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May 11, 2009


Every art student in the world spends a fair amount of time trying to copy old masters, to understand their techniques and to understand how they worked. We really should be doing a lot more copying ourselves, whether stuck in a rut or not.

Pick a picture - any picture - from, say Cartier-Bresson. Try to shoot "the same" picture. Try several approaches, and find out what elements in the original really are essential to _that_ picture and which are incidental. It may even be that not a single visible thing in the picture is important, but just the overall shape of light and dark, and the mood.

In the end you'll have a lot of lousy pictures, a much better understanding of the original, and probably a dozen new ideas for you to work on.

I personally find the "set limits" recommendation to be very effective.

By choosing a theme (say, for example, "doors and windows"), you not only know where to look (which makes it simpler than looking *everywhere*), but you also end up with a coherent body of work.

If you set very restrictive limits, like "interior of building X", it also forces you to look harder, take your time, use a much more contemplative approach, work on perfecting your composition, etc. It's almost certain you'll come up with something interesting where you would never have imagined there was--especially if you walk through that building everyday without ever having taken the time to *look*.

The limit can also be *time*. Imagine you're working on an assignment for a client, and you have to come up with a good image in a given amount of time, say two hours. The added pressure might not work for some, but for others, it will give them that little extra push and force them to produce something.

You have more chances of producing interesting images if you go out and shoot images than if you just think about images you'd like to make or think you can.

Speaking of shooting with a different lens, here's something I've used to get out of a rut: http://tinyurl.com/qxesa2

Gordon, that's a cracking shot you took. The kids are standing in exactly the right places (as is the tennis ball). You couldn't have staged this any better :-)

"You couldn't have staged this any better"

I couldn't have staged it at all. Lucky for me I didn't have to.

The more I look at this, the more I like and appreciate it.
It is "a moment in time" (as you write about in today's post), but everything about that moment clicked. Thanks for posting it.

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