Before we begin I need to preface this by saying that this is a bit of an insight into the creative part of my brain. Creativity is a seldom spoken area of photography. Why? Because it is hard to try to learn and even harder to explain... So bear with me.
This article will help train you into thinking differently. But, (like anything) you'll need practice to become adept at it.
Anyway on with the story...
I traveled from London to Dover (UK) to check out the white cliffs, port and surrounding town. We arrived just as the sun was rising out over horizon and immediately headed for the seaside. As soon as we arrived, I felt my brain shift gears.
"What is this creative thinking?" you say. It is where your mechanical actions become largely automated. It feels like you're subconsciously pulling resources from the pragmatic portions of your brain and putting them into the creative part. You take more time to look at things. You are better placed to visualise shots before you even lift the camera to your eye. Things that you would ordinarily walk past become opportunities for shots.
Thats great how can I do it?
As you stroll on your photo walk let your mind wander free in your head. Try it alone (initially) and without distraction (phone, music or podcasts). A rarity these days. This allows strange thoughts to come to the surface, funny memories and different ideas. All of these ideas can become a part of your photographic thought. You'll find your natural rhythm will sync to that of the environment.
Something will catch your eye or a theme will begin to develop in your photography throughout the day. Whether it be people, or a small story within your walk, the colour green or even just an object. Make a mental (or physical) note of these and keep going back to them during the day. It will spur you to think differently.
My photowalk was centred around showing the beauty of Dover. But within this primary goal was a number of smaller photo series.
One of which was a pair of giant cell towers. These towers caught my eye from the first moment I saw them. They were a pair of huge manmade structures perched on a natural landscape. I liked showing that contrast. As we travelled throughout the day (unable to get any closer) I worked on a short series of photos.
Here were the final 4 shots that I took away:
While the photos are nothing spectacular they show the point. Within your primary photowalk goal should be a number of smaller goals. All the better if you can develop a story with them them! If not then you can say you "thoroughly worked the scene". You never know one of these small subjects may turn into a full fledged multi year project for you.
For me I don't know if I will ever use these "Two Towers" shots but now I have them in my catalogue. Perhaps it could develop into a project one day?
How to make getting to a state of creative flow easier
You really need to be comfortable with your camera. You should be able to imagine what you want and know what you need to do to shoot it. If you are having to think about the technical problems that your camera presents then it will pull you out of the moment. To be honest the technical parts are easy. There is a lot of information out there to help you break through this barrier. Even I have written the following articles if you need help:
But further to this you can check out YouTube or any of the online course sites such as Lynda.com or Creativelive.com. I can't tell you how many hours I spent there when I first got serious about photography. Work hard on this and keep shooting regularly until it becomes second nature.
That was difficult to write and I hope it made at least some sense to you. What I would really like for you to get out on a photowalk at your next available opportunity. It could be anywhere: a park, the seaside or just in your neighbourhood.
Start by setting yourself an overarching goal such as "the colours of my town". But then break that down into smaller series of blue, green and yellow. Trust me, you will find that when you have a bit of purpose it allows you to automate your physical actions and unlock your creative brain.
But I won't let you off that easy. I want you to post a picture or series of pictures. You can put them on in the visitor post section of the Cultured Kiwi facebook page (below). Put a caption in there to explain your thinking behind the shot. We can then review yours and you can review others work.
If nothing else this gives you an excuse to get out there and get some shots.
Thanks for making it this far and I look forward to seeing some results!
Ben - Cultured Kiwi