We live in a fast-paced world, often hurrying from one place to another, one activity to another. Being in nature and wild places affords us an opportunity to take a deep breath, slow down and take in the beauty of our surroundings. The therapeutic and healing benefits of immersing ourselves in nature have long been studied and confirmed. Being in nature calms our over-stressed brains and puts us in a more joyful and reflective state. This is a feeling I could identify even as a child. My love of macro photography grew out of a life-long love of looking at the world up-close, a fascination that began early in childhood and was a product, I believe, of an unhurried childhood. Photographing the world up-close, the details of nature that often go unnoticed, has become my personal passion.
How many times have we heard the advice “slow down, study your subjects, take time to practice the art of seeing?” How many of you actually practice this more contemplative way of photography, however?
I found that when I started heeding my own advice, my work changed dramatically. I began to find more interesting subjects and started to produce more impactful and emotive work. I began to connect more with my subjects and be more present in the moment. Slowing down is imperative to unleashing creative ideas and approaches. Creativity takes time and can’t be rushed; it often emerges from those quiet moments. When we take more time to reflect, to play and experiment with an interesting subject, discovery and creativity will follow.
Finding interesting subjects is a bit like a scavenger hunt, but one in which you can take your time. Train your eye to notice details, look for interesting lines, sensuous curves, patterns and textures. These more abstract elements can become subjects in their own right. Look for subjects with character or a bit of personality, a story to tell. To find these interesting subjects you must look closely and carefully. My advice to those I work with is to put your camera (and your phone) away and take time to walk slowly and observe all that is around you. What catches you eye, what piques your interest, how does it make you feel? Your view of the world is unique to you and when you take this time to reflect, your work will reflect more of your inner self. If we hurry from subject to subject, trying to get “the shot,” we do nothing but document. Creating art, investing vision and emotion into our work lets creativity flow and we begin to produce work with meaning and impact.
Many of my ideas about photography come from my background as an art therapist. When working with clients in art therapy, I helped them reveal much about their emotions and inner self through their art work. The process of creating art is just as important and healing as the end product. Photography as art is no different. Our subject matter can reveal much about our inner selves and I firmly believe that the process of creating our photographs is as important as the final image we put out into the world. If we invest ourselves in that process, stay present in the moment, and begin to recognize how that process feels for us, our work will be stronger and our experience richer.
This way of approaching our subject matter is important for all genres of photography. It can be applied to landscape, cityscape or any kind of photography. Next time you go out with your camera, keep it in your backpack for a bit and spend some time looking and studying your subjects. Stay present in the process and think about how your subjects make you feel.
My guess is that you will enjoy your photography on a deeper level and will begin to produce work with impact and emotion. Maybe, just maybe, this will bring added joy to your macro photography.