The view from above.
The view from above.


That’s the question. As I mentioned yesterday, a fellow blogger asked how I come up with my ideas. If you read some of the comments for yesterday’s post, especially those between Michelle and I, you know my answer.

I don’t know.

I’m not putting anybody off. Or, being secretive. All I know is that I always saw and thought in the way that I do. It wasn’t always as clear to me as it is today. But, clarity came with time, experience and practice.

Besides, telling you how I come up with something is assuming that my something is the same as yours. That can’t be correct. We are all different.


Instead, I’m going to talk about my rules. The ones inside of me.

I’m hesitant to do that because a year or so ago, WordPress asked new photographers to shoot a picture following The Rule of Thirds in one of their challenges. The response was loud and very noisy. “I’m not following any damn rules.” “I can do anything that I want.” “Who needs rules?”

Uh. Wait a minute. The Rule of Thirds is a mathematical concept based on some laws of nature. Human beings are more or less built in thirds. So are trees. Flowers. Bushes.

Lighten up. Read the concept. Learn the rule. Then break it.


My first rule is Robert Capa’s old saying. Capa was a famous war photographer who photographed World War II’s D-Day and managed to step on a land mine in the earliest days of the Vietnam War and blow himself up. He said, “If the picture isn’t good enough, you weren’t close enough.” Think about that. It doesn’t just mean physical distance. It means an emotional distance. Spiritual distance. It implies closeness with the subject.

My second rule. “Don’t take the picture. Let the picture take you.” I’ve heard that from a number of sources. Think about that. Wait, wait, wait. The picture will appear if you just work with the subject and take your time with it. Sometimes it’s a look. Or motion. Or light.

My third rule comes from National Geographic Society’s William Allard. I never look at pictures of a place to which I’m traveling. I research it. I read about it from a historical perspective and from a semi-fictional point of view. I prefer to find my own pictures. I do not want to duplicate somebody else’s work. I don’t want to find the place where 100,000 other photographers worked. I don’t want my tripod to be in their tripod holes.

My fourth rule comes from Jay Maisel. If you aren’t impressed with your own picture, how do you expect me to be impressed by it?

My last two rules also come from Mr. Maisel. Leave everything and everybody better off than when you found them. Make your subjects smile. Talk to them. Remember that your picture is their story. Tell it. With honor and dignity. That applies to scenics as well. Take nothing but pictures.

And finally, always carry a camera. You can’t take a picture without one. It is certain that the moment will not ever be the same. It’s not very hard these days to carry something with which to make a picture.

Which ones do I follow regularly?

All of them. They are deeply ingrained inside of me.

I’m going to add one more. My own rule. I’m old enough now that I can create rules too. Heh!

Don’t make every picture you take precious. You don’t have to go on some big trip to take pictures. Take pictures. At home. In your yard. While you are out and about. As a friend of mine says, some of the best pictures are the ones that you make photographing your world. Show us your world. You’ll be far better off for it. So will we.

These pictures. My world. My way. Christmas lights. Decorations. And, a bit of the tree. Why this way? I started out by shooting family pictures and the usual documentary things. Pretty soon I got bored and started looking at shape. And color. And light. I controlled everything. But, the ISO. I let that fall into auto because photographing directly into lights can get tricky. You can end up with a bunch of bright point of light and a bunch of silhouettes. And… I’m lazy.


Stars and lights.
Stars and lights.