Tag Archives: Vision

Honor Your Vision


Recently, on Facebook, I tried an experiment.  I posted a picture and asked for feedback.  I don’t normally ask for feedback.  In addition, I shared my thoughts on the image.  I said, “So much here that I normally would not include.  The bush, the background and going vertical in the dunes.”  So, in effect I was saying to my audience, I know this COULD be flawed.  What happened?  Some loved it, but many did not.

I’d like to make some observations in hopes that we could learn together. As soon as I gave permission by asking, “I think it works, you?” I knew I was going to get feedback.  Now what? My friend Cole Thompson asks in his excellent lecture, “Why would you ask others opinion about your vision?”  I believe this to be a fair question.  Who knows more about my vision than me?  Why would I give someone else permission to tell me how I should see or interpret a particular scene? More importantly, what happens when I get feedback, especially feedback that goes against my choices or my vision?  If you are “normal” you may feel a little knot in your stomach, or, you might even wince. You might feel dissapointment. My guess is, the next thing you will do, is question your choices, or, your vision.  Hum, maybe they are right? Maybe it is too centered, has too much processing, is not balanced, should be a square, etc, etc.  These are the dangerous waters of which we need to be careful.  Again I ask, who knows more about your vision than you? I fully understand the need for feedback as we are learning our craft, however, at some point, I believe we need to stop asking for it and learn to trust in our vision.


My dear friend Nancy used to say “fight for your vision.”  I choose to word it differently, suggesting you honor your vision. Nancy would say the following during a “critique” session on her workshops. “If I give feedback that you don’t agree with, fight for your vision!” Essentially she was saying, her opinion is just that, her opinion and could be wrong. And furthermore, she wanted you stand up for (honor) your vision.  

After a discussion with Dewitt Jones about the idea of critique sessions, I no longer do them.  Rather, I choose to do image celebrations!!  In these, I am happy to share everything I adore about the presented images, however, I try my best to steer away from telling the image maker what they should or should not do to make it better. I feel doing so is imposing my vision on theirs. If I feel compelled to offer a suggestion, I will typically start by saying, might you consider…  I find this to be a much softer approach and is my attempt to honor their vision.

While I understand the desire for feedback, especially as you are learning your craft, I would encourage you to trust that you know what your vision is, what you like, and how you want to present your images. Try to ween yourself from needing the feedback or approval of others. Rather, honor your vision.

Posted in B&W, Inspiration Also tagged , |

More on “Whose Vision are you Chasing” – New Topaz Webinar June 17.

I’ll be doing another Topaz webinar on June 17th.  You can sign up here but hurry, when I checked with Nichole, 1,300 are already signed up! I will be doing two more this year, you might want to mark your calendars for August 26 and October 28. Thanks for your support.

I can’t stop thinking about the vision conversation. Today, I was listening to music. It was on random play, up came the band Fictionist. Fictionist is a band I love and have a connection to, the lead singer is a friend. I was thrilled when they made it to the final four in the “Rolling Stone” cover contest.  Then they got signed by Atlantic records. The ultimate goal, signed by a record company. Many months went by and still no album. I began to wonder what was going on,Stuart promised it would be coming soon. Nothing. What happened? I finally found out. Atlantic assigned a top notch producer to the project and they started to change their sound. They encouraged modification of the music, new instruments, lyrics, etc.  Today it dawned on me, essentially they imposed their vision on the band. They wanted them to be something other than what they were. What they signed. They wanted something more marketable I guess. At least more marketable according to them. What I love is that Fictionist decided they did NOT want to change. They wanted to stay true to their vision! They approached the management team and came to an amicable agreement to part ways and leave the dream behind and regroup for the moment.  How cool is that?!

When someone is critiquing your work and imposing their vision, I suggest you remember Fictionist and fight for your vision. Feedback is fine, but remember it is coming from their paradigm, their vision. They do not have your vision nor do they know what you are trying to create. As such, be careful not to let them move you too far from what you see and feel.

The blog image today is another from the Palouse. Since my first trip there, I’ve been drawn to the grain elevators dotting the region.  I love this simple graphic image.


