Yesterday was Winter Solstice in my part of the world. For me, that means the blankets are out, candles are lit, the nuts I’ve gathered are ready for consumption and it’s time to prepare for next season. Aside from Winter tours (believe it or not, a Chicago winter is warmer for some people!), there’s not an innate motivation to grab the camera and go outside. This has been even more true the past couple of winters where snow has been at a minimum, giving little contrast to the gray days and dirty streets.
It’s true, Chicago isn’t always picturesque.
Yes, I said it. As with most large cities, there are times that downright lack motivation to go out and photograph. What I didn’t say is there is nothing and nowhere worth photographing.
Today, I’m hoping to inspire you to keep photographing the world around you, even if that world is gloomy or indoors and the motivational wind has been knocked out of you. I’m going to be focusing on inanimate objects, “still photography”, as I know your children (if any) are a constant box of photo opportunities but not always in the mood for your creativity.
Scenario 1: Indoors
So you’re stuck indoors. The weather is nasty outside or you’re laid up from an illness or surgery. Whatever the reason, your soul is restless and you need to be in that camera-in-hand creative place. You look around you. Everything is ordinary everyday stuff. Can you see the photographs? No?
Start looking for the light, whether it’s the sun, ambient daylight or a lamp. What direction is it shining? How is it affecting objects within its light?
Next, look around for patterns, textures, lines, objects that make a good juxtaposition, bright or contrasting colors…in other words, stop looking at the things around you as ordinary objects and start seeing their attributes.
This photo has texture and light, but what is it?
Would you believe it’s diffused sunlight through my two plastic water bottles I’m holding together?
What about this one? Is this a photo of all real fruit? Can you tell?
I have to tell you, this photo didn’t just come to me. It was only after doing the things mentioned, after
trying things that didn’t work. And when this photo made me chuckle, I knew I had found my muse..
Try it for yourself. Now.
Your plants, your home office, your kitchen. This was taken in my kitchen.
Scenario 2: Gloomy Day
It’s often said overcast skies are a photographer’s friend. If you’re anything like me, you thrive on sunny days, and a gloomy day is like someone popped the bubble wrap and left you none to play with. Don’t fret. Creativity is possible in gloom.
So grab your camera and let’s go for a walk. Walk somewhere familiar, somewhere you’ve seen on sunny days. Don’t look at the sky. Look at your level, look at details of buildings, trees, flowers, water…details usually hidden under the sun’s shadows. Notice things you normally don’t. Now, walk up to one of these subjects. Before taking a photo, look at it. Does it have texture, lines, something out of the ordinary? Look straight on, move to either side, step back away from it, really analyze it. What first struck you about this subject?
Got it? Take your photo. Take five. Of different perspectives and angles.
Let’s walk on. Before going too far, turn around and look at your subject once more. Are you satisfied or do you see something else? Look forward. What do you see next? Let’s go for it again.
Whether indoors or outdoors on a gloomy day, did you notice the commonalities in getting started?
Slow down and look around you
Our creative flow can sometimes be squeezed by speed or force. And with camera technology being more and more instant, it’s easy to snap away.
As I’ve said from the very first tour, you need to see the photo before snapping it so slow down.
Find the attributes of your subjects
Every subject has something, an element of design or lack of. Smoothness or texture, light or dark, lines or curves or dots, shape, color…you get the idea. And something caught your attention. This “something” is your starting point.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you and provide you a kick start. If you found this article helpful, please share it with others.