Photography During Physical Distancing by Tony Beck
After buying my first film camera back in the early 1980s, I found myself constantly experimenting, exploring and constructing creative ideas. Everything was fair game and worthy of being photographed. However, over the decades, I became focused on my favourite subjects – Nature and Wildlife. Luckily, I turned the adventurous outdoors into a satisfying career. Sadly, during these times of heightened safety and health concerns, I find myself working from a tiny environment – my high rise condo. How can I possibly be creative confined to a small space?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my early days as a photography student. Some of my first assignments dealt with unleashing creativity. Our various homework challenges forced us to compose images, all of them taken within a small area with limited possibilities. For example, upon waking up, I had to expose an entire roll of film in my bedroom before stepping out. Another assignment had us toss a “Hoola Hoop”, or a large ring, into a random area. Wherever the hoop landed, I had to take 10 photos within the confines of the hoop. Macro lenses were ideal for these exercises.
These types of assignments push artists to expand their awareness. They help artists recognize lines, patterns, and symmetrical arrangements more quickly. They also encourage patience while searching for details or waiting for the perfect pose. Ultimately, they improve your ability to create aesthetically pleasing compositions. As a bonus, your results can be used commercially for clip art, stock photos, or creative backdrops.
During this era of physical distancing, I encourage you to try some assignments at home.
Feel free to create your own. Your imagination is the only restriction.
Here are a few suggestions:
1) Pick one room (kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, den, etc.). Start first thing in the morning and expose 20 frames inside the room before doing anything else. Look for eye-catching compositions, bold colour, contrast, texture, patterns, etc. Return to that same room in late afternoon and take another 20 images. Repeat as necessary.
2) Pick one window. Expose 15 or 20 images of objects on the opposite side of the window. Is that your neighbour’s cat visiting your yard? Is your property graced with flowers, butterflies, birds, etc.? Is that a real toad beside your garden gnome? Telephoto lenses have potential here. Try again on a different day and compare results.
3) Check your fridge. Hopefully, it’s well-stocked. Expose 15 or 20 images of items in the fridge. Take the items out of the fridge if you want. Look for lines, shapes, patterns, curves, textures, etc. Macro lenses work really well here.
4) Search your home for random junk. Assemble them into interesting two-dimensional images for the camera. Plants, goblets, saucers, utensils, toothpicks, spice jars, towels, stuffed dolls, TV remote, pets… there’s no end to the combinations you can put together. Look for patterns or abstract-looking forms. This is a great opportunity for thinking “outside-the-box”.
5) Check your garage for those dusty, rarely-used pieces of camera equipment and put them to good use. Is that 7-year-old dual flash system hiding in your basement worth bringing out? Is it time to test your old super wide-angle lens on your new full-frame camera?
6) Since you now have lots of extra time, you might even try some ambitious, time-consuming techniques like Photo Stacking or real HDR.
7) After you’ve finished your assignments, explore your editing programs. Try some crazy creative manipulations, or simply polish up your favourite images to make them more appealing.
Relax, have fun and experiment. These assignments have no rules. But, you can make some up if you think it helps. Try each assignment with different lenses. You’ll quickly discover how results vary depending on equipment used. And, what can be better than learning something while having fun in the process?