Well hello 2018!
First up: here’s the audio version of this post, for your listening enjoyment:
Now then… let’s get this party started!
Yeah, I know we’re already an entire triad of weeks into the new year – but this time of year I often hole up for a bit to think things over. Everybody always says “You have to be consistent!” when it comes to blog posting, social posting and all that. But hey, I don’t always feel like doing the talking. Sometimes I just like to listen for awhile. That’s me. Call me an artist. Call me flaky. Just don’t call me late for dinner! hahahah. That was my mom’s fave joke. So dorky. Had to share.
Now I’m back and ready to chat wit’chall about all kinds of things. I may even have a rant or two up my sleeve, so buckle up!
But today’s post is pretty mellow. It’s about something I’m playing with over on Instagram. (I’m @karenhutton over there, in case we’re not connected all social-like.)
Having A Bit’o Fun With Series & Themes
Some of you know I’ve been doing 12-part series over there for the past few months. Why 12? Ohhh – because that’s the number that covers the screen pretty well on my iPhone – and I like themes. Scientific, huh? It’s also a number for spiritual perfection. So it works for me on both counts.
Last year I was doing visual themes, which is fun to do, if you haven’t ever tried that. Like: sunsets… the color blue… medieval towns in France… that sort of thing.
I did that for awhile, then thought it would be fun (my key word is always FUN!) to post in themes which might ALSO have some food for thought in your approach to your photography. They’re the things I do in my own work and also teach people in workshops and retreats and stuff, so why not share some of those notions in tasty little morsels? It still looks cool visually AND gives back in ways that might give folks something to think about.
My first such theme along those lines was “Single subject”.
When it comes to my own photography, I always think in terms of stories and movies. So this “single subject” thing would be like your central character. Your main dame. The one around whom your story revolves. Everything else is there to qualify, support and further define her. As the screenwriter of this little movie – your choice of who all the supporting characters are, what they do and say, has to pretty much all point back to this one grand dame.
The single subject notion seems stupid simple and obvious at the outset, but gets more complex as the view and the story (i.e. your composition) becomes richer and deeper. Which is why you gotta anchor the whole idea in your head solidly, securely… and simply.
Translated into photography, your single subject grand dame is whatever you choose as your focus. Some people call it the “hero” of the shot, but I think that’s too limiting. Because in real life, everything is more nuanced than “who’s the hero?”. And photography is alot like life.
What Do You Love?
This is why I always go back to “What do you love?” Because in art, what you’re trying to capture is the firefly called Emotion. What do you feel – and what do you want your viewers to feel? Gotta be clear about what that central emotional response is and how you’d most love to frame it, otherwise, your images end up as wandering generalities (another of my mom’s fave phrases) and they just won’t land in anyone’s hearts and souls. All you’ll hear is “NEXT!”
Here’s another thing: with so much visual noise going on all the time in our lives, an image with a single focus lets your brain relax. You can breathe. Then slowly start to notice all the other supporting players in its elegant and poignant soliloquey.
So here’s an idea to play with: Next time you go out to shoot, find your main character. Your grand dame. The ONE element that is your entire reason for taking that photo. You’ll find it changes how you see, how you feel, how specific your compositions become. Did I mention that the importance of being SPECIFIC is? Ahhh… that’ll have to be a post all unto itself then.
In the meantime, here are a few more single subject, single frame movies for your consideration.
Clearly, a flower. Yep, she’s the subject.
But once chosen, you decide how to light her,
frame her face, where to focus the lens.
Lots of decisions for such a simple notion!
Humor and surprise usually go together.
And remember: what you put into a composition around your grand dame
further defines and illustrates her. Chicken AND a wine glass? Why not?
But she’s our main focus.
“So this chicken walks into a bar…” Snort!
Her name is Genvieve, by the way.
She lives at Skylark B&B in Grasse, France.
In landscape and nature photography, don’t forget the intimate views!
They are usually exquisite in completely different ways than the grand views…
and further define your story of the glory of Nature.
Each of these photos are Single Subject ideas.
And they could easily be from the same time and location,
IF you remember to tune you eyes and mind to the entire experience of being out there in all this fabulousness.
Mont St-Michel. An icon. A fairy tale.
People see her from afar and gasp.
Yet to the sheep and the townsfolk, she is just part of everyday life in their village.
She possesses her own brand of magic – and has for centuries.
So sayeth my character description from the screenplay of this composition.
Then, as your compositions become more complex…
the single focus idea helps anchor the story.
Plot description: The story of wonder, impossible color, grandeur and light.
A tale of time spelled out by eons.
And of a single moment where nothing else mattered.
Without a single focus (the lighter colored, taller peak) for such an epic adventure…
who the heck is leading the charge?
So there you have it. Single subjects which start simply singular, but which – like the Matahara or Luke Skywalker (depending upon your generation) – serve to anchor your story, no matter how many sequels you write.
Just a little food for thought.
I’d love to hear yours in the comments below!