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Photography Tips: Vision, Creativity, and Imagination

Updated: May 14, 2020

Vision | Creativity | Imagination

Vision, creativity, and imagination come from within. They are shaped by our own personal experiences, feelings, and dreams.

In writing this blog on the making of my Swan image, I realized that the essential ingredients lie not in the photography, but in the personal process. Therefore, my explanation is less about technique than about the intangible elements.

My most rewarding and creative images embody my lifelong passion and connection to the natural world and/or people.

In his book, The Creative Photographer, Andreas Feininger eloquently states that "...a photographer who is also an artist naturally emphasizes qualities of his subject which he considers important to its characterization and suppresses those which, in his opinion, are confusing or of secondary importance." Feininger asserts that subjective/creative images "... often convey at a glance what might have taken the photographer-artist a long time to understand. They present concisely edited, refined, and condensed impressions which can easily be understood by anyone."

"Emergence" - Fall migration of the Swans in Potter Marsh, Anchorage, Alaska

This Swan image, "Emergence," is a simple combination of two images, both from Potter Marsh. It feels "right" when I merge my subjects with abstracts, blurs, and textures that are made in the same place. I rarely embark on a shoot with a predetermined vision. I shoot what comes to me. In my recent trip to Alaska, I reveled in the cool, crisp air at Potter Marsh; shooting the Trumpeter Swans passing through on their migration south. On a couple of occasions, while the swans were off in the distance, I made some abstracts that played on the rich fall colors, the textures, and the sinuous waterways created by the influx of Rabbit, Little Rabbit, and Little Survival Creeks. Some were panned (not necessarily straight); while others were panned, zoomed, and rotated. When I sat down, the first thing I did was select my favorites. I then studied them and contemplated how best to pair one with a swan image to elicit the feeling one gets from watching them flap their wings in preparation for their journey of many miles. Their flight is symbolic of our own journey upwards.

Below is the environmental abstract that comprised one of the two images in the Swan composite. The Swan was added as a layer in Photoshop and masked in twice; once in Soft Blend mode, and another in Overlay. Other tools used sparingly were clone stamp tool, liquify, and the brush tool. To retain the "magic," I'll leave the Swan to the imagination rather than completely deconstruct my image.

Above: Potter Marsh Abstract. Shutter Speed 1/8 sec, f/22, iso 100, 24mm. Shot while panning, zooming, and rotating.

Above: A conventional shot of Potter Marsh and below a few more abstracts. Sometimes they stand alone nicely and don't always end up in a composite.

In the image below, "Fishing Buddies," 3 brothers fishing in the Matanzas River, the story is simple. It is one that most of us can relate to... their youth, innocence & joy; making memories in a place they call home. My hope was for this photo to touch the viewer in a personal and nostalgic way. It was made using similar techniques as the Swan.

Everyone has the ability to cultivate their creativity. As food for thought, here are Nine Ways to Dramatically Improve your Creativity by Larry Kim, CEO of MobileMonkey.

It's been said many times, and echoed by Feininger...

the camera is merely a tool just as a brush is to a painter.

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