What's in the Way, IS the Way


Vision-Driven Photography


Lesson Info

What's in the Way, IS the Way

There's this chinese poet who said what's in the way is the way and we're so often trying to get over that hurdle and and in the arts were always dealing with constraints so why not take that constraint instead of tried a battle against it go okay, my constraint is this rather than battle against it or jump over it or circumvented why not? You know this is very eastern and zen but you know instead of fighting against your opponent you go with it and if you're constrained his own man, I could only use long shutter speeds because the light's gone down and then that's part of it we're always in collaboration as photographers we don't like painters, they go away too and now they have their own constraints but they can kind of paint what they see in their mind we have actual reality to deal with, you know, per castle goes and paints, you know, whatever comes up and, you know, no one looks at his and goes, did you photoshopped that it didn't look like that? You know? And yet we've got all th...

ese weird constraints that were placed on us and I think maybe I'm wrong, but I think the more we embrace it and kind of just take a deep breath, the easier this becomes because you're not fighting the frustration you're just accepting it is you know and it it should be especially if you're trying to create something meaningful when you're photographing these girls um you want something that's not just a happy smile and one take wonder you I want to get through to get to the really good stuff and that that takes a bit of process you know so I think in our case the frustrations assigned that we're getting in there if you're not frustrated with your photography you're going out and you're like man I want fire every frame I shoot his gold you know I want to see those frames because I've been doing a twenty five years and when I first started everything was cool like look at these twenty for you know you're shooting film look at these photographs there's well fantastic everything I shot was fantastic a year later it's like wow not all of them are keepers and after a while it was like well maybe if I get to every rule and now I look at and my keeper rate as I go along my keeper rates getting worse so either I'm sucking mohr or there's something to it that the fact is our vision will always outpace the technology and our ability to express it and rather that being a frustration that's a good thing you know it means your vision is and it's just it's a challenge it's a game always trying to kind of keep up okay good all right workshops over we're done problems have been solved let's talk about world peace um what when I say when I say vision what do you think about do do you think is your first thought frustration is your first thought trying to define it what do you think about vision? Well for me I think of um like if you're walking around or you're somewhere new and you see something amazing it's um part of the reason I want to do this workshop is I have very technical background but I don't know how to take something that blows my mind and capture picture of that you know, I know how to get exposed correctly but I don't know how to take what I see and translate that into an actual image like what is it about this scene that's making me so emotional right now and you know how I currently let me ask currently what do what do you do? What is your approach? You're standing in front of something that's eliciting an emotional response you've got your camera in your hand what do you do currently you just whip it up to your face and take a try? I'll usually just I'll look through the viewfinder instead of looking with my eyes so I can narrow down what I see a little bit and I'll just try a whole bunch of different angles and then one of those usually I go wow that's really cool, and and then I'll start working from that angle instead, but getting to that point, it's difficult, it's difficult to get to that point, I guess, without shooting a bunch of friends before that and experimenting a little bit, um, and a lot of the times I'll just I'll find something I really like, and then I'll wait till I get to post production of looking at it on a bigger screen to pick my final image of what I really like, rather than being able to decide that when I'm not taking the photo, I think that's not a bad thing necessarily, I think the act of taking the photograph, you know, you want to shoot for the edit and you want to shoot a lot of frames, but when you're experiencing something, if if it's true that one of those frames one of those moments will more powerful e express whatever it is you're experiencing, just cause you know you're looking at it. You may have been having this great ten minute moment, but a frame on the capture one one hundredth of a second or whatever your shutter speed is, so which one of those do you choose to be representative of that ten minute moment? Um it's a really it's a real challenge, and sometimes there may be you know you take three or four because they may all be good they only be great moments within that large a moment but then when you look at it on the screen you realize well actually this one is really the much the one that's much stronger and it's not that you should the myth that we shall be able to put our camera, try and go click I'm done my work's over here I mean there were some photographers that are very good at that but that shouldn't be prescriptive that shouldn't mean that we all should do that we all work differently and I'm much closer to you when I get it I sit there and I mutter to myself on my curse and I just think I don't want to be doing here and I want to go for coffee and you know and I just I mean I'm my process is really messy and it's the same whether I'm in the studio and I'm walking around and I'm swearing at the light's on but this's stupid that's not working out why do I do that? I'm gonna learn to juggle and go back to you know it just all these things go through your mind but is part of my process because I have to kind of the negative parts express themselves and then I kind of go no actually this is working what's working well this well, why is it working with the light