Friday, February 20, 2009

The Importance of a Change in Perspective

One of the challenges for me as an artist in the winter in this high Arizona desert environment is finding my inspiration. There's not as much variety in the landscape as I'm used to. When I say there's nothing but juniper trees, dead grass and an occasional tiny cactus for MILES around I'm not exaggerating.

Except maybe a little bit. Obviously there's the occasional cow or jack rabbit or coyote. There's interesting pieces of petrified wood and things like that. But the environment is plain, simple, not nearly as exciting as the coastline at Big Sur or the garden at the UCSC Arboretum.

Still, when it comes to subject matter, some very famous artists have never been held back. Claude Monet, for example, painted the same scene of haystacks in a field over and over, showing the change of light through the day and through the seasons, and actually made a living selling them. He was one of the few impressionist artists of his day that made a living from his art while he was still living. Lack of subject matter doesn't have to be the problem!

So a few days ago I sat still for a while just looking at my environment and felt inspired to go on a personal photo shoot. Paul insisted I bring both cameras so I could use two different lenses without having to change them. It was windy and he didn't want sand getting into the camera but it turned out to be a great suggestion for another reason. I never change lenses. I'm too lazy. But because I had two very different lenses with me -- a macro (extreme close-up) and my normal wide angle -- I was able to take advantage of the extreme difference in perspective these two lenses had to offer.

Using a macro lens in windy weather typically would not be a very good idea. In fact, it's a really BAD idea. The lens focus is so tight most macro photography is done with a tripod. It's a requirement really for the kind of work most macro photographers are known for. But all that meant is that I had to let go of the outcome and use this photo shoot simply to get out of my head and let the experience show me something new.

For that purpose I also took advantage of another Paul Hood photography technique. Paul shoots blind. Not all the time. But once in a while, when he wants to get a very special angle on a shot that he can't get any other way, he just swings the camera out away from him, points it in the direction of his subject, and hits the shutter without looking. Bam! More often than not he gets an amazing shot. And the true joy in it is that he gets a perspective on his subject neither one of us could see enough to get. There's magic in it! Something unexpected happens and it's a lot of fun! (Thank goodness for digital photography though. You also get a lot to throw away.)

Here on this blog is an example of how that worked for me. All three photos were taken in the exact same location. One was taken normally with me looking through the camera lens. The second was taken blind with the camera held below my waist. The third was taken the same way with the macro lens.

The blind macro technique led to some really wonderful effects. Some of my shots wound up looking surreal, like an abstract painting. And then I found that if I used the unique perspective the blind technique showed me and then actually looked through the lens to line up my next shot on purpose... I got some really unique and creative stuff.

I'll be sharing them over the next few weeks. I'm calling the series that came from this shoot "Desert Grass, Cactus Spikes and Barbed Wire."
These photos are available as framed or unframed fine art prints or prints on canvas through my Imagekind gallery. The first two are also available on a variety of products (mugs, t-shirts, greeting cards, etc.) through Cafepress.

1 comment:

Tammy Moore said...

Love this post! Fabulous!