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More on Photo Celibacy


Recently I featured a terrific post written by my tour partner Dan Sniffin about his ideas with regard to photo celibacy which Cole Thompson tries to live by.  Dan’s article was written before we spent the week with Cole and the group.  The tour started with a wonderful lecture by Cole titled “Why B&W.”  In it he spoke not only about B&W but also more about his ideas on photo celibacy.  But what happened after the talk was quite powerful. I asked the group to respond to Cole’s ideas specifically about celibacy. What did they think? It was one of the most stimulating discussions I’ve been part of.  Some agreed, others challenged Cole with good honest questions. Some spoke about the need for a basic understanding of technique. We spoke about technique versus vision.  We spoke about the value of others opinions.  We spoke about rules and guidelines and much more. It was a stimulating hour of discussion!  I’m not sure we resolved anything but we carried the spirit of the discussion with us throughout the week. In fact, I am still pondering on the matter and would like to continue the discussion here.  

I am reading a book suggested by Chuck Kimmerle titled “Why People Photograph” by Robert Adams.  These quotes resonated in lieu of our discussion.

“I really didn’t have much to teach. I didn’t even believe in it. I felt so strongly that everybody had to find their own way. And nobody can teach you your own way…. in terms of art, the only real answer that I know of is to do it.  If you don’t’ do it you don’t know what might happen”  Harry Callahan,1991

“Can photography be taught?  If this mean the history and techniques of the medium, I think it can….. If, however, teaching photography means bringing students to find their own individual photographic visions, I think it is impossible. We would be pretending to offer the students, in Wililam Stafford’s phrase, “a wilderness with a map.”  We can give beginners directions about how to use a compass, we can tell them stories about our exploration of different but possibly analogous geographies, and we can bless them with our caring, but we cannot know the unknown and thus make sure a path to real discovery.” Robert Adams
“Even now I don’t like to discuss work that isn’t finished, because until it is revised over the span of a year or several years there are crucial parts that are present only in my minds eye, pieces intended but not yet realized……  “Art is made by the alone for the alone.”” Robert Adams with inserted quote by Luis Barragan.
“I knew I didn’t want to study at length contemporaries’ pictures, fearing that their work might come close to mine and blur my vision.”  Robert Adams
What do you think?  Are vision and technique connected?  Can you achieve your vision without some guidelines about good composition?  Can vision be taught?  Does looking at others work influence yours?  

With regard to the blog image from the Alabama Hills. Yes, the recent tour was focused on B&W and my folder of images is 99% B&W, however, that did not stop me from processing this one in color!  Why color versus B&W?  I wish I had a good answer, sometimes color just makes more sense and I run with my gut feeling.  In the dunes, I can’t imagine anything but B&W yet I’ve seen some wonderful images that are color.  So color or B&W becomes a creative choice, there is no right or wrong.  

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Posted in Chuck Kimmerle, Cole Thompson, Color, Creative, Inspiration Also tagged , , , |

Vision & Technique


Southside Johnny getting lost in it
Fuji X-E2 – 35mm at f 1/4, ISO3200

In his most recent blog post, Cole Thompson suggested how something is better accomplished by personal vision than technical expertise. This reminded me of a friend, who, when asked if her image was captured with digital or film, would reply, “do you like it?” Inevitably, the person would answer, “I love it.” She would then say, “great!” and never answer the question at all. Essentially she was saying: Does it matter? 

I think there is a difference.  My friend’s point was valid, film or digital?  Who cares? I agree. However, with Cole’s point, I agree in part.  Vision is indeed important and we should relentlessly pursue ours. But I feel the more we understand technique, be it in-camera or in post processing, the better equipped we are to be able to achieve our vision.  

Let me illustrate, if I did not understand the techniques needed for image overlay and texture work, I would never have been able to achieve my vision for the Disney picture I created a few posts back. 


For me, vision and technique are intertwined.  In fact, I would suggest we need to understand technique so well that we are freed from its constraints and liberated to pursue our vision. Otherwise, we might be frustrated in not being able to fulfill our vision.  Another illustration. You see an image like the one below but don’t know how you might create something similar.  Frustration sets in and you move on to something else.  