over here? So then it is for me to move the steering ship is much easier, so even if I'm on the streets, I'm constantly narrowing it down. Photography's the art of exclusion, you're constantly going what is not important to this story, what should not be in the frame and just getting it out. So I'll change my position or I'll change my focal length or, you know, we're all you know, I realized the lights not working out. Sam, come back here three hours from now or whatever, but you're constantly kind of getting the stuff out of there because if you always looking, what is working, I think you're gonna get, you know you're gonna get okay pictures, but if you're always looking for what's not, and you're embracing that frustration in that challenge and going, I'm going to take everything out of this image that doesn't belong. And so when you're looking through the viewfinder, you're saying ok, is this the best angle? What if I got lower? What if I got higher and that's the essence of creativity? What if? What if I got really high? What if I went onto a rooftop and what if I used a longer shutter speed and so the process of discovering this it's not always a matter of you see it you recognize that your little voice goes my vision for this photograph is the following three things in this order it could be really messy and it can be you may not discover it until you're well into the process of photographing even when you're editing it there are things you may feel about a scene that you didn't realize you were feeling because your shooting your kind of thinking of all this stuff then when you bring it up on screen you look anna go you know, I didn't realize it at the time, but just the color temperature of this image powerful e you know draws me so you may choose one frame over another just simply for that reason at the end like I said it for me is the final photograph that all three of those thie one you envisioned the one you captured the one you post produced the final photograph is the one that matters now there are purists out there that will argue all kinds of things I'm not interested in that particular, you know this is art, there are no rules, there are only good photographs, ansel adams says, so I think you're on the right track and I think again don't get frustrated by the fact that this is so difficult embraced the difficulty this of it and then move forward with that, okay now that I've embraced, this is messy let's see how messy we can get and don't try to clean the studio open go I gotta have a clean studio make it messy, you know, make your if you work well in chaos, go as chaotic as you can because clearly that's your creative space and your vision will out itself as you kind of get rid of some of these voices that air going you need to color within the lines, you know, we all when were kids were like, yeah, drawing and purple turtles and someone inevitably comes along and says turtles aren't purple, but my turtle was, you know, color inside the lines, clean your room, all of these voices that that encourage us to go from complete chaos to order often photography is bringing chaos to order, but your process khun b is crazy, chaotic is it needs to be don't listen to those voices, I would just say keep going, keep being chaotic and be very aware again fever, mindful of how your process best works and and again, then you will begin to see the commonalities in your work and you see well, this wide angles work better for this, and so you'll immediately you won't have to try three different focal lengths like this is definitely a wide angle kind of shot why? Because thie pathetic is what I need I need a wide angle aesthetic to be included in this scene, I like these lines so as you get more comfortable, kind of leaving the technical stuff behind and thinking aesthetically, I think you'll become more comfortable just expressing that stuff because you won't be going ho should I do this with the two hundred or should to do this with a wide angle? Because you've already recognized this is a shot that that is really dynamic and it's got these great lines, and you're recognizing what needs to go in the frame, you're not going to think, well, I should really compress the heck out of those lines and make him look, you know, tiny, you're thinking I need over the widest angle, I can't really blow those lines apart, you'll start thinking aesthetically rather than, you know, what's, the perfect exposure for this, you think I just want the longest friggin exposure I can get, right? And then you'll be digging through your bag, you know, put something in front of the lens to cut the light down, and and so it becomes messy and that's okay, quickly to something that really helped me, or you're next e I don't know how interested people are hearing what I have to say, it doesn't not saying that, but I uh, because of so technical, I've actually been using my phone to take pictures a lot lately and not having control over, um aperture shutter speed, but just focusing on what I put in the the images helped helped me a lot too recently in what way is it help it's help? Because I don't I'm focusing less on, um, my depth of field, uh, control, because they don't have that much from my phone, I'm focusing less on my shutter speed and books, seymour on my subject um and what I'm actually putting in the frame and the framing of it and stepping, stepping forward and moving back and doing those things rather than playing with my lens or I think you stumbled onto something that's um, you know, a lot of people take a long time to figure out, and that is that our creativity flourishes best in constraint, you know? Everyone wants a bag full of lenses, everyone wants to go out, you know? They mean I'm victim of this when I think about planning a trip, I'm thinking, how am I going to get all this gear where I'm going this way? What if I see a shot that needs that three hundred two point eight? You know, and you're you're packing all this stuff when in reality you're creativity is most, um it's most exercised its most taken advantage of it and it flourishes when you go out with as as many constraints as possible you know you you don't want three hundred lenses and four camera bodies take one camera body one lens take a fifty millimeter