My two greatest influences are not photographers. They are artists.
Vincent Van Gogh is one. Georgia O’Keeffe is the other.
Then, the photographers fall into line. People like Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel and David Alan Harvey. Every one of them, artists and photographers, influence my way of seeing. In color. And, all for different reasons.
Who influences you?
I was reading an article about many of today’s “digital photographers.” They bought a camera, maybe a few lenses and a flash. Off they go. They have no idea of the history of what they are doing. Or, who came before them. And, techniques used to make the picture of their dreams.
Now comes a whole class of “internet photographers.” These folks have never worked on assignment. Never made a commercial picture.
As you know, I use OnOne RAW photo editing software rather than Adobe products. The company has a whole host of “gurus” who will teach you their favorite techniques. Some are free. Some cost money. Or, they’ll take you on a guided tour. For even more money.
That’s fine, I guess. Everybody has to earn a living. They lead you to some far-flung location like Iceland, which is beyond very trendy, and photograph right along side of their class. All fun, I suppose. But, if you ask them where you can sell or license your newly made landscapes, they have no idea. Most of them sell through their website.
The real take away from this is that you are trying to learn from a person who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. I don’t give workshops or lead tour groups because I don’t know enough. And, I’ve been doing this for 47 years.
I suppose I could do something in New Orleans. But, everybody and their other brother comes down here to lead some kind of group. I’d rather make pictures, then be responsible for getting someone killed because they wandered into the wrong neighborhood carrying 40 pounds of gear.
By the way, this is not a rant. I don’t have many of those left in me. This is pretty much kind of a state of the industry, especially as it applies to new photographers, or those of you who might get a new piece of equipment from Santa. One can only hope. Right?
Here’s what I suggest.
If I were starting out, I’d take the time to learn everything I could about my new-found love of making pictures. I’d go online. I’d go to the library. I’d haunt museums. And, I’d visit galleries. Not only will you learn what came before, but your own direction might find you.
Of course, I wouldn’t limit myself to that. I’d photograph constantly. Every city, town or village is interesting in its own way. Your backyard might hold something interesting. You’ll see why in a minute. I’d look at my work, deleting nothing on a lcd because you can’t see anything on those tiny screens and you don’t want to be called a monkey because the slang for peering at your lcd after taking a picture is “chimping.”
I’d develop the new work and look at everything closely. What are your successful pictures? What are your failures? That’s the most important thing. Select a few pictures, not everything that is sharp because that’s not culling, and work on post production. I know that some people make a big deal of saying “this is straight from the camera,” but, that’s nonsense.
Then, study some more, make more picture and do it again. And, again. And, again.
That’s the secret. Hard work.
I said that I talk to you about backyard pictures. Well, this picture is one of them. I walked outside around the blue hour and looked up. Believe or not, I didn’t do much to it in post except enhance what I saw. I did go further but the warm colors started turning electric. Like neon signs in the cool blues. That didn’t work for me. This did.