Photography means a lot of different things to many different people. It brings pleasure, focus, and a sense of achievement to millions of people around the world. I have been doing photography since I was 16, which at the time of writing was some 38 years ago.
In that time I have learned a lot, had highs and lows, bursts of creativity followed by weeks of photographer’s block. I suspect that story is the same for many of you. Yet, we still keep at it, we still go out and take photos. When the photography bug bites you, you have an itch you need to scratch for life.
So without further ado, here are five things I love about photography.
It Pushes My Comfort Zone
I am naturally very introverted. If you had to pick someone from my school year that would travel the world and take photos, I would have been last. Yet, here I am many years later living in the former Soviet Union, traveling and still eager to see new places. That is, in whole down to photography.
You can spend your life in your own town and undoubtedly find new things to photograph on a regular basis. There is no doubt about that. However staying in one place keeps you in your comfort zone, and being there, can stifle your creativity.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, heightens your senses. New sounds, new smells, and of course new vistas, all combine to increase your creativity, to make you more visually aware.
You don’t have to travel to push your comfort zone. You can also do it simply by trying a different genre of photography. Something you have never shot before. It’s a great way of pushing your boundaries.
It’s Both Creative And Technical
Someone who is a painter works in a purely creative environment. Engineers or mechanics are regarded as purely technical jobs. Photography however is a wonderful blend of both.
Very few of us are purely creative or purely technical and for this reason, photography appeals to so many. We have an amazing tool. We need to understand shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. We need to master many buttons, dials, and knobs.
However, even if we do master them, simply using a camera in a technical way is not going to give us great photos. We need to think, engage the creative side of our brains in order for us to capture amazing, out-of-the-ordinary photographs. The beauty is that you can make photography as technical and as creative as your ability allows.
Might be a controversial one, but I love shooting very early in the morning. By that, I mean at the beginning of the morning blue hour, just as the first smudges of light appear in the sky.
For me, it’s a beautiful time of day. No one around, very little traffic, and often the weather is incredibly calm. This can give you a mirror-like surface on bodies of water, no movement in foliage, and most importantly, a quiet empty space in which to practice your creativity.
Of course, the morning blue hour does have some drawbacks. In summer, in more northern latitudes it can mean incredibly early starts. In Northern Europe, sunrise can be at 4:30 am in June. That means being on location around 3:30 am. It can be tough to get out of a nice warm bed to shoot, especially if you cannot tell how the light is going to be. However do it once, and the results you get will motivate you to do it time and time again.
The Need To Adapt
Remember those stupidly early mornings we just talked about? What happens when you rock up on location at the cusp of the blue hour only to find the skies are a uniform grey. You could always go home and try another day, or you can adapt your shoot to something more appropriate.
This enforced, thinking outside the box, is a key driver of our creativity. It also pushes us outside of our comfort zone.
The need to adapt is a constant theme in photography. It might be the need to adapt our creative approach, at the moment, on a shoot. It might also be the need to adapt our techniques or learn the new functions in a newly bought camera. That constant need to adapt is one of the hooks that continually brings us back to photography.
That 16-year-old self, some 38 years ago was obsessed with technology. Of course, being 16 and being 1983, technology was somewhat more low-key than what we have today. Still, I remember being obsessed by the selenium cell on the front of my Zenit 11, or by the ability of my ZX81 to display text on a TV.
These days technology has moved way beyond what I, and most people could have imagined. Our cameras capture images digitally, we have touch screens, smartphones, and of course the Internet. All of these elements are at play in modern photography, and I love them.
Being able to select focus on a touch screen whilst shooting video, still gives me an unexpected thrill. Using computational photography to create a long exposure image from a humble iPhone image is amazing.
The thing I love most about technology in photography, however, is not the now, but the near future. Cameras of the future are limited only by the scope of our imagination. The advances we have seen over the last ten years are only the prelude to what’s coming. And if you really want to know how technology is going to progress, watch the phone manufacturers. They have the massive research and development budgets to push what is possible in small sensors and tiny lenses. That technology will filter down into more mainstream cameras.
So there we have it, five things I love about photography. I am sure each and every one of you has their own list of five, probably more than five for some. For, me, I left technology as the last point, because it excites me the most. Where we will be in five years? I struggle to even think about it. However, I am pretty sure it will be incredibly exciting!