that I want to make sure always remains at the forefront of this forum.
I’m proud in that we’ve grown to almost 200 fantastic members that maintain a very high-quality conversation across many different topics. I’m really excited for the future as we gain more members and expand what we offer.
One of the things I encourage members to do is upload their images for analysis and critique. After all, the only way to grow is by getting feedback not only about what’s right, but also what can be better. That’s a critical part of creative growth since you can’t get better unless you know what needs improving.
To give you a look at some of what goes on inside the forum, I thought I’d share two images uploaded for feedback by members and how we helped them clarify their vision.
(I was given explicit permission to share these specific images by the photographers. I’d never share or use any members image without permission and all images uploaded retain full copyright ownership by the photographer.)
Image Critique 1
The first image is by Wynne Phillips and it’s from my neck of the woods, so I was excited to see this great perspective of a very familiar location.
Overall the image had very nice lines, and captured the beautiful light that emphasized the detail and texture throughout the scene. But I felt it lacked depth and a clear path for the viewer to follow. The trees on the left were also distracting, and there were graphic shapes that I thought could be better developed through careful dodging and burning.
Below is my analysis of what could be improved.
Red lines- a crop that helps simplify and helps to make the tree the center of interest
Yellow lines – show the repeating elements that are most interesting and need to be emphasized.
Blue – Darken and make cooler with an adjustment brush
Green – the leading lines and path that the viewer should follow to make the composition simple yet strong.
Add more clarity and vibrance, and darken the sky slightly.
I made adjustments to the image based on the notes above, and the result is below.
I hope you can see how these changes improve the composition and create a stronger sense of movement from the foreground to the background.
Image Critique 2
This next image is by Judith Miller and captures a beautiful forest scene filled with soft light, lots of detail and color, and a painterly look and feel.
However, notice how everything inside the frame has the same tonal value, and contains the same amount of detail making it hard to discern the center of interest.
It’s paramount to consider where you want the viewer’s eye to go. What is the focal point? Is the foreground more important than the background? Or visa versa? Can you tell from the image? In other words, the composition it too complex as presented.
Here are my suggested changes:
Darken the foreground considerably and simplify by reducing saturation and clarity slightly.
Brighten the green bush on the left to better see the backlight.
Add depth and dimension to the background trees (and their reflection) – the focal point of the image.
Darken the edges slightly
Overall, I tried to simplify the image using the principles of composition I advocate which I refer to as LCU: lead the viewer, create a strong center of interest, and maintain maximum unity. This is done both in the field when composing and in Lightroom when developing. Both contribute to a successful image, and neither can be left to chance.
I think Judith had a strong sense of that in the field – it just needed to be continued in the editing. The idea behind this is not to create “the final image,” but rather to promote a compositional approach to developing your images. Use these ideas, create your own vision.
I hope this has been helpful and provides you with some ideas you can use in your own editing workflow. You can get access to the CreativePath Community forum by taking one of our field workshops, registering for one of our online courses, or buying one of my books.
If you purchased one of my books on Amazon, email me your receipt and I’ll send you an invite to the forum.
A big thank you to Wynne and Judith for their generosity and willingness to let me share their images.
I’m extremely happy to announce that registration for my new online Printmaker Masterclass is now open. The course won’t be fully available until March 19th, 2018, but you can register now for some pre-launch promotions. More on that later.
This is basically an online version of my very popular and intense 2-day printing workshop that I give in my studio and has over 40+ 5 star reviews. It’s self-directed, so you can learn at your own pace. You’ll also have life-time access to all of the course material, including updates which I plan to add regularly.
I created it for two reasons: for those who can’t travel to my studio for whatever reason, and for those who aren’t sure about printing and don’t want to make the financial commitment to the live masterclass.
Of course, there is no way I can duplicate the experience of a live workshop in an online course, so the studio masterclass will continue to be the most intensive way to learn fine art printing. This online course aims to provide you with a thorough understanding of the concepts of digital printing, as well as the practical application of those concepts to create great looking fine art prints.
I take you into my print studio and show you:
my printing workflow
how and why I choose paper, gear, software, and tools I use.
how I develop and optimize my images in Lightroom to look their best on paper
This course covers a lot, so I’ll also provide you with a few PDF guides you can refer to along the way.
And best of all, you’ll get access to the private CreativePath Community forum which has hundreds of members from around the world. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. We grow when we surround ourselves with others who encourage and inspire us, and the CP community is proof of that.
