Staying artistically fit in 2007

January 1st, 2007

Thanks to my New Years resolutions, I took my camera on my walk this morning. Making photos every day — what’s the big deal? Photography is just a matter of pressing a button, right?

I did the same walk around the harbor that I do every day when I am in Wilhelmshaven. But today I felt exhausted afterwards, and it wasn’t from the physical weight of the camera. I felt tired because I used my out-of-shape “photographic vision,” a special way of looking at the world through a camera. It took about half an hour of walking and shooting to get into “photographic vision,” and it now persists for some time after I put down the camera. “Photographic vision” lets me take photographs without using a camera, in a sense. I assume all the photographers have this; probably the professionals live with it all the time. For an amateur like me, it yields a sort of “mental muscle ache,” something like what you feel when you first start exercising muscles that you didn’t realize you had. All the more reason for the daily workout!

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17 Responses to “Staying artistically fit in 2007”

  1. birgit Says:

    With respect to your photographic vision , did you change the zoom?

  2. Steve Says:

    I don’t know if painters do this as well, but a common piece of advice to photographers is to carry a small card with a rectangle cut out of the same length to width ratio as the camera format. Holding this against the scene, you can easily isolate and experiment with compositions. This gives a lot of seeing practice without requiring a camera.

  3. Rex Says:

    Ugh. A little tipsy, I turned an ankle coming down the steps of my place into the ice and snow, and now, after some hours of dancing and drinking followed by another party, I’m more than a little discombobulated, but I do have a tip.

    Is American Photographer, the magazine, defunct? It used to be great. I haven’t seen it on shelves lately. One thing I remember from an age ago in that magazine was some pro advice — shoot with both eyes open. Learn to look through one’s dominant eye (my right). That will prevent a LOT of tiredness. It works. Military helicopter pilots with their special targeting headsets do this too. You can watch moving objects getting near the frame with the “off” eye and catch the moment with the “on” eye.

    And yeah Steve, I’ve encountered that card with the hole advice in a lot of art books — sometimes two pieces of “L” shaped cardboard. I just use my fingers though. Something my mom taught me. And what’s the name of that zoom-able monocular device that movie directors use?

    I don’t think Karl’s getting strained from techy stuff though. There is a mental effort involved in seeing photographically. I think part of the problem is that one can take hundreds of photographs but draw and paint only a miniscule percentage of that. So the brain gets crowded and cluttered with too many pictures and picture possibilities. It has never seemed to get much easier with practice for me either. I’ve never found a solution other than to rest by doing a different kind of brain or no-brain work.

    Speaking of brains — whoever invented aspirin is my hero. Happy fragging New Year.

  4. Karl Zipser Says:

    I think I should try to clarify what I mean by “photographic vision,” since that is a vague expression. Making photographs requires a certain way of seeing, looking at the world with the intention of cropping it in both time and space. As Dan Bodner said earlier, and we have discussed, a photograph captures a moment in time. Learning to look at the world in this sense of capturing an instant is alien to me as a painter. With the camera in my hands, I become “focused” on this brief moment. It affects the way I look through the lens, but it also affects my vision even after I put the camera in its case. I’m sure you have all experienced this — it is the ability to look at something and know (or at least think): that would make a great photograph. This ability to be sensitive to space and time is something that is intensified when I take photographs — say fifty or one hundred in an hour — and lasts for at least half an hour after I stop taking pictures. An experienced photographer might always have this sensitivity.

    Did I change the zoom? That is an interesting question. I don’t remember doing that without the camera, but I’ll be on the look out for that tomorrow.

    Steve, your suggestion about the composition frame is interesting. I’m wondering if I could get into “photographic mode” with a piece of cardboard like that. I suspect not — not without more experience. I think the functioning camera is an important part of getting into the different perceptual mode.

  5. Susan Borgas Says:

    I do the same, though it is an evening walk for me. When I am looking through the lens I tend to focus on lead ins and points of interest in the same way that I design a painting. It is looking for these parts of a scene that I find tiring with my mind. So I guess that means I get a good workout physically as well as mentally. :D

  6. birgit Says:

    Re capturing an instant. Take a look at Doug’s Dec 28th photo

  7. Karl Ziper Says:


    Do you ever feel that doing photography and walking can be hazardous to one’s health? Yesterday I noticed that after getting into “photo mode” I was taking pictures standing in the middle of the street. Granted, there are not too many cars on the road at 9 a.m. on 1 January, but I’m going to have to remember to be more cautious in the future.

  8. Susan Borgas Says:

    “Do you ever feel that doing photography and walking can be hazardous to one’s health?”

    Without a doubt! I was standing in the middle of a highway taking photos on a day trip recently. Once I had finished taking my snapshots I realised that I had moved into a state of mind that I wasn’t concentrating so much where I was but on the scene in front of me.

    Also thank goodness I didn’t have my camera with me on a recent evening walk when looking upwards at some flowers on a tree thinking I wished I had my camera and next thing I was horizontal on the ground. As I walk through paddocks and on rubble roads, I now make sure the camera is packed away safely in my all weather bag in the hope if I fall again that the camera will not end up full of gravel. Maybe I should consider wearing a helmet, knee and elbow pads to protect myself. ;)

  9. David Says:

    “Do you ever feel that doing photography and walking can be hazardous to one’s health?”

