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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Quest To Be Better


Build depth around a theme to create a broad body of work

Labels: How-ToOn LandscapeColumn
Seasonal changes are especially exciting to me. In front of my house, a small elderberry tree grows under a large, spreading oak. In early autumn, the elderberry leaves dry out and fall to my lawn. Over many years, I've observed this process, but last autumn, I noticed especially wonderful colors and patterns on these leaves, so I gathered them into a box. Placed in a corner in my dining room in between two windows, I watched and waited for special lighting, experimenting with exposures at different times of day. The great advantage of this portfolio concept is that I don't have to go on an expedition to make images, but I'm able to keep my creative juices flowing.

After 14 years of living and photographing around my home, the portfolio's depth is now strongly established. The images are diverse, but united visually by the theme of nature and pattern and locale. The portfolio title plays off the fact that I work at home and that my work blends with, and blurs into, my family life on a daily basis.

Now, I have an assignment for you. Think of a theme you might develop, perhaps a local bit of landscape that you can study every day, or at least every week. If you have an established local theme already, consider how you might improve it. Ask yourself what other subjects or approaches might add depth to your theme. Do you need to add more variety of seasons? A new camera angle? Wider views for context, or ones with a tighter scale for an intimate perspective? More variety of light and weather conditions? In other words, what's missing?

Photograph specifically for your theme, with its concept and needs of the portfolio in mind. Plan your photo sessions for this assignment in terms of location, subject, time of day, etc., in order to maximize your efforts. Add new images to the existing group that blend harmoniously and complement your established portfolio. Be open to new ideas and opportunities that present themselves while photographing, even if they aren't on your checklist. When you spend a few years or even a few months on a portfolio, with passion and focus on improving it, you become a better photographer!

And, remember, our "seeing" needs daily practice. Beauty is all around us every day!

To learn about William Neill's one-on-one Yosemite workshops, ebooks and iPad app, see his latest images and learn about his online courses with BetterPhoto.com, visit his website at www.williamneill.com.

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