The Best Of The Content I Consumed In 2020

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People who really know me know I keep a lot of lists. I constantly track what I do. It’s a mindfulness practice that lets me thoroughly review and reflect on how I’m living my life … and how to live it in a more fulfilling way moving forward.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it’s not … because to make the lists I steal ten seconds here and rarely more than thirty seconds there. I make these lists in Notes on my iPhone, because it’s always with me and I can quickly access the notes on any of my computers too. At the end of the year I spend a little more time making notes on each list

Because I made my lists, at a glance I can see the kinds of activity and content that are bringing me the greatest value … and the ones that aren’t. I can identify my preferences, tendencies, patterns and changes in them.

I date everything for many reasons – to track the amount of activity plus sequences and patterns within it. Comparing lists shows me the influence of one area of my life on another. Sometimes the numbers help me set goals and stretch to equal them in the future, but I don’t put too much pressure on this – just enough to make me feel good about it. It’s a way of helping me do more of the things I really want to do … and do less of the things I don’t want to do.

At the end of the year I review them, record my observations, reflect (sometimes with writing) on areas that are most meaningful to me. Then I make a quick final list from the other lists. This is that list.

It was a true pleasure to reflect on the high moments of this year.

How good was each? I rank each with a number from lowest 1 – 10 highest.

Here’s are my top picks from 2020.

(You might enjoy some of them too!)

Art Book – Via Celmins – To Fix The Image In Memory (7)

Music – Joe Satriani – Shapeshifting (8)

Piano Piece Learned – Satie – Gnossienne #4 (9)

Movie – Documentary – My Octopus Teacher (10)

Movie – Comedy – Fisherman’s Friends (8)

TV Series – The Durell’s In Corfu (8)

Master Class – Malcolm Gladwell – Writing (7)

Non-Fiction – Jack Grapes Method Writing (9)

Fiction – Madeline Miller – Circe (8)

Poetry – Richard Blanco – How To Love A Country (9)

Workshop – Richard Blanco – Poetry Chapbook Intensive (9)

Find my Best Images here.

9 Ways To Bring More Joy To Your Photography

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My wife and business partner Arduina’s enthusiasm is intoxicating.

So I asked her to share a little of it with you.

Here are her 9 Ways To Bring More Joy To Your Photography.

1. PLAY!

Give yourself the gift of playtime. Try new things without judgement. Make a portrait of your neighbor, or your neighbors peacocks. Make a self portrait holding your most prized possession. Arrange a still life from your junk drawer. Try abstraction. Go underwater or book yourself a hot air ballon and try areal photography. Ask a friend to drive you around. My husband will sweetly slow the car down to help me make an image of a fox in a field or a goat on the roof of a shed. Try motion blur, long exposers  or double exposures. Shoot with different lenses and cameras; try a 400mm lens with a doubler or a macro; play with plastic lenses or a Holga; or use a scanner as your camera. In order to get the most joy from playtime all you have to do you have to make time for play. I think of it as a healthy form of self care – if you can spend an hour on a treadmill you can spare a few minutes to photograph your favorite tree.

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2. Experience A Different Time Of Day

Be amazed by magic light! Drag your sleepy head out of bed and watch as the dawn moves across your windows or play in the dappled light under a canopy of trees at mid day.

3. See What Your Eyes Can’t

Get yourself  a tripod and shoot after dark. You could even use an intervalometer  to make a time-lapse of yourself while you sleep and you may solve the mystery of who has been stealing the covers.

4. Explore

Wander about and  catch yourself in a smile. Notice what you notice and make a record of what resonates. Photographer Keith Carter says, “Time spent in reconnoissance is never time wasted.”  Time enjoyed is never wasted, whether you make a picture right then or return later with a wagon full of birdcages and clocks.

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5. Be Inspired By Your Favorite Song Writer Or Poet

Pay homage to the song that got you through a bad break up or spend some time with  Mary Oliver as she tirelessly guides you through the natural world.

6. Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes

Try on a different point of view. Find happiness in shooting a scene while lying on your belly or standing on your tippy toes with your arms stretched up overhead. Any advice involving shoes makes me happy …

7. Lighten Up

Ditch your inner critic. Just because Edward Weston made an Iconic picture of a bell pepper doesn’t mean that you can never photograph a pepper. Just make pictures. In fact the one most people think of is entitled “Pepper No. 30”  but he must have had an amazing time playing with creepy pepper #14.

8. Learn To Composite

So what if that cloud was in San Francisco and that ocean is in Maine ? Perhaps they would like to meet in a photograph?

9. Make A Print

Hold the joy you have experienced in your hands! Put it on your wall. Glue it in a book. Or mail it to your mother-in-law to thank her for loving you. I make my prints on an Epson printer – and I am deeply in love with that part of my process – but a print in any form (Cibachrome, cyanotype, or collodion) anything with three-dimensions is joyful to me!

View Ardie’s photographs on Instagram.

Visit Ardie’s website.
Inquire about one-on-one online training here.
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Creativity Exercises

 

Looking for new perspectives? Try these practices.

