Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

The Hardest Thing I Have Done (Photographically)

As I have mentioned a couple of times in the last several months, I have been putting my photographic efforts into a project that I have been working on quite diligently.  It is really the first such project of its type, in terms of size, that I have undertaken.  When all is said and done, I suspect it will be a portfolio of somewhere between 40-60 finished prints.  I am not ready to discuss the specifics just yet, but expect to be able to by or in February, which is, more or less, my self-imposed deadline for completion of the prints and audio.  Audio??? Yup...please stay tuned, as the project will contain my very first attempts at associating audio files with images. Trying to complete a project like this is, without question, the most difficult photographic undertaking I have devoted myself to.  I would like to post some thoughts about what some of the challenges have been for me.  I made a similar post when I was just starting the project, but wanted to add some further thoughts and ideas now that I am deep into it.

Weather - I have commented on more than one occasion that one of the best aspects of shooting close to home is that you can make images at many different times of year and during many different weather conditions.  But what if the location is far away or if you have limited access for any of a number of possible reasons.  Then you are, to some degree, at the mercy of the prevailing weather and associated lighting conditions when you have the opportunity to make images.  If conditions are not what you might have hoped for then you must simply make the best of what is available and shoot whatever complements the lighting.

Editing - It is incredibly difficult to edit literally hundreds of shots (many of which you might be emotionally attached to) down to a far smaller number. Remember, the viewer couldn't care less how difficult it was or how long it took you to get the image.  They only care about what the finished image looks like (and rightly so). This has been the hardest aspect of the project for me. Along the same vein, if the project is about one subject, how similar in composition and subject can good shots be in within the one portfolio without feeling repetitive?  How narrow should the portfolio topic or subject be?  What should be the thread that holds it together.....location, subject, shapes?  One can assemble a project 'about' the same subject in many different ways.

Sequencing - Putting the images in a meaningful sequence is far more difficult when there are 40 or 50 images instead of 4 or 5. Should they be grouped by location, subject, time, detail vs wide environmental shots, tone, shape etc?  What should the flow be?  And to add to the problem, it is far more physically difficult to lay out and sequence a large number of prints, as compared to just a few.

Toning - If the project is monochrome, the choice of toning, if any, will affect every single image.  You can make yourself a bit crazy trying to find the perfect toning.

Presentation - What size and in what format should the finished project be presented (paper prints, canvas, a book, a folio).  Perhaps all of these?

Getting It Out There -  After putting in so much work, one has to think about ways to get the work seen.  The more you think about it, the more possibilities seem to arise.  But each of those possibilities entails much additional work, so it pays to choose wisely.

Time - Working on the portfolio takes up a good deal of time.  It has to come from somewhere.  For me it comes from time that I might otherwise be out shooting.  So it really needs to be time well spent!

Why Photograph?

My last few posts have been to share interesting articles I have found on the internet.  And for that reason I was planning not to do the same with this post.  And then I ran across photographer Paul Butzi's article entitled "The Flash Of Recognition (Or, Why I Photograph)". Reading his article gave me insight into the question of "Why photograph?" that I had felt internally but was never really able to express.  Paul has expressed it with great clarity, and I want to share his words, as they really hit home for me.  Perhaps they will for you as well.


When I walk into one of my children's' rooms during the school year, it is usually just out of the corner of my eye that I am able to see their web browsers being minimized.  If you have a child in high school, you know what that means.  Without question they are "Facebooking".  Mine aren't particularly into Twitter (as far as I know!), but many are.  My estimate is that out of every hour spent studying, at least 30 minutes is spent on Facebook......or checking to see if they have received a Facebook message. Then I started a rather large and, to me, exciting photographic project which is going to be taking up a good deal of time.  I will likely be posting more about this in the future.  But it occurred to me that these same things that distract my kids might also be distracting me.  Photographer Cole Thompson recently blogged about this as well and wrote a post about his possibly giving up Facebook.