PMC Sales Page - YouTube
First, the price is discounted until March 19th, so you’ll get extra savings before the price goes up on launch day.
Second, you’ll receive two 8.5” x 11” prints of your work that you can use for evaluation purposes. One of the benefits of having prints made is that you can use them to see how accurate your monitor is, as well as getting a feel for the papers I used to make your prints.
If you’re interested in discovering the many creative and tangible benefits of printing your own work, and can’t attend a live workshop, this exclusive online course may be for you.
I’ll be giving a free webinar for Canson Infinity next week discussing how and why to choose a paper for your images. I’ve many times here before (including this free PDF guide), but it’s one of those things that gets better with time and practice.
Why? Because fundamentally it comes down to asking the right questions about your image and understanding how a papers characteristics can best support the answers. I’ll be discussing this and more in the webinar, plus I’ll be selecting three images from submissions to print and analyze.
Your image might be selected, so head over to the Canson website and register for the webinar—plus submit an image for consideration!
Webinar Date/Time: Monday, September 15th, 11am EDT (16:00 GMT)
Today I’m excited to finally offer what I think is a unique opportunity, the The Creative Critique Masterclass. It’s available at the new CreativePath Workshops website where I plan to add more workshops in the immediate future.
The Creative Critique Masterclass addresses some of most common questions and challenges that many of you face today in your photography. They have also been some of my greatest challenges over the years.
Maybe you need honest and constructive criticism of your work with a focus on composition and visual design. Perhaps you need help with creatively developing your images in Lightroom so that your vision isn’t compromised or side-tracked by the technology. Perhaps you’d like to experience your images as physical prints, with guidance on paper selection and printing.
I address all of these issues and more in the Creative Critique Masterclass. Here’s how it works: you submit two raw files, and I send you a 45min video offering image analysis and feedback. I discuss what’s wrong and right, and how to improve. You also watch as I develop the images in Lightroom Classic showing my creative workflow.
As an option, I can ship two 11″ x 17″ prints to you on Canson Infinity paper so you can see your work up close. I’ll create an additional video explaining paper selection and print analysis.
You also get access to the CreativePath Community forum where I share other critique videos regularly so you can continue to learn from others.
If this is something you may be interested in, head over to the new website and read more. Depending on how many students I get, I may close the masterclass until I catch up with the videos, so it will be on a limited basis only.
If you want feedback and insight on your images, sign up now. It also makes a great gift!
Watch a full critique below!
Introducing the Creative Critique - Images developed and printed - YouTube
If you’ve decided to try Canson Infinity fine art paper but aren’t sure where to start, this guide is for you. If you’re already using Canson paper, but want a better understanding of the characteristics and features of their papers, then this guide is also for you.
My goal is to give you a basic and practical introduction to Canson’s papers that you can put to use right away. I’ll discuss best case use for each type, and explain how and why different papers can influence the perception of your images. I’ll also share my recommendations for papers you should start with as you develop your printing skills.
Let’s start with the basics; paper characteristics. Fine art inkjet paper is composed of a base and a micro-porous coating. The base is what gives the paper its weight and feel, while the coating affects the texture, finish, and overall contrast level. A separate category of papers, called RC papers, are composed entirely of a plastic resin. Though they lack the feel and longevity of fine art papers, they are nonetheless excellent in many situations which I will share later.
The texture, or tooth, of a paper can range from ultra-smooth to rough. The differences in texture, from none to pronounced, provide lots of creative options that you can explore and take advantage of when printing your work. This interaction can complement and enhance the interpretation of your images immensely.
The finish determines how reflective the surface is, from matte to high gloss. Generally, flatter papers like matte and satin produce a softer, more subtle look (think painterly), while semi-gloss and gloss finishes provide a shinier, reflective surface, which appears more aggressive and photographic.
Overall contrast levels are affected most directly by Dmax, a unit of measurement for black density. The higher the Dmax, the more black ink a paper can hold, and hence the greater the contrast and shadow definition.
In order to make selecting the right paper a bit easier, I want to state some basic principles you can use as a guide. These principles are not judgments about which papers are better or worse, but rather relate to the characteristics of the papers themselves and how to use them creatively.
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each paper allows you to make creative decisions about which paper is best for your image.
This approach, which I call the image-centric approach to paper selection, lets you match a paper to an image to make a print that is more expressive and personal. It allows you to develop your vision as a photographer.
1. Density Levels
It’s useful to make a clear distinction between matte papers and all others, and this is the first principle of choosing a paper I want you to understand.