 

1. Defocus
Ensure the foundations of your composition are strong.

2. Eyes Wide Shut
Expand your intelligence by tapping into your other senses.

3. Gesture 
Add gesture to your process.

4. Get Physical With Your Subjects
To truly touch your viewers you may have to touch someone or something else first.

5. Walk With Someone 
Walk with someone and photograph together. You’ll see a different way of looking at the world.

6. 22 Ways to Find Inspiration 
How do I find inspiration?

7. Set Your Mission, Goals, Projects, Actions
The plans you make are there to further your progress.

8. Using Props
Try using props in your images to stimulate many creative ideas.

 

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Use Postcards As Props


I often like to use props to make photographs. One of my favorite props to use is images. Photographing other images, in many cases, photographing other photographs, adds layers of complexity and offers many poetic opportunities. Images ask you to look and to look in certain ways. Two images ask you to look and look again and to look in multiple ways. I find this extremely stimulating. Making images with other images in them can be a fantastic creative wellspring.
Here’s a selection of images with postcards in them that I made during my 2011 Iceland workshop.
Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.
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Make Your Own Postcards


For a time, I swore off making photographs that were like postcards. I was looking for something else then. I was looking for my own unique approach to making images. My thinking was that if I took a vow of abstinence from what I knew I wasn’t looking for, I’d eventually find what I was looking for. Eventually, I did.
After some time, I reconsidered this aversion to making postcard-like images. I started making them, again. Making postcards is excellent practice. You have to be fairly competent to make good postcards. Postcards survey a subject, tell a story, offer human interest, present strong color, and are composed of relatively strong graphic structures. Sometimes, postcards make strong emotional appeals. When you think about it, that’s a pretty tall order.
Postcards try to do it all – and do it all competently. It’s interesting to note that to transcend postcards, all you need to do is emphasize one of these qualities over the others and do that one thing excellently. Making postcards is great practice. To make good postcards you have to understand them clearly. To transcend them, you have to know the difference between them and what you’re really looking for.
Below is a selection of iPhone postcards from my 2011 Iceland workshop.
Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.
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Use Postcards As Quick Surveys


One of the first things I do when I arrive at a new location is look at postcards made in the area. Postcards give me a quick survey of the highlights of the region and the classic visual approaches that many other photographers have used to make images there. Postcards help me decide where to go and what to look for. Postcards also present me with a great challenge – transcend this.  Postcards help me up my game.
Here’s a selection of postcards I collected during my 2011 Iceland workshop.
3 out of 6 of them are by Ragnar Th Sigurdsson.
Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.
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iPhone At Play – Charles Adams


My assistant, Charles Adams, spent this years Maine Fall Foliage Workshop photographing with the iPhone. Below he talks about his experience.
“Making images with an iPhone can be a terrific creative exercise. If you regularly shoot with a DSLR, the iPhone can simplify things and offer a new experience. I found this to be the case during this years fall foliage workshop. I left my Canon in the car along with all of the photographic requirements and responsibilities that I usually attach to it. It was a freeing experience. Suddenly the pressure to make the best photographs of my life was no longer there. I was free to play.
Being able to process your images seconds after shooting them is also key to the iPhone experience. The many apps available make it possible to shoot, edit, share, and get feedback before even getting back in the car. In my case, apps had a direct effect on which pictures I chose to make. I knew I was going to apply water color and oil painting filters to my images, so I tried to shoot accordingly. I set out to find good compositions with strong “bones.” “Bones” meaning solid structure that could benefit from the addition of dramatic effects.
The resulting images were fun to create. Changing the tools you use to make your images can offer new insights into your own photography. I strongly recommend allowing yourself to play.”
Visit Charles’ website here.
Find out about my digital photography workshops here.

SCAMPER

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SCAMPER
Having trouble coming up with new ideas? Get thousands of ideas with one word. Try SCAMPER. In 1939 advertising executive Alex Osborn, “the father of brainstorming”, first proposed a set of nine strategies for creative thinking, seven of which were later rearranged by Bob Eberle into the mnemonic SCAMPER.
S   Substitute
C   Combine
A   Adapt
M   Modify
P   Put to Other Uses
E   Eliminate
R   Rearrange
What are the other two missing words?
Minify, which I like to think of as expand and contract or put another way reduce and enlarge.
Reverse, which I think is the most powerful tool of all. It’s typified by the 180 degree rule. Do the opposite.
The underlying assumption with SCAMPER is that new ideas are based on old ones. This may not always be the case, but often it is. To use SCAMPER, you have to start with something.
You can use SCAMPER as a list of questions that can be used to generate new ideas. Simply ask, “Can I ____ something?” inserting the words SCAMPER represents one at a time. Next, you might try using two words at a time. Later try three. Classically, the best solutions are the simplest, but not always.
Find over 20 creativity tips here.
Learn more in my workshops.

Identify and Isolate the Variables

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Identify and Isolate the Variables
In any situation, it helps to know what elements you’re dealing with and what each of those elements contributes to the mix. With that information you can get results you desire more predictably and exert more precise control over the process. This idea is routinely applied in scientific fields where the benefits are clear for all to see. Not solely applicable to areas that are highly technical, it is equally applicable in any creative endeavor. Being analytical is one mode (to be listed among others) of creativity. The art is in knowing when to apply it, not being limited to using it exclusively or avoiding it altogether.
Find more Creativity resources here.
Stimulate your creativity in my workshops.