creative exercise

Five Good Reasons to Start a New Creative Project

As a photographer, I’ve always loved working on projects. My first serious photographic project was probably my senior thesis in college—an editorial piece exploring the recreational uses of Lake Lanier. (Okay, so maybe that was just as much about wanting to spend time on the lake my last semester of college.) When I decided I wanted to pursue garden photography, I focused on building a portfolio of "magazine" photographs of gardens. And one year, I photographed trees of all kinds, in all different ways, in every season. Each of these projects, along with others, helped me grow as a book and magazine photographer.

Over the past eight years, I have worked on four separate photographic projects exploring Amelia Island—each from a more artistic than editorial perspective. They have actually changed my way of seeing the world around me, and through them I have honed my visual style. One of my current projects is photographing plants (their leaves, seeds, pods and flowers) in a decidedly non-garden and non-editorial kind of way. 

There are many advantages to working on projects. Here are five of the most important ones that I’ve discovered:

1.     It forces you to push beyond the surface of a subject. I could have photographed Amelia Island as a tourist. Instead, I chose to photograph the island over a series of years—exploring each habitat in depth, seeing the island in different light, and embracing the changing seasons. I have learned about the tides and the local wildlife, become more contemplative in my work, and discovered places to shoot that are off the beaten path.

2.     It allows you to hone a new skill or technique. You master any skill through practice—whether it is photography, painting, cooking, writing or sewing. A project can give you that kind of hands-on, repetitive experience. You have an opportunity to try things many different ways until you find those that work best for you.

3.     It gives focus to your work and helps you stay on track and productive. Whether you are working toward a specific goal (a painting a day, a book of photographs, a finished quilt) or simply taking a deep, exploratory dive in which you trust the process without knowing the outcome, a project forces you to focus your energy in a specific, productive direction.

4.     It can both break a routine, which encourages creativity, and help you establish a new routine when necessary. While good habits can make us more productive, they often lead to creative ruts. It is said that something as simple as changing your route to work can open your eyes to new things and spur creativity. Just imagine what changing your focus or learning new skills can do! 

5.     It allows you to build a body of work—whether an exhibition, a book, a notable collection of stock images, or art you can market to retailers. As an artist, you need bodies of work to present to galleries, collectors, art directors and publishers. They are far more marketable than random pieces of work, and they demonstrate your ability to focus and produce.

In my next post, I’ll share a bit about my newest project. In the meantime, think about your own work: What projects have you completed and in what ways have they helped you grow? Are you working on a project now? What will your next project be? Can you get started today?

Shooting From the Comfort of the Car on a Rainy Day

Rainy Day at the Beach. iPhone capture. ©2015 Lee Anne White.

Rainy Day at the Beach. iPhone capture. ©2015 Lee Anne White.

It's the rainy season in the South, or at least it has been this year. It's also hot, and my tolerance for the combination of heat and humidity wanes further with each passing year. Ah, but I have discovered the joy of photographing scenes in the rain from the comfort of an air-conditioned car with my iPhone! I've also found that playing with "drive-by" images on my iPhone is a fun way to kill time when I'm in the passenger seat on long trips (and sometimes even short trips).

I like to think of this as creative play. I love the apps available for processing the images, although I haven't played with many of them yet. My current favorite is Snapseed. And, yes, I like playing with the filters--which makes it more about art, interpretation and personal expression than straight photography. And just for the record, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, so you won't see me posting on Instagram with #nofilter hashtag.

Simple Creative Exercise

There are days I don't have an assignment and am not working on a personal project, but still want to take photos. These are good days for mini-assignments to help keep my creative juices flowing or to help me see things I might otherwise be missing. 

Last week, I had a couple of hours free in New Orleans and thought I'd do just that. I love all the old walls in the French Quarter, so I decided that would be my subject. It was immediately evident that my wall-only shots were deadly boring. But including connecting elements--such as doorways or window frames, gave me a bit more to work with compositionally. That point at which two aging wall surfaces meet was also intriguing. More often than not, these elements added strong lines (often very crooked ones) and contrasting colors.

What I had not counted on that morning was fever and body aches, so I didn't dig nearly as far as I'd like into the subject. Still, I offer these few images to show how you can do something creative, productive and fun even when you have a minumum of time. Try it the next time you're on a trip or maybe even just stuck around the house. Look for squares, circles or triangles; focus on red, yellow or blue objects; seek out lines, patterns or textures....the possibilities are endless. Have fun!