However, if someone shares the technique, you now have the knowledge and can use it to achieve your vision.  The trick is: How do you take this new knowledge and create a vision of your own?

This is where your vision becomes so important.  Your objective is to take this knowledge and create something new.  Something like the Disney creation above. 

20131004_New Hampshire_0075Texture

When I’m asked, how did you do that?  I’m prone to share. I understand where Cole is coming from.  He is serious about encouraging folks to chase their vision without influence from others, and I am on board with that. However, I think people are at different places along the creative path.  Without a clear understanding of technique, I think it might be harder for some to achieve their vision.

“Develop an infallible technique, then put yourself at the mercy of inspiration.”   Zen maxim

“One is not really a photographer until preoccupation with learning has been outgrown and the camera in his hands is an extension of himself.  There is where creativity begins.” 

Carl Mydans (1907-2004) American photojournalist

“I see no reason for recording the obvious.” Edward Weston, photographer 

Your thoughts?


Fuji X-E2 – 35mm f/1.4, ISO 2000

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Wait, the sky is the subject.

This scene was found while scouting the Palouse for new locations. Initially, I was frustrated because I could not find a worthy foreground subject for the amazing sky.  In the direction Dan (my tour partner) was shooting, the sky was not near as interesting.  He was shooting with a long lens and isolating his subject.  I was drawn to the wide angle opportunity because of the tremendous sky.  Then it dawned on me, THE SKY IS THE SUBJECT! I know this, and actually tell people this all the time, however, I too can become sidetracked by my expectations. I didn’t need a killer foreground because the sky was so good.  Don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred it, however, this foreground was all I had and it was my job to make something of it. I liken this unto being out for a drive without your camera and you come across a killer scene with cherry light.  What do you do?  Drive on, or shoot it with the iPhone in your pocket?  Well, if the best camera at that moment is the iPhone and its the only one you have?  I’d encourage you to shoot it.  That is what I did with this scene in Italy.  

Again, we were scouting and running on a schedule.  I purposefully left gear in the car so we would stay on task.  All I had was the iPhone. It turned out to be a favorite of the trip and is hanging on a friends wall in her office.  Someone else has made a painting from it and is winning awards.  I’m glad I had the iPhone to make the capture.

Lets go back to what Dan was shooting to make yet another important point.  Here is Dan’s image, taken within moments of my image with the sky.

He was pointed in the opposite direction and was shooting with his 70-200mm lens as that is his comfort zone.  My point is, you need to shoot what you are attracted to.  Shoot was appeals to you and do not worry about what others are excited about.  Stay focused on and follow your vision.  Dan ended up with a KILLER image and I’m pleased with mine. Trust me, when I see Dan focused and working a scene, it is VERY hard not to run over and see what he is doing because he does it so well.  That said, I have learned to follow my heart, my vision and my instincts.  And then I run over to see what Dan is shooting!  🙂   

Posted in Palouse, Tour, Uncategorized, Workshop Also tagged , |

Educated Vision


Tony Sweet invited me to a gathering of friends at the Klotz Silk Mill this past weekend. This was my 5th time shooting at this location. When I got the invite I immediately thought, what would I find? Are there more images to be found? Would this be a waste of time? Do I really need to go back? The lessons that can be learned from going back to an image rich venue are many if you are open to them. The general answer was a resounding yes, it makes sense to go back. The first visit was overwhelming, the second I felt more comfortable which allowed me to capture the obvious images. On the subsequent visits, I was even more relaxed and able to focus on a specific aspect of the mill or a specific idea I had be dreaming about. On this trip, I was having fun being open to whatever came along. I went without any preconceived ideas of what I wanted hoping for a few “keepers” to add to my portfolio. Each visit presented different lighting. Each visit, I brought a different attitude. Each visit revealed things I had not seen the other times. Each visit, I brought a more educated vision. By this I mean, I carefully studied what I had already shot and got critical feedback from those I trust. I also looked at what other friends were shooting and gained inspiration from them. All of this allowed me to go back each time with an educated vision which I believe has allowed me to make better images.

The blog images are two favorites Water pipes, Flow and Flow #2 (above and below) Converted in Nik Silver Efex Pro.



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