So, this. Voices In The Mist. I recently made it image my new Facebook cover image. It got alot… and I mean, ALOT more likes, comments and shares than normal.
Think it struck a cord? Or was it just algorithms?
Personally, I’m voting “cord”, for whatever reason it was struck.
I can tell you that to me, this is an illustration in a story about listening, finding your voice, speaking with it with all your heart & soul in your art… and in every thing you do.
To Hear Voices In The Mist, You Gotta Listen!
The story begins: In order to say anything worthwhile – you gotta LISTEN first. ListenListenListen! It’s more important than any utterance. It’s an art unto itself.
My own passionate insistence on this point always used to surprise my voice coaching clients. But hey, if you don’t listen, how do you know if you’re being even remotely relevant to the conversation? And if you’re not being relevant, then you’re just blowing smoke out yer you-know-what.
It relates to art, too. BIG time!
What Are Your Settings?
I can’t tell you how often people ask me what camera and settings I used on a particular image, as if that would tell them anything relevant. I don’t mean to be flip about this, because who DOESN’T want to look over someone’s shoulder to see what they’re doing? Still, I always try and wiggle out of answering that question with that information, asked in that particular way – even though I know gear and settings are key ingredients.
See for me, those choices are FIRST determined by a series of feelings, preferences, intentions and choices. Y’know, the listening part. Without that conversation and context, settings are kind abstract. They’re not necessarily relevant, because you don’t know what the the settings are FOR. The better questions would be:
- What made you want to take THAT image?
- What were you feeling, thinking, observing, wanting to say with? And/or…
Because those questions trigger an answer relevant to the conversation we SHOULD be having.
Because those questions could actually uncover what you what you REALLY want to know.
And THOSE are the questions you should be asking yourself & listening for the answer to every time you pick up your camera, paintbrush, voice, or any instrument of creativity… BEFORE you pull the trigger!
If you ask any of these “Why?” questions, you might just hear something like: “Because I felt time stop right then. I gasped and saw the poignancy of the cycle of life and death unfold before my eyes. Timeless, magical, heart-rending, soul-opening. I saw the finished image in my head, felt it in my gut.
Only then did I reach for my camera, (feeling happy that it sees as artistically as I do, thus making my post-processing work later MUCH easier!), lower the ISO, crank my aperture up – and put my camera on a tripod so there’d be NO accidental movement on my part in this low light – and captured a few different exposures, to be sure I had every tone, DOF (depths of field) and light levels covered. My heart sang, my muse applauded. It felt incredible”.
That’s the conversation to have! It ends on settings. It doesn’t begin there.
Honestly, that’s how I take pictures. That’s how I choose my equipment and settings. And that’s why I use Photoshop to process my photos.
“Why” is the key question in any creative workflow.
(Right next to “What if?”)
Listen to That Feeling
The morning I shot this image I was responding to a feeling. Like an itch begging to be scratched. Y’know the ones that lie under a few layers of skin and you can’t quite scratch it hard enough because if you do it’ll hurt yourself and it’ll still itch anyway? Yeah, like that. Or maybe it’s just be one you can’t quite reach. You pick.
Point was, that feeling had me up crazy early because it had rained the night before and I knew there would be some awesome fog in the morning. I had a hankering to git me some mystical forest fog photos. Could see them in my mind, feel them, hear them singing their siren song to me from the mists.
Maybe they would appear as God rays through the trees… maybe as shadow figures peeking through the fog like spectral shapes… maybe as images where the lines were blurred between what was “real” and what wasn’t. Yeah, THAT. I’ve never been an early morning person (though strangely, I seem to be turning into one. Another story!)… but I was up early pearly on this day.
I drove for 15 minutes and… voila! There they were… the God rays, the spectres, the quiet stories whispering, just waiting, beckoning, luring me into their misty embrace.
I saw this frame.
I felt time stop. I gasped and saw the poignancy of the cycle of life and death unfold before my eyes. Timeless, magical, heart-rending, soul-opening. I saw the finished image in my head, felt it in my gut.
Only then did I reach for my Fuji X-T1 and 16-55mm lens, (feeling happy that it sees as artistically as I do, thus making my post-processing work later MUCH easier!), lowered the ISO to 200, cranked my aperture up to f/16, put my camera on a tripod so there’d be NO accidental movement on my part in this low light – and captured a few different exposures, just to be sure I had every tone, DOF’s (depths of field) and light levels covered.
My heart sang, my muse applauded. It felt incredible.
In Photoshop, I did some image blending using layers, so there would be no blown out nor too-dark sections, added a bit more fog to what was already there and some mild blurring to increase the effect that the conditions already suggested but that needed to be more for the feeling I wanted to create.
I wanted it to feel a bit more lost in time and space… yet recognizably real. Grounded. Evocative. Inspiring. Because those are all qualities that resonate for me in this photo… and are part of my voice in this lifetime. The voice I speak with – and the one that makes itself known in all of my work, no matter what it is.
It’s always been like that.
Finding Your Voice
Finding your voice is so much more than figuring out what your “style” is.
It’s listening, really intently. Discovering what makes you gasp, leap, laugh, giggle and FEEL the most. (Which of course, shifts, changes and evolves as you do.)
And then… after listening with every fiber of your being.. and only then, you use voice, your camera, your paintbrush, your life… and express it, speak it, bring it to life with all you got.
THAT’S a the story worth listening to… worth speaking… worth living out loud!