Category Archives: The Creative Process

Beyond Capture

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The art of photography for me is a multi-layered process. It begins with a visualization, an idea. Subject matter, composition, framing and lighting all come into play along with other considerations such as context, emotion or inspiration before the shutter is released .

Photography—as well as most art forms—is a kind of dialog between the artist and the viewer. So an early element of the process is developing a visual story. I am not interested so much in documentation even though I don’t alter any elements and do minimal post-processing. I strive to express an underlying abstraction, interpretation or feeling.

The next layer in the process is the presentation. This extends well beyond the capture stage. Needless to say, it originates with a strong image.  At this point much time is spent evaluating and deliberating if it is worthy of sharing and what form it should take. Upon sharing the image it becomes an offer for the viewer to experience the results.

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“Less is more”  ~ Ancient Greek proverb


“There is great beauty in simplicity” ~ Mirra Alfassa

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Living in the world today can be complicated and overwhelming. We are inundated with a myriad of stresses, diversions, stimuli and expectations to our physical and mental well being. I’ve learned that simplifying things can provide a sense of freedom and balance. I believe that more isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more.

Particularly for my work I have tried to keep things simple, both in my approach and vision—to eliminate superfluous, distracting elements and capture the essence of my experience. In doing so I have found I can concentrate more on what’s important to me and have a finer focus and direction, both in creating my art and in living my life.

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

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“Simplicity is the glory of expression” ~ Walt Whitman

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“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary” Pablo Picasso

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“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful” John Maeda


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“To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting and often false.” ~ Dorothea Lange

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Creativity emerges from looking or thinking without preconceptions. Examining things without preconceptions offers an opportunity to develop a new and different way of perception, a unique viewpoint. 

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“It’s about reacting to what you see, hopefully without preconception. You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you…” ~ Ellliot Erwitt

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Often preconceptions of what is good or bad can stifle creativity. Having years of informal and formal art education and experience, I can’t recall a professor, teacher, mentor or instructor that offered “rules” to follow in creating work, other than to consistently pursue it with a fresh, individual and independent approach. I have consciously tried to follow that advice and will continue to abide by it.

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“Constant reminding ourselves that we not see with our eyes but with our synergetic eye-brain system working as a whole will produce constant astonishment as we notice, more and more often, how much of our perceptions emerge from our preconceptions.” ~ David Eagleman 

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When I go out to photograph I generally do not have a preconception of what exactly I am going to shoot. Of course the inherent subject matter is more or less dependent on where I am, but I keep my mind open to what I may encounter. In doing so, it often becomes a calming, almost meditative means of practicing mindfulness.

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The dictionary defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgemental state of heightened awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Mindfulness is the process of focusing conscious attention on your present experience, giving all of your attention to recognize and acknowledge what is happening around you and within you in the moment without judgement or overthinking. 

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Being mindful in this way fosters an awareness that leads to expressive creativity and aesthetic sensitivity without a bias as to what is appropriate or pleasing. It develops a consciousness of and openness to possibilities, emotions and feelings. And hopefully, that will appear in my work.

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A large amount of my photographic work includes horizon lines in the composition. It is a common feature of the landscape—the line at which the earth’s surface and the sky appear to meet. Yet it is merely a visual perception. It doesn’t really exist as a place we can ever reach. It appears to be there, but it only exists in our consciousness. Making a photograph of it is one way to momentarily bridge the distinction between perception and reality.

Horizon can also imply a looking forward to a future experience or event, something imminent or becoming apparent—good fortune is on the horizon. This interpretation may convey an anticipation and expectation of what lies ahead.

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Another meaning of horizon is the limit of a person’s mental perception, experience or interest—broaden your horizons. In this sense of the word an image of the horizon can suggest a reaching for something more, a desire to become better.

The Light

A camera is basically a device that records the effect of light. The word “photograph” actually is based on the Greek words photos and graphe literally meaning “drawing with light.” Through the use of a variety of optical devices and exposure techniques these effects can be controlled and manipulated to create an image. Historically, the image was created by exposing materials such as metal, glass or plastic that have been coated with an emulsion that reacts to the light. With today’s digital technology the image is captured by electronically recording the light photons that hit the sensor in the camera.

When I go out to shoot, I always look for the effects of light on the environment or scene. Is it harsh or soft, bright or subdued, dramatic or subtle. Colors, shadows and details are all affected by the conditions encountered. The light essentially determines how the images will be impacted.

Often I seek subtle lighting conditions that will offer nuanced shading and textures in the subjects chosen. These conditions provide the soft and subdued characteristics that create serenity and calmness.

Other times I look for more unexpected situations that highlight or accentuate particular elements of the composition.

In the end, it’s being conscious of the light and being aware of its effects that provide me with the inspiration and appreciation to continue to experience and photograph the beauty in this world.

New Eyes

Since arriving in the high country of North Carolina early last October, I have been hiking several trails and exploring the nearby region with my camera. In doing so I have naturally encountered many of the same landscapes and sights while looking for new and interesting subjects. Early on I realized even though the scenery didn’t change, my outlook had to if my creativity was to stay fresh.

In the wisdom of Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”. So I took that wisdom to heart and began looking with “new eyes”. Seeing that way is not limited to subjects chosen, but how I choose to shoot it.

I ventured out at different times of day to capture the varying conditions of light. I waited for changing weather conditions that would affect the details of the picture. I looked for varying compositions and points-of-view that might not have been obvious before. Not all the images were “successful” but in short, I experienced the same places with a renewed energy and creative vision, resulting in a perspective that was refreshing, exhilarating and rewarding. 

The Print

Photography is more than a medium for communication of reality, it is a creative art. Many controls allow the photographer to achieve desired qualities in his or her images which provide creative expression from initial concept and visualization all the way through to the print.

However, the techniques of printing are far more flexible than those involved in processing of the image. To paraphrase Ansel Adams, the negative (or in today’s world the digital capture) is the score, the print is the performance of the score. Depending on personal vision, different photographers can each make varying prints from the same negative or image capture. A great amount of creativity lies in the making of the print, with endless and subtle variations to be determined by the photographer to provide a personal perception or emotional response.

Making the print is a unique combination of creative activity and execution, including tonal values, print media, size and more. The print is the opportunity to interpret and express the original vision and the desired final image which will reveal what was seen and felt. As Adams has said “if not for the element of the “felt” (the emotional-aesthetic experience), the term creative photography would have no meaning”. It is the final expression of photographic vision.