Most of us who photograph the natural world are lovers of quiet.  We can hear the sounds of rushing water, the wind and animals — but being in nature brings us an internal quiet that we all crave. The things that usually claim our thoughts diminish in their power and we just relax and feel good.

We don’t have to be in the wild to experience this kind of quiet, but for most of us it’s more difficult in other circumstances. There are times I fall into it working on photographs at my computer. I can even experience it at work when I’m programming.

This quiet is the source of many and all things, but since this is a photography blog, we’ll focus on it as an infinite source of creativity.

We all give lip service to this quiet, but if we really wanted it so badly we’d have it whenever we wanted it. The reality is, we give a lot more energy to what we want and what we want to avoid than this quiet space.

To fall into this quiet, we have to let all these desires fall into the background and not put any energy on achieving their goals.

When we go out with our camera, what is our desire?  Are we going out to have an adventure or going out to make a specific photograph? What types of images are we drawn to making? Are we drawn to making images we’ve seen before or images that are fresh to us?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. It’s just good to be clear about what you want to accomplish when going out into the field.

There’s this famous quote: “When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are pockets.”  What do we see when we go out with a camera? It’s rare for me to just go out without any pre-visualized photographs in my mind.  That’s why I usually pick a particular location to begin with. Where I get lucky is that usually through the act of focusing on looking at and making images, I’m able to react to what’s in front of me rather that looking for a particular image.  

When we stop looking for something and just see what’s in front of us, that’s when we can really start to be creative. With little preconceived notion of what we should be photographing, we can just see and appreciate what we see and then decide if we want to make a photograph of it or not.

This is the kind if quiet I’m speaking about:  just quiet appreciation our our surroundings.  For this you don’t have to be in nature — you can be anywhere. I’ve experienced it photographing on the streets of New York and in museums.

Maybe this kind of approach is not for you. But if you think that it might be, the next time you go out with your camera ask yourself what you want to accomplish and what kind of image are you trying to produce. See how much of that you can push to the background. Then go out and have a great time.

Many times you’ll be surprised at what attracts you. You might find yourself making images that don’t make sense to you. I went up to Lake Isabelle thinking of the sun on mount Apache and wondering what foreground I could put with it. I did photograph Apache a lot, but then I got to Isabelle and was suddenly I was drawn to these trees at treeline and the turning colors of the tundra. My Apache images are so so. But I’m very happy with how this turned out.

I’ll be starting workshops on silence and photography next spring and summer. You can get more information about them here.


~ by danbaumbach on September 24, 2017.

One Response to “Quiet”

  1. The “quiet” we fill comes from the deep concentration we experience when we are photographing.

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