and go out and shoot with black and white film you know just put his many constraints because then you're not thinking well I could do that I could oh but what if I know when I've got this lens baby and I've got my till shift and you've got a bag full of gear the gear is fine but if you've got all these constraints then you're free to do only one thing which is make the most with what you got you know you're not thinking oh if only I had a two you don't have a two hundred so shoot with what you've got who but if only you don't so just and eventually you stopped those voices kind of drift away because you know they've realized that you know that they don't matter anymore and you like let's just take the picture was due and then you get creative okay I've only got the fifty how can I you know so you get in a little closer you change your angles how can I make you don't have a wide angle lens but I want those lines so how can I change my position so that lions go through the frame on a diagonal instead of just parallel to the and you start thinking through this that's where creativity really flourishes and I love the iphone for that I mean it produces a really mediocre junkie kind of technical photographs but as you've seen from someone like chase jarvis that the images that come out of it can be as emotional they can be as I mean I look at some of those images especially the image pairings in chase's book and I'm just I'm moved by them I mean they're really great and yeah they're about is technically perfect is an old you know doggerel type or you know some of the old tintype sort of but there's those can be beautiful photographs too so I would encourage you don't don't don't think of that as a limitation you know on grab your iphone and go out because that's going to get you juice and then when you see something and it works for you then you go okay now we'll go back with my you know my four by five view camera and a bag full of lenses or whatever it is that kind of turned your crank but definitely you know pull out I think everyone should take a day once a week where they use nothing like gold school put a your crappiest lens on your crappiest camera give yourself no excuses just go on shoot you and shoot crap like really we go out with such expectations oh, I'm going to create the next you know? And we've got ansel adams in the back of her head and you know elliott erwitt all these people just go shoot crap just go with no expectation and shoot the crap because it's in that that you kind of you loosen up, the less pressure you have to create this beautiful piece of work, even the client's stuff I want to go shoot for clients you've got that client voice in the back of your head, but you've got to kind of let it go on go, I'll shoot what I shoot, you're going to shoot the brief, you're going to shoot what the client wants, but you have to let those pressures kind of go on go all I've got to work with is these tools and oh, if only I hadn't eight hundred one second you don't so use what you have and be creative in what do you have? You have a great flex phil and some son use that when I go to africa that's all I have, I don't bring you know, I got a couple like little flashes, but I never really never used them I just used a the biggest flex bill I confined and I've got so creative with it, you know, defusing and bouncing and it's amazing what you can do with less and you know who wants to carry around all that crap you know, the most valuable photographic tool we have is our creativity and our ability to think through things and process and bi curious and it's not the cameras I mean the best photographers in the world could take the crappiest cameron's so create good stuff let's sum we're gonna take a break in just a minute maybe ten minutes but let's sum and the break will be short will just we're going to get up and stretch and y'all can go on put the cattle on um but why don't we uh why don't we ask a couple folks in the in the world at large what they're thinking? I have a really interesting question from the chat room from canon prime and I don't know if this is a matter of semantics but the question is are you capturing or creating the moment so like how passive are you if you have a vision are you are you trying to create the image or you just capturing something you see? Well, you're definitely yeah, you're definitely creating the image if the question is are you creating or capturing the moment? I suppose it depends what kind of photography you're doing I mean, if you're in the studio, then you're kind of doing both you're both creating it capturing it um sometimes it's much more choreographed and sometimes it's not but you're always no matter what you are creating it in a sense that you're the one choosing your angle you're the one choosing your optics you're the one that I'm making is making all these decisions. So if it's a question about street photography are you creating the moment? Well, if the subject is aware of you, then to some degree you're influencing the moment and you're collaborating so there are very few instances I think where it's pure observer that's you know that's not affecting what he's seeing and in some way bringing it about because the minute you go out onto the street, people change the way they behave, whether they walk around you or whether they you know, they either look at you are intentionally don't look at you you're changing the environment so I think to some degree your you know, but in terms of how about released vision and your intention for it, I think probably you can do both you can you sometimes are very heavy handed as long as it's not journalism or something like that in the studio if you've got a vision of something, especially as a commercial photographer it's absolutely up to you teo, you know, toe work with others to work with your art director and that sort of thing but it's your job to pull it off so yeah you're creating absolutely do stage to stage photos I mean, do you set up well, it depends in what kind of setting and and for what purpose so yeah absolutely I mean, I have no problem if I'm shooting something and I I mean, I've never made bones about me not being a photojournalist I have friends there photojournalists and and frankly they're much