Getting yourself inspired & self-motivated, no, not self-medicated

As a photography instructor, if you were to ask, “What’s toughest to teach in photography?”, I’d have to answer, “How and where to find Inspiration or Motivation.”

The concepts, the technical wizardry, the f-stops and so on, my students will get. Some faster than others. Eventually that stuff sinks in.

After all, there are only that many controls on the camera. Aperture controls depth-of-field. Shutter speed controls whether you freeze the motion et cetera…assuming you just stick with available light and a few lenses.

Lots of folks gravitate towards photography because it’s relatively easy and inexpensive especially in the digital era.

But few stick around after the initial novelty of the equipment wears off. Those are the ones who tend to buy more gear than they really need.

For instance, the super-wide angle lens. Everything looks neat the first time you mount the lens on your digital SLR.

You can see your toes when you shoot verticals. You can sort of see behind you.

But how often can you use it? Well, let me count the ways. In the gondola of a hot air balloon, in the cockpit of an airplane, for mounting it on the backboard at a basketball game or any other tight quarters when you want to capture a shot remotely.

For this aerial view of the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley, I mounted a motor-driven Nikon F3 fitted with a 18mm  f3.5 lens on the wing of the glider and triggered it remotely via radio control. Shot using Aperture Priority with aperture set at f22 for maximum depth-of-field.

Film used was slide or transparency Fujichrome 100. Before takeoff, while on the ground I established the hyperfocal distance and then taped the lens barrel so that the focus wouldn’t shift. Radio remote/slave was Venca.

Toughest part was guessing where the white tow plane on the right would be relative to the glider I’m riding in.

I asked the pilot to bank while I imagined what it would look like if I were outside hanging from the wing. By the way, it’s been at least 5 years since I used that manual focus lens.

For most people that amounts to maybe 5 times a year tops and those are professionals.

For the average amateur, it’ll be like once a year.

Rather than become a gear hound, concentrate on mastering and making the most of the gear you do have.

Concentrate of your content inside that viewfinder.

Pay attention to lighting. Often great portraits can be done in simple settings.

Concentrate of finding the nerve to go up to a complete stranger whom you find beautiful or good-looking and asking them to model for you.

If I wasn’t a newspaper photographer in my previous life, I’d have to say I’m not comfortable doing that either.

A cute picture of a dog by itself says one thing but adding a woman’s purse in the picture gives a sense of scale.

But having done that for almost 2 decades, establishing a rapport with a stranger is now easy.

They can only say, “No thanks.”

The best advice I can give beginning photographers is to do some soul searching.

Ask what subjects matter to you. If you are passionate about an activity or hobby, channel that passion creatively and use it to capture it visually.

I enjoy animals. I like dogs, so here are some pictures about Agility.

Done while I was still at the newspaper, this was a self-generated idea.

You have to do projects that interest you.

Choose your subjects the way an artist with a brush does.

You will seldom go wrong.

You’ll be surprised how that insight you have translates to unique-looking images.

Without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, my fkight training from a different lifetime ago, helped.

I knew what to expect so that I could anticipate the problems.

Motion sickness aside, my previous experience helped because I was able to communicate effectively with the pilot to “bank,” “slow to stall speeds” and etc.

There is a certain amount of drudgery even when working at a newspaper, so the onus is on the staff photographers to come up with great visual ideas.

When working on a project, the key is to find a variety of pictures so that it doesn’t appear as if you were there on one occasion.

Experimenting with different lenses, viewpoints, panning gives the viewers a fresh look. Think interesting eye candy.

Don’t forget the humans and their reactions when you photograph. Watch, observe, anticipate and then be ready with that telephoto lens, exposure set with aperture wide open to blur out the background!

4 thoughts on “Getting yourself inspired & self-motivated, no, not self-medicated”

  1. Thanks Rachel. I’m always surprised to hear from strangers who get my ramblings about photography.

    Until I upgraded to the Canon 40D, I had my share of dust problems. But in post production with Lightroom or Aperture you can batch-clone out the dust instead of messing with the dust individually.

    I’ll post how to do that when I have a moment. It’s no fun to pay so often to have your CCD cleaned. I suggest you go on youtube and watch some of the tutorials on how to do it yourself.

    It’s not as scary as you might think. The tutorials are all there. Some are better than others obviously.

    The internet is a wonderful tool for this sort of learning. You just have to learn to filter out the good from the bad.

    Poke around the youtube website and I”m pretty sure you’ll find one that works well for you.

    In the meantime, thank you for subscribing to my blog. If you have questions and requests, let me know.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on the DPS blog. I think you are totally right, and I needed to hear this to not be seduced by the Canon. I think I was most attracted to the self cleaning sensor feature, since I just had to spend a lot of money and time on getting my Nikon D70’s sensor cleaned.

    I’ve subscribed to your blog – can’t wait to get into all the new information and insights!! From a photography teacher no less. Mine in college was great and sometimes I’d like to get his thoughts on my work again – see what he thinks after 5 years since having me!

    Thanks again.

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