Working at Seeing

imageFlanders Nature Center, Woodbury, Connecticut © Steven Willard

“Work the scene”. I’ve seen this advise to photographers again and again, but it’s advise I have to work to remember. Perhaps it is a carryover from years photographing with film where every exposure had a price, at times substantial. In those days I felt each exposure as it lightened my wallet. When I used medium format the cost of a roll of film plus the chemicals to process it (not to mention my time) added up in a hurry. And when I shot four by five it only got worse. As a consequence I tended to photograph what attracted me but I didn’t then see what other possibilities were at hand. If you started photography using digital you may find it difficult to imagine how this might affect ones practice, and it’s a hard habit to break.

These days I will stop to photograph something I might have passed on in the days of film. I’m aware that there is no cost per se once the purchase of the camera and other equipment has been made. The big difference now is that I will then keep shooting, “working the scene” as George Barr* encourages. But old habits die hard, and I find I have to continually remind myself to loosen up and look around.

This image was made at the same site as the blog entries “Things change” and “Sheep pasture, no sheep“. In fact they were made within thirty feet of each other (although the “before” image of “Things change” was made years before). The fact that I took a few moments and was able to find two more workable images is proof, to me at least, that I should be working harder to develop a scene, and at seeing. The truth is that if I had taken more time I probably could have found another five or ten images. This all speaks to a topic I have touched on before; one of the reasons I enjoy photography is because it helps me see. Photography is a teaching tool for me. It teaches me to take notice of what is around me, whether I photograph it or not. It is a great exercise, and I firmly believe it is a productive tool.

Panasonic Lumix G3 with 20mm f1.7 lens. Converted to black and white in camera anad processed in Nik Snapseed® on my iPad Air.

* I highly recommend George Barr’s books, Take Your photography to The Next Level, From Camera to Computer, and Why Photographs WorkThese three books are all in soft cover but well printed by Rocky Hill Publishing. He finds subjects for photographs in places most of us would pass up, and his insights are well worth the cost of the books. and



5 comments on “Working at Seeing

  1. I love this photograph.What might seem simple at first glance is incredibly complex. Like syncopated rhythm, Thanks again, Steve, for the lesson in seeing.


  2. As always, thanks for you comment.


  3. Marc Isolda says:

    Yes, you definately have the eye old boy!! Another great image


  4. Marc Isolda says:

    oops. definitely should be.


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