Focus on the Unconventional

January 8th, 2013 by Jack Graham

Focus on the Unconventional

In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with headlines and news that is filled with negativity or just plain old doom and gloom. And worse, it all happens so quickly in this fast-paced, internet, smart phone, iThis and iThat world. Volumes of information are sent our way from all kinds of sources. Blogs, websites, social media, advertisers came at us from all ends. It’s an “I need it now” world, and like it or not, most of us fall victim to these anomalies, often not knowing it.

Recently I have been writing as well as stressing in my photography workshops, that we must slow down, and “be into the zone” in order to attain the right state of mind that will give us the chance to create artistic images when we are out in the field.

Today, we have at our fingertips the most advanced equipment that our pocketbooks will allow us to purchase. We can process image with unthought-of technology non-existent, just a few years ago. This is useless unless we embody the creative process.

With all of this technology surrounding us, many photographers ignore the need for creativity and imagination and rely on the technology to produce the end product. This is what I call the “I can fix it in Photoshop” mentality. This is a prescription for failure. Unless we use the right side, or cognitive side of our brains, our creativity will be forever stymied. How do we do that? Read on.

We the photographers put our mark on every image we present, not just the good ones, but every one. Think about that next time you post an image or send one out in an email. Better yet, think about that before initiation the shutter.

“We all do ‘do, re, mi,’ but you have got to find the other notes yourself. “ - Louis Armstrong

In my past widely published article on preparation, I talked about how I go about preparing for a day in the field, be it on my own or during a workshop.  Let’s take this to the next level, and discuss some unconventional ways of focusing your mind and moving into the right zone.

  • Before heading out for the days photographic activity, make sure you have set aside plenty of time, after dressing, packing the truck etc to have something to eat. Then relax, listen to some music (not the news!), have some quiet time, and self examine your mood, and open up your creative window for the day. Take as long as it takes. Sometimes sitting in silence can be the trick. Leopold Stokowski, a famous conductor once said “A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. We provide the music, and you provide the silence.

“I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning… Every day I find something creative to do with my life”. - Miles Davis

  • It’s been written that we must visualize the image before even heading out for the day. However, lets backup. Try to consider how you think your entire day might go, not just the first location of first image(s). Consider where you are going and the potential of what the entire day “might be”. With this in mind, an average sunrise might not spoil the balance of the morning allowing your creative spirits to be undiminished. Now let’s go even a step one-step further.

Think of how you’ll feel when you get home with a memory card   with some really good images on it. Feel how lucky you are to be able to be out in the beauty you will soon enter and be thankful. We are lucky people you know!

  • Upon arriving at your location try putting yourself into the geography and environment. Again either sit quietly or walk around slowly, observing, preferable without a camera for a few minutes. It often amazes me when folks arrive at a location in the dark and start fumbling with their cameras. Time is better spent getting your head into the zone. Understand that you are now are in total control of everything. This includes your equipment and emotions. Take things slow. As the light becomes a viable component don’t rush to make photographs. Carefully evaluate the light and how you can best use it.

Jack Graham –

Check out Jack’s website for images, workshops and more: LINK



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