Friday, February 22, 2013

A Natural Progression ~ My Creative Process

Cowboy Boots Study #1

A week or so ago, I noticed my husband's boots sitting out near the back door. I've been chiding myself on neglecting my camera lately. So I grabbed the boots and started looking for some nice light to photograph them in. It'd been a while since I'd done any sort of still life photography, and something was waking up inside me.

Today I'd like to post the resulting images, in the order of how my creative process worked, so you can see how I got from the beginning image above, to the final image that felt right, and why. Not EVERY shoot goes exactly like this, but this is my general process. And it's not methodical tedious thinking per se, it's a natural process that happens while I find the light and composition I feel melds with my intent. There's a rhythm and a flow.

Study #1: The most interesting light (above) was happening from the southwest, very late in the afternoon, shining in on our stairway. I don't like images that look too staged, so I plunked the boots down in a way that looked like they'd been left there. I wasn't sure how I wanted to use the stairs at all, and when I begin to explore a subject I pop my wide angle zoom on first, allowing me to photograph certain elements in the scene all at once and decide what I'm continually drawn to.

Cowboy Boots Study #2

The #2 shot (above) is actually much better than my first for a few reasons. I moved from eye level to shooting across the stairs and slightly below. Rarely do I stay at eye level for anything. The light shifted slightly at this point too, giving some definitive shadows and highlights. And including more of the surroundings actually helped this perspective, while showing off the light. It started to occur to me that the wear and tear on these 22 yr. old boots was a way to express my intent when lit with low side light.

Shot #3 below became a switch for a couple of reasons. I was still looking for a more interesting way to frame these while the warm light was hitting them. I liked the worn spots on the stairs and thought to play that against the wear on the boots in that light. Plus, at some point, I ditch the wide angle, and grab a lens that will bring me closer to the subject. I grabbed my F1.4 50mm prime lens instead, and getting aggressive with my point of view, I placed myself above the boots on the stairs. I also changed the placement of the boots, using them to pull you into the frame naturally to the right. But somewhere in a series of shots taken of this version of the composition, I realized I loved the details on the boots more than anything, and that the deep interior of the boots from above pulled the eye away from those same details.

Cowboy Boots Study #3

Which brings us to the final image. The shot that shows my intent. The shot the emphasizes those rugged details, that leaves nothing unnecessary in the frame, that even propelled my decision making process in the digital darkroom. I got low, I got close, I used a shallow aperture, I waited till the light would bounce off the back of the stairs and skim the wrinkles and lines of the boots. I made a decision to point the detailed toes of the boots into the camera lens which seemed natural to me. And in post, I overlayed a very subtle and warm sepia-type preset I'd created for myself, enhancing the used look of the old boots. It's my favorite image from my self-imposed exercise. 

"These Boots" Study #4

There's just a glimpse into how my head works as I photograph. It's my creative process. Some of it is born out of adapting to the light changing, some of it to how a composition feels, and some of it's born out of how the whole package speaks to me. It's the work flow of a shoot. A natural progression, and very abstract in many ways. For those that have wondered how this all progresses for me, I hope this helps. (You can click on any image to see it enlarged and of better quality.)

What's your creative process? It's something every artist should be aware of. Have a good one, and thanks for the longer than normal ramble.

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