better at their craft and I am I do more commercial and fine artwork I do humanitarian stuff, but even the humanitarian stuff is, um it's not documentary per se I mean, I shoot for catalogs that our fundraising and so we're going into communities and getting a child and taking you know, they've been given goats or something, and so we're taking the goats and putting them in the hand of the child really it's more portraiture kind of work and environmental, so yeah, we're we're creating it in the sense that we're we not there the child would not be walking around holding their gold looking fund lee at it um so are my presence and the fact that I need these photographs is always to some degree changing this situation, but again I'm not a photo journalist and so I know a photo journalist desire for objectivity they will approach it their work in a different way their vision will be different because they'll have different objectives in fact their objectives will be to be more objective I have no interest in being objective I want to be as subject subject of his possible I want to say through my photography this is how I think this is how I feel and get it out there and a photo journalist will be less personally involved to some degree or another I think so david, I'm knowing people in twitter okay and so wanted to start with some comments uh michelle is saying thank you david for giving us photographers permission to be frustrated um that's just you know something that people are saying it is messy and so acknowledging that is awesome um you had asked people what vision was to them and ah mark from their own twitter said my vision is expressing how I see the world around me to others um and then a question from katie joy photo also on twitter is how do you find the audience that appreciates your particular vision even if it's not about that but how do you find that? I think these days your audience kind of finds you I mean we're really lucky in the sense that we have we have flicker we have twitter we have all of these things with ridiculous names it seems the more useful they are, the more ridiculous the name um we have these incredible I mean, you can put it up on youtube and video, you can create multimedia presentations, we have an ability to be our own publishers are all broadcasters and take get it out there. So I think, um, and, you know, to go back to one of the things that chase and I have talked about before he is this paradigm that's it is a lot of commercial work, but chase is one of these people that you sit down and talk to him, he he just he loves art, and he just he wants to create this goofy stuff that he just even if he's the only one that loves it, he wants to create he's got this, and his paradigm is you create and you share that's the only thing that matters after that, you figure out how to sustain it, whether you work at starbucks, where the you know you sell mcdonald's burgers, or whether you actually find a way to sell your the work that you've created, but the creator and the share paradigm just get it out there and the audience will find you. I mean, I don't I'm not interested in strong arming people into liking my stuff, I just put it out there and hopefully people that, like it will respond and show it to other people and and but you know we're living in a time that is unprecedented when you think about how many people in shakespeare's hey who would have seen and appreciated the place that he did it would have been a tiny audience I mean my reach right now is far greater than someone like shakespeare would have had in his lifetime he just never would have appreciated what we're capable of and so the fact that we have thousands of followers on twitter or on you know, reading our blog's that's unbelievable and I think we get greedy when we think off only I had million it's forty million's appreciated my stuff what does it matter whether it's a million or a thousand or one hundred you know, I just I mean I just want people whoever it is to see my stuff someone out there because again I'm not creating it for my audience primarily my first gold screed something and be able to look at and go that says what I wanted to say that feels the way I I felt and if only three people look at it go wow I feel this when I look at the mission accomplished you know it doesn't it's not like my picture gets better the more people appreciate it now there's room for critical review and there are some voices that are more informed and can look at a picture a little more critically than others but ultimately if I just make some people feel good or there's something I'm trying to say and they get it I think it's the same with songwriters and they just want to share they just want to get it out and for someone to appreciate it and be changed and be affected so my feeling is the audience will find you you get it out there and they're so it's all free you don't I mean you don't have to pay and your stuff is all the right way around the world in moments it's unbelievable blows my mind so mark in the uk building on that is asking can an image that isthe be simply aesthetically pleasing and can that be great or does it need to say something when you talk about vision? I think I think an image that is aesthetically pleasing does say something I mean we can have photographs and we'll talk in a in a bit about what photographs are about but it doesn't have to be a photograph of you know a child in ethiopia during a famine or or some you know big battle against you know, between good and evil for it to matter I mean humans hunger for beauty so why a photograph cannot simply be about the color red or about sadness or an emotion that there's no reason why we can't look at a picture and have no other feeling a reaction to it then that is so beautiful, I want to cry, you know, or or that is so ugly, it makes me angry, you know, however it is that you know that so there's no reason it has to be some big thing. I mean, maybe your body of work, we'll have a little more depth and a little more profundity to it, but image by image, it could simply be a picture of red or of blue or, you know, something really, um, just simply beautiful, you know, I think we hype it up like great art has to mean something profound and, well, well