The other thing to consider is if Facebook today is really what it once was or what it was initially envisioned to be when every large multi-million dollar corporation has a Facebook fan page.  I mean there are people who make a living giving seminars on how to use Facebook, Twitter, and social media in general for purely marketing purposes.

I have to say that I have never been willing to be anything other than myself on my Facebook fan page and enjoy using that forum to share my work.  But it takes time to post on Facebook, it takes time to produce a Twitter feed, and it even takes a good amount of time to write and upkeep this blog.

Now, this blog is truly a labor of love, as it will be 4 years old in January with this being the 468th post!  And I feel that writing about photography gives me ideas and helps me think 'photographically'.  As I mentioned, I do also enjoy maintaining my Facebook fan page, but I have already considerably weaned down my "Twittering" to almost nothing.  I long ago gave up posting images to Flickr because I found the whole award and invitation process silly (which is not to say you can't dig and find superb work there).  But I find myself wondering if doing some of these things is indeed a distraction from getting my photographic work done when one has a 'day job' and  limitations to the amount of time available for photography.  After all, in the end, it is the work we produce that defines us photographically.

So what does it all mean?  I am not at all sure.  I really don't want to give any of it up.  But I know that I have definitely cut back on posting to my Facebook fan page simply because of time constraints.  And my blog posts here have decreased to about once every five days.  But I would rather write fewer, well thought out posts than more frequent ones that say less.  Perhaps by giving up just a little I can end up producing more photographic work.

I would love to hear other people's thoughts about this issue.

Artwork Is A Personal Journey

Over the years that I have written this blog, I have frequently noted other photographers and other blogs that I have enjoyed.  Today, I would like to point out a blog post from a photographer whose work I have enjoyed (and purchased) and who I have had the opportunity to meet personally.  This particular post really made me think about the uniquely personal aspect of artwork.  I think you will enjoy this post by photographer Cole Thompson about comparing your artwork to the work of others. If Cole's writing touches a chord with you, then you will most assuredly enjoy reading Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.  This book is really a must-read for all who take their art-making seriously.  In fact, I found the book so meaningful that I reviewed it in the past.  Click on the following link to check out my review of  David Bayles and Ted Orland's book Art and Fear from back in 2007.

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

Who?????  Say it slowly now....Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who lived from 1863 to 1944. Sergei was apparently supported by Tsar Nicholas II to photograph Russia from 1909-1912.  He used a very sophisticated camera to take three rapid, sequential black and white photographs, one using a red, one using a green, and one using a blue filter.  He was then able to combine the images and display them with filtered lanterns to yield a final color this starting to sound like Photoshop channels, or what???  The more things change, the more they stay the same. The images are quite amazing, particularly given the era they come from.  Here are two images and a link to the original story that displays 34 of the photographs.  Of note, The Library of Congress purchased the glass plates in 1948, and there are hundreds of them to see.

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, Russia

Image by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

Image by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

Image by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

One of the fun parts about this was how I found out about the story.  Isn't it a pleasure when your children grow to the point that they understand and respect your interests, even though it may not be their 'cup of tea'?  Well, my son in college came across it while surfing the internet during a study break and sent me a link to it because he knew I would find it interesting.  He was right and I thought I would share it on the blog!

A Realization

I was to have gone photographing with my "Sunday Morning Photo Buddies"  last Sunday.  However, because of a requirement to potentially be available for work I could not join them, as the scheduled shoot was too far away and it would have been difficult to get to work in case I was called in.  So, instead, I found some locations very close to my home to go make pictures. While I was out shooting, a realization surfaced in my mind.  I say 'surfaced' because I think I have recognized it for some time, but being forced to shoot very close to home, and enjoying doing so, really made it congeal for me.

And this is the realization:

The more I photograph, the more I realize that photography is less about finding something that looks beautiful than it is about making something something look beautiful.  Taken one step further, this realization can have a profound effect on where one chooses  to go in order to make photographs.