    Maybe like gymnastics it would be good to have a spotter :)

  10. Steve Durbin Says:

    I’m trying to develop the photographer’s eye when just looking without either camera or composition aid like a framing card. It’s safer than having the camera glued to your eye! And you can scan more easily, although I find I have to go slowly or I easily miss things I would be interested in. It is still only a rough first pass, and most of the time, when I do look with the camera, the shot is not worth the effort.

  11. Ron Diorio Says:

    I perefer to not look and shoot then develop my “vision” editing and compositing on the computer.

  12. Steve Durbin Says:

    You have a very non-conventional approach to photography that results in fascinating images. The information I’ve found from your web sites is tantalizing, but says very little about how you work and think when compositing images. If you’d care to say more about this or point to something I’ve missed, I’d like to learn more.

  13. June Says:

    My husband and I share a blog with lots of photographs (we alternate days), and we work very differently. He’s interested in the art of the photograph and chooses what he puts on the blog very carefully. He seldom uses more than one photograph per entry.

    I’m interested in the anecdote of the moment and generally use 3 photographs per entry. When I look for that frozen moment, I am also looking for a narrative (and a couple more “moments” to freeze with my camera to fill out the story line). It’s a pecular way to take photos, but I find it clarifies my looking — not in an artistic sense but in the sense of “meaning” or of my existential passage through the day.

    Here’s the URL of our blog

  14. Ron Diorio Says:


    My old Nikon FM collects dust on my dresser becuase the digital darkroom transformed what I had come to know as photography. It moved me from picture taking to image making. Now the only real “photographic” moment is the end stage of the manufacturing process when a Digital C-print is pulled. For me it has been important to have the “photographic” in the making of the object while disregarding the “photographic” in the image making process. So in a traditional sense, for me, there’s not much photography in my process to enjoy.

    What I do enjoy is where image making intersects with storytelling – you frame the world – frame a point of view. In some ways “view finder” better describes what it is. The really emancipating thing has been to find/seek/uncover the authentic – the essence of the emotional connection in the image without the “view” being my truth or something close to me. I’m always chasing that both in my own work and when I’m looking at other’s work.

    When I first posted on Fotolog in June 2003, I called my page “A photographic imagination”. I had just read Sontag’s On Photography and I wanted to put a marker down that these images should not be viewed as documents – they were manipulated and as such the images were not representative but representational.

    I was also beginning to undestand how pixel based display was a great democratizer – all these screen images were made of the same substance. A Picasso painting, a DaVinci drawing, a deep space image form the Hubble Telescope or an Ansel Adams photograph were certainly different objects in the real world but on the screen they were just a collection of pixels. The playing field was leveled, the image content would be judged on it’s own aesthetic and against every other image that could be displayed. The eye would decide.

    From the start I wanted to give people something to think about – but not as a message or a lesson or a meaning. I think I lacked the confidence to articulate that early on. But it is there like the manipulation is as part of my whole apporach. I want the viewer active to “look into the image” rather than just looking at the image.

    I am not an equipment geek. If the device captures images without a flash, has a memory card I can read and a charged battery I’d probably use it. I don’t need a perfect capture, I want to make a capture perfect. I need raw materials so I “harvest” images, hundreds per day. I’ll capture till I drain my battery. I hardly look at the LCD when I am shooting, I try never to stop moving. I capture everything at low res 640 x 480. I have lost any connection to the preciousness of any individual snap.

    I use Flickr to post my images because it is a distribution point and provides a publication platform and an audience. I want an audience. Of course this serves two masters because I can move easliy from presenter to an audience to being part of the audience.

    At the point where I was searching for a way of working – first Fotolog and then Flickr gave me a daily production and publishing structure and a format to see a body of work developing.

    It allows me to be prolific without purpose and organically find threads in the work. The dark side is that there is such a need to get the next image – almost an obligation. I realize this is a product of my own need for immediate gratification. I tend to ration the published images to one per day. The sheer volume of images posted on both of these services is a stark reminder of how insignificant any single image can be. It is quite intimidating.

    I am always surprised by what people connect to in an individual image, what they are moved by. I am starting to sense a bond. It is not that I said something nice about their picture or made them a contact so they say something nice about mine. There is something we have in common, something they know and I know.

    In the end to me photography is like sex, the intersection of what interests you and what you can get. This is what I can get.

  15. Karl Ziper Says:


    You are making a joke about a “spotter” but you have an excellent suggestion. The place where a partner comes in really handy is with making photographs of strangers. To be alone with a camera making photographs (for example, in a shopping mall) is conspicuous and a bit nerve-wracking. To be with someone else can be a big help. I found this when I was in California with my father. I went with him in public places and alternated making pictures of him and of other people.


    I’ve used the “don’t look” method when doing photography in crowds, taking pictures with the camera hanging from its strap. The yield is not too high though, so far.

  16. David Says:

    Ron, I’ve only had a chance for a quick look, but your images are fascinating. They’re like paintings, made with a camera and computer. Very Hopper-esque. I look forward to going back and looking at more of them.

  17. Steve Durbin Says:

    I agree with David, I really love looking deeply at your pictures. And thanks for your statement, which is very interesting. However, it doesn’t quite address what I meant to ask, which was more a technique question. Since you mention compositing, I was assuming that a final image was a composite of some edited selection of the large number you take, no doubt with other manipulation as well. But at least some of your final images look like they could come from single manipulated images. The technique doesn’t really matter, I’m just curious. Anyway, thanks for sharing, and I encourage anyone else to check out Ron’s web site if they haven’t already.