and good, if it does, I mean, I would love it if people looked at my stuff in were stirred deeply, but you could be stirred deeply by a simple human emotion like, wow, that's beautiful, you know? I mean, there's a reason people love I can has cheeseburger and lol cats and, you know, cute overload and all that crap, it's because we're drawn to it, we're we're drawn to poppies and, you know, kittens and rainbows and stuff great, you know? And that leads into a conversation about cliche and what isn't is not cliche, but I was just kittens are not cliche how you photographed kittens may very well be cliche. But kittens they're still beautiful there's a reason we like them now you'd be pretty hard pressed to find a new way to capture the acuteness of kittens without people rolling their eyes these days but it could be done and if that's your vision if your vision is you know the emotional response you get when you look at a a little kitten than you've got your work cut out for you because there are way too many photographs of kittens out there but there's no reason why it can't be beautiful and I mean yeah, I just ran out of words I'm gonna look at lol cats now um let's do one more and we're going to take a quick break and and have a uh just get a glass of water or something I have a question in the chat room do you ever feel like your vision gets in the way and they go on to say meaning have you ever got lost in what you wanted to capture and ended up missing a specific moment o all the time I mean I think for every moment we hone in on you miss others you know when your camera's pointed this way you're missing everything behind you so all the time I mean I'm just I'm just one guy with a camera and so every time I go shooting with other photographers and I come back and we're looking at pictures you know they're all going a gnawing at mine and I'm moving on going it theirs and inevitably I look weird I didn't even see that like you were standing right beside me I didn't even sold theirs and then of course vision creates expectation to especially when you really go into it with a a solid like this is what I want to see especially you travel you go in thinking you've seen you know art wolf's photographs or something of a place and you go in thinking I'm going to shoot in art will photograph for steve mccurry and that becomes kind of it muddles your vision and you don't allow the place to speak to you you don't react to the place you go in with your expectations that takes some time to kind of you know that's almost like there's good vision and bad vision I would just call that expectation and absolutely that that can blind you as much as as anything else but again it's part of that process you you figure out what that is and if it's standing in the way then you push it aside but you've got a kind of you got a muddle your way through it before you can figure out whether it's useful to you are not some I've given up stopping trying tow have expectations because I used to go on go okay I have no expectations this time and then two days intuitive like men my expectation was that I had no expectations and clearly had a lot of them, you know, because I've had to work through it again so and it's the same as on a model you go in thinking your portrait is going to look like this and it's going to be shot long with this kind of lighting and then you realize the lighting's not really working the way you thought and the subject actually looks better in this way especially it's a real portrait you're trying to reveal something true about someone it's a countess this collaborative thing so your vision could only take you so far before you have to take that vision and as you were talking about the vision someone else has of themselves even whether the conscious or not it becomes kind of collaborative you have to have your vision has to encounter the reality of the situation and kind of mull it over and readjust itself and then you decide you know what? This person is not going to be shot with one hundred thirty five millimeter lens in black and white it's going to be ah wide angle tilt shift because they're actually very funny and I wasn't expecting that so you want exaggerate and you wanted suddenly it's there you know suddenly they're wearing a clown nose and this has gone completely off the rails in the art director screaming and you you know, so it becomes sort of, ah, it's, it's, always collaborative, and sometimes your vision gets in the way. Absolutely, thank you. We're gonna take a break, um, and, uh, so folks at home, take a break. If you need thio, if you need to use the facilities or put the kettle on, please, do we're still taking questions? And after this, we're going to jump back into the discussion about, you know, what stands in the way of vision and that sort of thing hope this proving helpful to you, no question, no stupid questions, and we'll be right back.

Class Description

Join David duChemin, author of the best-selling Within The Frame, as he teaches you how to use your camera and the digitial darkroom to find and express your vision as a photographer.


Maros Matousek

I have just finished this great class and ended up with a notebook full of notes. I highly recommend this class to all who would like to take not only technically perfect photographs but more importantly who want to express their vision and create something that moves others. I read many books by David and still enjoyed and got a better understanding throughout this course.

Melvin Williams

This course may seem to drone on at times but I firmly believe that repetition or other restatement helps learning. I highly recommend David's course, his ebooks and his CraftAndVision.com site. He gets to the important stuff about photography. He focuses on the conceptually tough stuff like vision, finding your own, and less on the "geek" technical stuff that, while necessary, is only a tool to accomplishing your vision, what you want to say in your photograph.

Phillip Ziegler

David is always worth listening to. The course might have been shorter given there was a lot of repetition and conversation that wasn't terribly interesting or valuable. But when it was good it was amazing. I learned a lot and it was worth the time and money spent.