“There are two kinds of light–the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.”
– James Thurber
It’s hard to say when it began to stir, but I welcome the nudge to do something new, to try new ideas, to expand on proven practice of what I understand in lighting.
The changing of seasons always seems to inspire me. New years has its resolutions and new start, spring breathes new life into the frozen, summer lets loose with bare feet and the smell of cookouts with friends, fall paints the landscape and gets out the warm fuzzy clothes as winter returns and the circle completes. Even while this current year’s winter inundated us with shut-in, bone chilling days, I do enjoy the seasons in Indiana. There’s something inspiring about the changes happening.
Weather patterns aside, it’s easy to get in a creative rut when you stick with what you already know and don’t get to try new ideas. It’s safe, but reliable, predictable but repeatable. Peppered throughout last year’s wedding season’s celebrations were so many photos that just popped. A new look, a different angle, a moment where everything just worked the way I hoped it would come together. It is in the pursuit of these dramatic, creative photos that I find myself wanting to do more with what I’ve learned and try new ideas. Inspiration can feel dangerous.
This March especially I’ve had a lot of ideas running through my mind’s eye. It is, in fact, some of those same creative brainstorms that kept me from returning to sleep early this morning. Watching the sunrise, even if I’ve been up most of the night leading to it, always sparks a bit of creativity and refreshing. As we count down till April 26th, the start of our spring wedding season, the stirring to hone my use of lighting has been growing.
To explain what has been stirring reminds me of the first few rolls of film I shot through my first SLR. What a sound as the shutter snapped! What a feeling to hold a manual 35mm body, focus a 50mm lens, and see your ideas in print. In 2003 when I checked out some photography books from the downtown library I was surprised to find a sticky note with my handwriting on it stuck inside some of my favorite books I read over and over when I started off with my 35mm camera.
Everyone needs a creative outlet, and more so, I think, when you use your creative outlet for work. When I was so busy with photo work last summer that I didn’t get out much to shoot on my own I picked up a Holga to try new ideas and get away from the things I did for work. I loved the break from the digital realm and really love the funky photos the Holga makes. It was a shot in the arm for creativity. I even snapped a few photos with this $25 plastic gem while at “work” with $10 grand around my neck and waist in optical Nikon stock. That’ll turn some heads!
Short story long, I ran across an impressive photography and lighting blog that has really outlined this quest of creativity. The Strobist Blog outlines The Lighting Journey as such:
- Ambient light is best. (I love working with great ambient light and using minimal extra gear! It is, however, only one of the ways I light a photo.)
- Competent on-camera flash. “It is comfy and predictable – which is not necessarily a terrible thing. Warm milk is not a terrible thing, either.” Eesh.
- Overdone off-camera flash – going nuts with lighting setups, “nuke it till it glows” (not a problem I’ve run into, thank goodness!)
- Experimentation – while the other stages are “comfy and predictable, experimentation is error-prone, and sometimes random in its quality. Which I will take over predictable and boring any day.”
- The Bag of Tricks – knows what works, versatile and flexible, knows what will sell. Hey, can hear a camera shutter and know if it’s too slow for a sharp shot, or see a flash / lens combination and know if there’s enough range to get a good exposure. But then again, I should know it that well when I rely on reflexes to catch fleeting moments. I have a good bag of tricks techniques I use very well.
- Personal and Unique Lighting Style – Often with this style comes huge financial success – and rampant, blatant imitation from others. (Not there yet on either account.)
- Subject-driven Light – defined by absolute mastery of the craft to the point where it transcends into art on a regular basis.
The command of a wide array of techniques leads to a pure versatility unmatched by other shooters. The key is a variety of styles – singular or combined – from which to choose The Appropriate Response to a given challenge.
It’s the difference between a very good cellist playing a piece, or that same piece being owned by the late Pablo Casals.
It is being so far beyond the mastery of technique that “how-will-I-light-this” is replaced by sheer, instinctive vision. It’s craft to the point of genius. It’s Dean Collins in his prime.
So much to ponder. The sun’s bright in the sky lighting the overcast morning sky, coffee’s done and I’ve got music streaming. This day is looking pretty inspirational.