Finding Your Voice: Day 5. Element.

Welcome to Day 5 of our fun series: “Finding Your Voice… 10 Days, 10 Concepts To Help You Find Your Photographic Voice”

My Favorite Element is _______.

Let’s talk elements. I don’t ONLY mean the natural elements of wind, earth, fire and water. I mean MANY other elements that might be part of what you’re drawn to – that all contribute to finding your Artist’s Voice.

Moods Like This

A short list…

“Like what?” you say. “I’m a complete blank!” Yeah, I get like that too when somebody puts me on the spot to name names. So here’s a short list to get you started:

Natural world:

rocks (what kind and size?)
name your own…

animal world:

dogs (puppies or grown?)
cats (kittens or cats?)
You can choose different ages, species, colors, etc…

Human world

I’ll be here all day if I tried to make a complete list! You get the idea… going deep with these choices really help you define your world. Whether it’s that antique tea cup your grandmother had – or a grand vista in New Zealand, there’s something very specific and identifiable about how these things make you feel that you want to be able to draw from.

Here, I’ll show you some of my images – each with a list of elements that I love and are part of my own “Voice.” I’m including some of the feelings that the elements elicit too.


Snow, lakes, trees, intimate views, clouds, blue skies, leading lines, piers, the feeling of a scene stretching out before me, beckoning, the feeling of being let in on a secret. Lake Tahoe, CA.

The Other Side

This shade of golden-pink, sunsets reflected on icy lakes, snow, winter, sun, making up stories that involve inanimate objects come to life (the stump is leaning into – and enjoying – the sunset).

Overlooking Life

This particular type of soft, silvery light, side light (light source is off to the left), trees, snow, winter, benches covered in snow, making an inanimate object seem alive and part of the story, making stories, period.

The Unbearable Beauty of Bench

Railroad tracks, forests, leading lines, leaves on the ground, after a rain, diminishing lines, mysterious mist, moss on trees, the tease of the tracks going round a bend in the distance. It’s that exciting sense of journey, going places, a story, a mystery, something just happened, something’s about to happen, still but dynamic.

Making Tracks For Home

Black and white photography, drops of water on things, negative space, the way this looks like Darth Vader, the unexpected placement of the subject, the air of mystery, the questions left hanging by NOT defining or identifying everything in the image, these particular tones of white, grey and black.


The way these leaves look like penguins, the light, the cobweb.

Swords Heavenward!... or Emperor Penguins

The scale of tiny to huge, the way the mist makes the boat look sneaky, the colors, the water, the way the light adds to the mystery, the fact that it was in New Zealand which I loved like there way no tomorrow, the variable textures and the contrast of smooth water to textured mountain. Milford Sound, NZ.

The Big and Small of It

The colors, the intricate pattern of the ice, the way you didn’t see this at first when standing at the scene, the water below, the way it looks like the bottom of a skirt and how that made me make up a whole story about this one, which I love to do more than anything.

A Lady's Fringe Must Never Quite Touch The Floor

Blue and gold, the rock formation, the water, the sand, sunset, the surfer – which made the shot, because with him in it looking like he was going to go out and never come back, it became a whole story in my mind (see a thread here?). Natural Bridges, Santa Cruz, CA

To Surf the Zuvuya

The colors, the contrasting textures, the waves, the storm above, the geometric curve of the rock which does a weird thing to my perception, which I love. Oahu, Hawaii.

Liquid Rocks

Fall colors, New York in the rain, leaves on the ground, people with umbrellas (especially this perfect blue one), blue and gold, being down low and looking up, which makes it look like a squirrel took the picture which makes me laugh, the elm trees, The Mall in Central Park, the feeling of being out in the rain with my camera.
Walk In The Park One Rainy Day With a Blue Umbrella

Define your elements

You see, knowing which elements you love will tell you what to focus on. What to put into the frame. When NOT to bother with a photo at all (I can’t tell you how many times I don’t bother photographing something that others seem to love – just because it’s doesn’t thrill me.).

This part of the process is clarifying, defining. For instance, I love snow. So I know that the day after a big snowstorm is going to be prime time for me! Heck, DURING a snowstorm is awesome too! I love shooting cities in the rain. I love nature… and find myself gravitating toward Central Park and other beautiful parks in any major city.

If you love cities… what are the elements in an urban environment that you LOVE, that draw you to them, every time?

See, by breaking this whole “Voice” thing down the way we are in this series, you can shine a light in a more specific way into exactly what makes your art reflect YOU.

You could go out and spend months just photographing any one of these elements, your favorite time of day, your favorite light. You could make that your own personal exploration if you wanted to. I’ve done it, it’s awesome. Kind of like slowing down time so you can really see what’s going on, instead of the train rushing by in a blur.

Have fun with this one! Savor each discovery along the way. 😀

Miss a day? No worries… they’re all right here:

Finding Your Voice, Part 1: My favorite way to feel.
Finding Your Voice, Part 2: My favorite time of day.
Finding Your Voice, Part 3: My favorite light.
Finding Your Voice, Part 4: My favorite texture.
Finding Your Voice, Part 5: My favorite element.
Finding Your Voice, Part 6: My favorite color.
Finding Your Voice, Part 7: My favorite movement.
Finding Your Voice, Part 8: My favorite shapes & patterns.
Finding Your Voice, Part 9: My favorite view.
Finding Your Voice, Part 10: My story.