All matte papers have a lower Dmax rating than non-matte papers.
Lower Dmax does not mean better or worse, but simply means that matte papers cannot hold the same levels of black as satin, luster, or gloss papers. A matte paper may not be the best choice for an image that needs to be aggressive and photographic, but may be perfect for an image that is painterly, abstract, or subtle.
2. Louder or Softer
This next principle concerns how Dmax relates to aesthetics, or how we perceive varying amounts of density.
In general, a print can appear to be louder or softer based on its overall contrast level, or Dmax.
This is not to say that you can’t make loud prints with a matte paper, or softer looking prints with a luster paper. But generally speaking, if you want to convey a softer, more painterly look to an image, regardless of whether it’s black and white or has lots of darks, then a matte paper is ideal. Similarly, if you want to convey a more literal, photographic look that is more aggressive, then higher density is ideal.
This is the first decision I make when choosing a paper. Do I want a print to convey a louder, more aggressive look and feel? If so, then I start with papers that provide higher dmax levels, namely not-matte papers.
If I want a print to convey a more subdued feel, one that is more painterly and suggestive, then I start with a matte paper.
To take this concept one step further, you can also think of detail in an image as being analogous to volume. The more detail you convey in a print, the louder it becomes. Lots of shadow detail, which comes from higher dmax papers, will inherently be more photographic. Less detail in the shadows allows a print to be more nuanced and suggestive.
3. Texture for Dimension
This principle concerns texture, and how it can be used to complement your image compositionally.
In general, the smoother the paper, the less the surface of the paper impacts the image. The greater the texture, the more a paper’s surface affects the image, often adding dimension and complementing fine details.
If you have very smooth areas in your image, then a smoother paper will generally preserve those areas. If you have lots of textural details in your image, then a textured paper may enhance those details and add a bit of depth to the print. If you have areas of smoothness and detail, and you want to preserve those relationships as best as possible, then an ultra-smooth paper might be best.
In all of these cases, what’s important to consider is whether a textured paper will enhance or compromise the most important aspects of your image.
Less is More
The final principle is all about making this fun instead of intimidating.
The fewer papers you start with, the easier it is to understand these principles.
As you can see, most papers can be judged by these two basic categories: density level and texture. So starting with two papers from each category is ideal so that you don’t become overwhelmed with too many choices. I recommend the following papers:
This limited selection lets you explore all the possible scenarios that actually matter in the broadest sense with just four papers. From here you can fine-tune and expand your paper choices by adding papers that offer more texture, or perhaps a slightly different reflective surface.
But the basic look and feel of your prints will remain the same because you’ll more easily recognize what the main differentiators are—Dmax and texture. (I also recommend the heavier weights-310gsm-for increased stability and tactile experience.)
Because RC papers are not available in a matte finish, they all have higher dmax levels that matte papers. However, they are generally more budget-friendly than fine art papers, and for many purposes more than adequate.
They are great for proofing your images as well. Just remember that they are no substitute for the aesthetic experience of using a fine art paper.
Principals In Use
These principals are only a guide to help you navigate what can seem confusing and overwhelming. But once you understand these basic fundamentals, it does become easier to make decisions about papers.
What it does require however is looking deeply your images and asking, “what do I want to convey?” You must start there before you can become confident that you’ve chosen the right paper for your image.
What emotional response are you trying to elicit from the viewer? Does the composition clearly support what you are trying to convey? Would it benefit from a photographic look, or something less literal and more suggestive?
Here are a few real-world examples to help you understand these principles.
My first decision is whether I think this image needs high-density blacks or not. Do I want the image to feel loud or soft, aggressive or quiet? How much shadow detail does it need?
This image is about subtlety, the softness of the light, a painterly look and feel. Less density is best since it complements all of these qualities whereas a high-density paper would diminish them, making the image appear too literal.
Second, I chose an ultra smooth paper so that the textures in the image are maintained – the fog in the top portion should be as smooth as possible, contrasting with the grasses in the foreground.
Canson Infinity PrintMaking Rag – matte, subtle but distinct texture
Do I want the image to feel loud or soft, aggressive or quiet? How much shadow detail does it need? What role do the blacks play compositionally?
This image is also about subtlety, suggestive rather than photographic. I want all the trees to look and feel connected, so as to emphasize the interaction between the moving fog and the trees. Deep blacks would eliminate this, and make the foreground tree stand out too much, separating it from the rest.
