Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts

Saturday, April 16, 2011


In my Photographic Creativity course, "A Whack on the Side of the Head" by Roger von Oech is one of recommended reads.  Here's why.

I often hear folks say "I'm just not creative."  Nonsense.  Creativity is a process, and any process can be repeated and learned.  You just need practice and good coaches. 

Right off the bat, I like von Oech's first premise: Creativity is Mental Sex.  "It's a lot of fun...indeed I like to think of creative thinking as the "sex of our mental lives."  (Page 5 of my edition)

Some chapter titles:
1. The Right Answer
2. That's Not Logical
3. Follow the Rules
4. Be Practical
5. Play is Frivolous
6. Tha't not my area
7. Avoid ambiguity and so on up to chapter 16

Obviously, von Oech has a fine sense of sarcasm as he explodes all myths behind all the rules we have been "taught" by our teachers, managers, or other "handlers" in life.

Photographic creativity is NOT the cental thesis of the book, but the concepts are crucial, like Cross Fertilization on page 104.  I am always on the alert for life's surprises.  For inspiration for Underwater photography, I look to other masters for ideas, rather than trying to repeat the work of the Nat Geo Bubble-Blowing legends.  Likewise, Land photographers may benefit from studying the work of the Underwater Masters.

A lot of my creativity lately has been going into the design of t-shirts.  Click here to buy one.

 Click here for some other shots I consider creative.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

CREATIVITY - Point & Shoot Limitations

This venue doesn't spend a lot of space on equipment because ultimately, the camera make or model really matters little.  Whether I have a Nikon, Canon , Olympus, Pentax or SONY is largely immaterial.

What matters much more is the question "is the tool capable of doing what you want?"  If I want to shoot birds or nature, this pretty much rules out a Point & Shoot (P&S).  Sure you can force a long zoom Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) into play, but it will still suffer from shutter lag / delay.  You will be frustrated until you start using the larger and heavier SLR.

Surprisingly, you will also be frustrated with shooting kids and cats!  Both are fast moving subjects with fleeting expressions.  However, the SLR with its industrial strength image processor & sensor are capable of RESPONDING quickly.  An SLR with long lens is the only style of instrument than can deliver the goods in this case of the capturing the geese below reliably.  The Windmills are just north of Atlantic City, NJ. The geese are at Forsythe National Park.

See more bird pictures in my Bird Gallery.

However, it you are shooting casually, and perhaps still scenes, you creativity may not be crimped at all.  If you are likely to leave the big camera at home a P&S will be your best bet for having something in your pocket.  My Canon G9 has produced very nice low light shots in New Zealand.  Due to its medium size, I use the G9 in a compact case on my belt.   Below, the Sky Tower in Aukland was not going anywhere fast.  And it also makes a nice enlargement up to 13 x19.

License this image at Alamy


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

CREATIVITY - A Kick in the Seat of the Pants

Like its predecessor, this not directly a book about photography. No megapixels were hurt in its creation. But is is a valuable tool for idea generation that can translate into better photographs.

A Kick in the Seat of the Pants is the second book by Roger von Oech, author of 
"A Whack on the Side of the Head." The concept of WHACK was "...we're all born with the ability to think about things in original ways, but as we grow up, we develop attitudes that undermine this creativity." von Oech then goes through steps and exercises to expand your thinking.

It this second book, he explores the fact that there are different ways of thinking. This ground has been covered in different ways by people like 
Ned Hermann, Carl Jung and Myers-Briggs.

von Oech treats the four modes of thought as the Explorer, the Artist, the Judge and the Warrior. We have aspects of all the above characteristics in our personalties, but he explores how each contributes to the creative process. Photographers that are "socially conscious" will approach their craft very differently than say a "Fine Art Printer." Their brains are wired differently.

One actionable tip: Put a waterproof slate in the shower with a grease pencil. Many people get their best ideas in the shower. I use a SCUBA Diving slate.  
This was a GREAT idea from the book that I use every day. Most of the ideas I get are of course Photo related.

Click here to see my photos that were inspired by Sarah Palin and the Tea Parties. I wrote the ideas on the slate so I wouldn't forget.

You can purchase the book here.

Click here to see the first article on A Whack on the Side of the Head.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

CREATIVITY - The Decisive Moment

Creativity, its source and those who wrote about it have been one of my hot topics this year.  Creativity is always important, but I have been trying to synthesize the writings of those who most inspired me in the hopes of really putting the concepts into action and by extension, becoming a better photographer.

Henri Cartier-Bresson is without a doubt, one of my earliest influences.  Cartier-Bresson was famous for the concept of “the decisive moment  "Photography is not like painting," Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."  (

I especially like this quote:
"My contact sheets may be compared to the way you drive a nail in a plank," he said. "First you give several light taps to build up a rhythm and align the nail with the wood. Then, much more quickly, and with as few strokes as possible, you hit the nail forcefully on the head and drive it in."

I took the photo above using the same philosophy.  After 10 minutes of stalking and shooting the school of Plotosis catfish in Sulawesi, Indonesia, this scene revealed itself with perfect alignment.

... For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which - in visual terms - questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photos with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself.  

... To take photographs is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge in the face of fleeting reality.

... "It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy."   

...It is putting ones head, one's eye and one's heart on the same axis.

...It is a way of life.

 You can purchase the book here.

See another of my images that used his "Decisive Moment" concept.  It is the one with the two cats and the red door frame.  A variation on the above theme of the build up, there was ONLY time for one shot before the bottom cat moved. Shot in Padova, Italy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Creativity in Photography is a critical skill that is infrequently discussed.  It is hard to define because it is so personal.  Breathless discussions of megapixels are far easier.  However, Creativity is a well defined process and there are tools and techniques that anyone can use to become more creative (AND MAKE BETTER PICTURES).

A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More CreativeTHIS IS NOT A BOOK ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY.  Roger von Oech wrote this classic book in 1983.  A Whack on the side of the Head is chock full of ideas, exercises and approaches.  It is a good resource when you get a "creative block " or are looking to jump start new ideas.

Here are some examples from the Table of Contents:
1 The Right Answer
2. That's Not Logical
3. Follow the Rules
4. Be Practical
5. Play if Frivolous
6.  That's not My Area
7. Avoid Ambiguity
8.  Don't be Foolish
9.  To Err is Wrong
10.  I'm Not Creative.

As you can see, the opposite of all the titles is closer to the truth of creativity.

You can purchase   A Whack on the side of the Head here.

Speaking of Creativity, click here for my fine art galleries.

Click here to see the follow up review of "A Kick in the Seat of the Pants."

Sunday, January 31, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Other Realities by Jerry Uelsman

Other Realities by Jerry Uelsman is an outstanding coffee table book by this distinguished photographer. Progressive Rock fans will recognize his work on the cover of Dream Theater's "Train of Thought" CD. While the book is 95% photographs, Jerry does offer some great nuggets of insight into his thought process of creating the Surreal. "...I find the seeds for creating a new syntax for the eye." Words to live by for those of us intent on MAKING PHOTOGRAPHS rather than TAKING SNAPSHOTS.

I am inspired by his work but I wouldn't and couldn't copy his work. His dreamlike photos are a tribute to my favorite surrealists, Rene Magritte or Salvadore Dali. You can see my Fine Art montages here.

You can purchase Other Realities here.

Jerry's website: