ProcessionII_1999_425

Procession II, Cushing, Maine, 1999

It took a clear set of plans to make this image – Procession II. First, I had to know what kinds of images I wanted to make, prioritizing some over others. Second, I had to figure out the elements needed for a general composition. Third, I had to identify the specific final composition I wanted to make. Fourth, I had to identify locations I could find these subjects in, travel to them, and make exposures at the right time. Fifth, I needed to photograph one stone from multiple angles in a light comparable with the overall scene. Sixth, I needed to plan the location, shape, and quality of the shadows that needed rendering during compositing. It all came together, after a lot of planning. Without a plan it would have involved a lot more trial and error requiring more time and resources and even then it’s quite likely that I may never have arrived here without a clear vision for where I wanted to go and why I wanted to do it.

There are other kinds of planning that are needed to succeed both professionally and personally. Whether you’re engaged in your creative life professionally or simply as a vehicle for personal growth (an important distinction to make), I recommend you make a creative plan. If you do this, you too will find both your productivity and fulfillment will increase, in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Set a mission (why you’re doing it), goals (what outcomes you want), projects (the big things you do)(set goals for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, and end of life) and actions (the small steps you take to getting your projects done)(detail your 1 year next actions list) for your creative life.

Align your creative mission with your life’s mission. Most people need at least two missions; one for their life in general (which includes many things – health, family, finances, etc) and one for a specific area, like their career or creative life, which may or many not be the same. Make sure that your missions share something in common – something other than yourself. The more you can align them, the more likely you are to achieve them, increase your productivity, and be more fulfilled.

A plan is a work in progress. The best plans are flexible and can be modified. If I don’t learn something new from a process, often something that shifts my perspective significantly enough to start doing something better than before, then I feel I haven’t truly excelled at what I’m doing. I expect to improve my plans. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t waste time making plans. It does mean I can waste time making plans that are too detailed or too speculative. In addition to learning when and how to plan, it’s also important to learn when to stop planning. But do plan. Planning not to plan is planning to fail. If you don’t make plans, life just happens and you may not make the time for the things that matter most. Make that time.

Questions

How can planning help strengthen your creative efforts?
At what stages and in how many ways can you encourage the evolution of those plans?
When is it better to abandon an old plan for a new one?
What are the positive and negative effects of having no plan at all?

Find out more about this image here.

Read more The Stories Behind The Photographs here.

Path I, Death Valley, California, 1999

You may have heard the phrase, “You’re responsible for everything that’s included within the frame of your images.” Few stop to consider that this also means, “You’re responsible for everything that’s not included within the frame of your images.” We can eliminate objects in the frame in many ways – moving the frame, moving objects, and retouching are the three most common and progressively make pre-visualization more challenging. All three practices came into play while making this image.

One day, I drove to a remote corner of California’s Death Valley National Park called the Racetrack a location famous for the unusual paths that rocks made on the clay playa’s time-cracked mud. Theories about the cause of this mysterious phenomenon include ice, wind, magnetism, and extraterrestrials. The playa was wet when I arrived and couldn’t be walked on without leaving new tracks. (The park requests that people not make new tracks and only walk on the playa when it is dry.) So, I made exposures without tracks and later made new ones virtually, digitally removing cracks from the image selectively to form the appearance of a path. By removing something old you can create something new. Elimination can be more than a matter of hiding, it can also be about revealing.

The art of composition and storytelling is indeed as much about what is not included as what is included. Making these decisions is more than choosing an angle of view, it’s the beginning of a point of view.

Questions

How many ways and to what end do you typically eliminate things from your images?

How many other practices of elimination can you imagine?

How would practicing other forms of elimination change the nature of your images?

The Story Behind The Story Behind The Image

(Years later, photographer Jay Maisel commented on this image, “That’s a good one. I’ve got one just like it. Only, mine’s more pure. I drove my car out on the mud.” (I assume he did this at another location.) “Mine’s more ‘environmentally friendly.’” I responded, only half in jest, as I consider a majority of my work a form of virtual environmental sculpture. I do this kind of work virtually and ephemerally because I’m working in a culture that doesn’t have a common land use ethic and I don’t want to impose my interpretation of the land on others and future generations, particularly in pristine places, whether public or otherwise.)

Find out more about this image here.

Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

 


These are two book covers for projects I’m currently developing.

I create visual reminders for projects I’m currently working on. Then I place them in my working environment. They constantly prompt me to consider the work I’m developing at many times and in many moods. I sleep on it. I collect sketches and notes. I plan trips to make new exposures and list what I kind of material I’m looking for. I assemble relevant finished images in the series. I look for connections between images currently being made and images made in the past. I list many ways to develop the work.

What projects are you developing?
What kinds of visual reminders would be helpful to you?
What other things can you do to develop the work you want to do right now?

Read more about project development here.
Find more resources about developing your personal vision here.
Learn more in my digital photography workshops.


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