I want to convey a sense of stillness and how I felt; quiet, aware, calm. Printmaking Ray’s distinct texture adds a unifying quality to the print that extends from the bottom to the top. The trees provide the strong shapes and detail that isn’t compromised by the paper’s texture.
Do I want the image to feel loud or soft, aggressive or quiet? How much shadow detail does it need? What role do the blacks play compositionally?
Dramatic, aggressive, definitive, grounding. These are all qualities I felt when I made this image, and the print needs to reflect that. Blacks play a key role creating the leading lines and strong shapes, and provide maximum dynamic range, which complements the image– from the shadows on the foreground to the highlights in the clouds.
I also want to maintain the textural relationships in the image (high texture in the foreground rocks, no texture in the sky area without clouds) which adds maximum depth front to back, so Baryta’s ultra smooth surface is ideal.
By now you know the questions… This image is all about the drama of the light – I want it to feel aggressive and dramatic, strong and undeniable. High density is what it needs in order for the blacks to appear as dark as possible. This doesn’t add shadow detail (defeating the composition) but rather makes the sunlight that much more rich and brilliant. The blacks create the light, and this image is about light.
Plaine’s subtle texture also complements the texture in the foreground rocks without any compromise to depth – the color and light provide the depth.
What’s important to take away here is that these ideas and principles apply to any subject, not just to landscapes. I have tried to describe qualities and emotions that are applicable to any style of photography.
This is why I don’t recommend a “best” paper for black and white or “best” paper for color. The best paper for your image depends on how you want to interpret that image and what kind of experience you want to create for the viewer holding your print. That to me is the most exciting part of printing your work. It connects you to your vision in a deeper way.
Whether you’re printing images of wildlife, people, architecture, or abstracts, think about what you want to convey and what makes the composition work. What compelled you to press the shutter button?
Canson Infinity papers are not just about quality and longevity. They are about maximum creative expression. Loud or soft, dramatic or serene, suggestive or photographic, and an undeniable tactile experience.
All of these are characteristics you can and should consider when you select a paper for your image. With practice, your prints can become more personal and representative of your vision, whether for a museum, gallery, or your home.
Download a printable PDF version of this article!
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This article is excerpted from an upcoming ebook “The Ultimate Field Guide to Canson Infinity Paper” which I hope to release in early 2018.
What is the most important question you can ask yourself as a photographer? There may be different questions depending on your circumstances, but in all cases, I believe they all lead back to the most fundamental question: “Why do you photograph?”
It’s the most important question because it requires you to look inward rather than outward for the answer. It removes the non-essential and reveals the only thing that can help you grow as a creative person; motivation.
It’s motivation that pushes you past the failures and challenges, the constant fear that perhaps you’re not good enough. Motivation keeps you oriented on the creative path instead of dependent on a goal. Goals aren’t bad, but they can also become distractions that move you away rather than towards personal vision.
Your personal vision.
Of course, you have personal vision. We all do. Meaningful photography is about sharing your personal vision, not achieving a goal defined by others. (Social-media likes, sales, or photo contests.)
In my latest 2018 wall calendar, I decided to write my answer to this question on the intro page. Below is what I wrote.
One of the most important questions an artist can ask him or herself is “Why do I do what I do?” In my case, it’s “Why do I photograph?”
Yet photography is just one of the ways I express myself creatively, much like others that inspire me in their focus on the message rather than the medium.
“I am an expressionist and by that I mean that I’m not a photographer or a writer or a painter or a tap dancer, but rather someone who expresses himself according to his needs.” – Duane Michals
I need to express myself for a simple reason. To share my overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for nature. Gratitude for life and living. And most of all, gratitude for the privilege I have to share those feelings and emotions with others through my work.
In this calendar, I’ve shared examples of that gratitude through my landscape photography. But I am always looking to find more ways to express myself according to my needs. The message is what matters most.
I hope this wall calendar increases the sense of gratitude in your life. That makes my work all the more meaningful.
We can all have our personal reasons for why we photograph that are equally valid. I share mine not to impress, but to clarify for me what motivates me.
What’s important here is not what the answer is, but that you’re taking the time to seriously ask the question. Think carefully about the answer. Challenge yourself to go beyond the obvious, and explore your emotions.
Not only will it help you see more clearly, it will remove distractions that don’t really produce better images. Meaningful images come from the heart, your heart. Don’t sacrifice that for anyone or anything.
“If you want the best the world has to offer, offer the world your best.” ? Neale Donald Walsch
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