The art of seeing

Christmas tree ornaments

“The question is not what you look at but what you see.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

To me photography is less about the mechanics of the camera than the ability to “see” in the creative sense.  Developing a creative eye is about seeing things in a different way; a personal visual opinion rather than obvious point of view.  We all have preconceived ideas about how something should look, and that is what we photograph, so if we want to be creative we must drop these preconceptions and start looking at things in a whole new way.  Even if you already have an artistic vision, know the elements of design, and understand the rules of composition, the challenge is to translate that through the lens of a camera.

Geranium petals, Beynac, France

My favorite book on photography, read years and years ago and which made a big impact on how I approach taking pictures, is “Photography and the Art of Seeing” by Freeman Patterson.  It offers lessons on how to develop creative vision, “think sideways,” and how to go about breaking many of the “rules” of photography to accomplish that.  Its exercises help you see the extraordinary in everyday items.  I thought it was a wonderful book at the time and – to me – this is what makes photography challenging and fun.

Gravestone detail, Ireland

While I don’t claim to be an expert at any of this, I care a lot more about this aspect of photography than what f-stop I’m using.  I usually come home from a vacation with one or two “weird” pictures that maybe no one but me likes, but I really like them.  These are the photos that keep me taking more pictures, even if no one else understands them.

Red things, Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac, France

By the way, please don’t buy this book. It will change your photography.  I feel like I have an advantage, and I want to keep it!  Now I think I’ll go re-read it and get inspired once more….. I have decided I need to take more “weird photos.”

The escalator at the Louvre, Paris. I got some strange looks from this one.


4 responses to “The art of seeing

  1. I LOVE your “weird” photos! They are always the best. More traditional photos are wonderful as well, but the creativity of your “weird” shots are what make it all worthwhile! Love those!!

  2. I have to admit I was one who looked at you strangely when I saw this picture, but now I think it is pretty great. Being me, I couldn’t figure out what the heck it WAS…..

  3. And I DO like “the red things”.

  4. AH HA !!! I knew you had a secret guide to fine photography somewhere.
    I’m on it ….will check out the University book store sometime soon!
    Your initial words on ‘a creative eye’ are so true. I’m still a hack (compared to you) when it comes to ‘the eye’, but I’m working on it.
    Your ‘weird’ photos are what make you unique. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’, ’cause whatever you’re doin’ ….you’re doin’ very good. D

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