Progressing as a photographer and artist means striving to see things in a new way
By William Neill
I'm always looking for the next step for my photography, asking myself, "Where can I take it from here?" I'm a big Tiger Woods fan, and one thing I admire in him is his constant desire to improve, no matter what level of greatness he has achieved. He seems to genuinely take pleasure in his hard work and training. The question, specifically for landscape photographers, is how can we take our own technique and creative vision to a higher level?
One way to do this is to focus on adding new work to specific areas of interest. The first step is to see clearly what you've worked on previously—in other words, where you stand on a specific theme. This is an important way to analyze your strengths and weaknesses. When you've thought through some goals for a body of work, you can photograph with the needs of that group in mind.
For example, I have an ongoing theme of patterns in nature. Within that group, I have a series of macro images of autumn leaves. Every autumn, I keep an eye out for interesting leaves to photograph. The two photographs shown here are part of that series. The image of a red maple leaf was photographed many years ago in Acadia National Park.
The second image is of a leaf I found outside my studio. Several years ago, I planted a cottonwood tree, and I've been watching it grow ever since. Last fall, as the leaves turned yellow, I noticed that some leaves developed an interesting combination of green and yellow. I found this leaf after it fell off the tree, and I photographed it with my Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, 50mm macro lens and a nifty device called a McClamp (www.mcclamp.com) to hold the leaf in a fixed position. The late-afternoon light was shining on the backside of the leaf.
The two images are shown here as an illustration of the evaluation process for adding new work to a portfolio. The red maple leaf photo is an established image in my Patterns portfolio and was included in a book I illustrated, By Nature's Design. By comparing the two images, I could judge whether my new image was worthy of adding to my Autumn Leaves portfolio. I asked myself, "Is the quality consistent? Does the new image add depth to the portfolio, or is it repetitious?"