Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Ahead-Hitting Home Runs

I'm not much of a New Year's resolution kind a guy. I have enough projects to keep me busy for another 100 years. So, I don't dwell on such things. Some are bigger than others. My big job today, this last day of 2011 was making a huge batch of homemade chili.

Mission accomplished! And let me tell you, I pureed some jalepano peppers, spread them on cream cheese inside crescent rolls and baked them......oh my! So good with chili. My goodness, I get easily sidetracked.

Over the holiday season I had the pleasure of touching bases with several good friends. Many of which are peers in the field photography. Conversations rolled all over the place, with topics ranging from family, the stagnant economy, upcoming shoots, and my favorite, why we do what we do. That spiritual connection we have being photographers.

One of the things I cherish about my photo friends is we don't compete with each other. We do our own thing, exploring, creating, learning. Granted, our images are often in the same edit pool or assignment desk in which clients make choices, but in conversation we share ideas, bitch about stuff, and in the end marvel that we are doing what we do. In fact, when I'm unavailable for an assignment, I suggest these folks to the editor because it does both the client and these talented shooters good. And, they do the same for me.

I've always found it tough going around people I sense are hiding something from me. They give off the vibe they have something on you, then refuse to, share. Its such a waste. They fail to realize that blurting out ideas can allow those ideas to percolate and genuine thoughts from others can add depth. I see this both professionally and in some of the workshops I teach.

So, if I were to make any suggestions for rising & aspiring shooters looking ahead to 2012 it would be to put yourself on pace to hit a few home runs. Share ideas and images. Take on a visual project and push it to a conclusion. Talk to others about it. Share it. There are tons of good places on the internet to share these projects. Investigate a subject/theme and reap the benefits of all those lessons that will reward you on so many levels. It will make you a better photographer and a wiser person. And, invariably, you will find new themes within the one your are developing. I swear on every story I shoot, I find several mor
e within it worth pursuing. Its a win-win.

In a day where it feels like everything that can be photographed, has been photographed, its time to go hunting. I find new moments revealed at the click of my shutter all the time. Ya just gotta get out there with your lens.

A good example: I teach a series of workshops called 72HOURS at the Minneapolis Photo Center (MPC). I choose a different theme and for three days we go out and shoot that theme. In the end, produce a book of those efforts. Last Spring we did one called 72HOURS Stone-Steel-People. We went all over Minneapolis/St. Paul searching for subject matter that related to this topic. Many of the subjects we photographed we photograp
hed with fresh eyes because we were following a theme. Without that theme, the story line, we quite possibly on any other day, would've walked right past those moments.

Using the theme as a visual vehicle, we gave ourselves permission to create because they had relevance based on our theme. You can see where I'm going with this can't you? There's lots of photographic material out there! Attaching a theme steers you in a direction.

Consider following a theme. It is a great way to kick off your new photographic year. Don't be fooled that its a trivial way to create. Its not. You can pick a simple theme or one more involved.

Along with the several I have on tap already, I'm determined to spend more time photographing Gaea here in Minneapolis whose face intrigues me to no end. She is someone I really want to photograph. Its a theme. Its one of my plans. And, she's right here in the neighborhood. I have no economic reasons to photograph her. I feel a calling to do so.

Minor White once said when referring to making photographs, "Listen to the Messages." This is an obvious message to me and I will pursue it as I can.

Grab that camera and lens and hit some home runs with your efforts. Its like that party you didn't want to go to and once you got there, had buckets of fun.

Happy New Year!

layne & gang

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winter Blues-NO WAY!

When asked what's my favorite time of year to photograph, I usually say winter. Oh man, the looks I got! I've had to think about that response once the words left my lips, but when narrowing it down, I know why I make this claim.

Its the quiet, less people around, fresh tracks in the snow, shorter days (so I don't have to work
18 hour days) that are so appealing. So maybe its more accurate if I say winter & wilderness. The same nuances seem to apply to both. I'm comfortable there.

I love the peacefulness of winter. The sounds outside are different, the light is different too. And the unique challenges that accompany winter activities keeps many inside. All I can say is this; If you are prepared to be outside in the cold, you'll have a rewarding experience in a season that so many put on hold.

One prime example for a winter excuse is a wonderful workshop coming up in March in the Canadian Rockies at Banff National Park. See the flyer below. The idea of photographing winter at it's peak, the ice fully formed, the longer days of late February and warmer temps, puts you in position to photograph one of the most legendary winter locations in North America. Contact the Mentor Series for more information.

Mentor Series Photo Workshops

What keeps folks from embracing winter? The cold!

How you dress is the key to staying warm and enjoying yourself. Remember, cotton kills. Stay away from cotton. And think layers. Dress in layers. In cold, the moment you feel a sweat coming on, take a layer off. When you stop, pull that layer back on, it'll hold in the heat. Wearing clothing with a wicking layer, from your long johns to your jacket are key to staying warm for the active shooter. Always have a hat and wear it! Most of your body heat escapes from your noggin, so keep it warm. Again, when you start cookin' take it off, but keep it handy.

And in my opinion, the most overlooked piece of clothing is that all important wind layer. A warm fleece or down jacket is warm until that wind cuts through you like a hawk. Pulling that all important wind layer will keep you snug and toasty. When it comes to your hands, mittens are far warmer than gloves. I wear a thin pair of poly gloves inside my mittens so I can pull them off, snap off a few frames, and slide my hands back inside those warm mittens.

For my wind layer, I wear something that is also water resistant or waterproof. Living in Minnesota and doing a lot of work in the arctic, the conditions of the snow are very cold. So, the snow just glides off my gear. But, in places like the Rockies, especially in Spring, the snow can be wet and cling to you. Remember, STAY DRY. This is key to a safe and enjoyable trip outdoors in winter.

Batteries....oh my, the big worry isn't it for shooters? If I'm on assignment and gone for days, I carry several spares. But, I also carry those little "heat packets" you buy at the store and once opened stay warm for eight hours. I'll keep one wrapped around my spare each day just in case my in-camera battery dies. And, if I have a warm place to sleep at night, I recharge.

Bringing gear in from the cold. If you are staying out all day in the cold and then return to a warm cabin at the end of the day, be careful with your gear. That temp change will cause rapid
condensation on your very electronic equipment. I keep mine inside my bag, under my big jacket and allow it to slowly warm to room temp. Often times this takes several hours so be patient. If you plan on any addt'l night shooting once you've come in, just leave the gear outside and out of the wind.

What is there to photograph in winter? The subject matter is as endless as any other season.
Take a look at some of these images to kick start the mind. Get out and shoot. Winter can offer the photographer a collection of imagery that sets them apart from most shooters. Explore, take risks with light and lens. The air is crisp and clean and the magic of that temporary fossil called ice, offers the artist endless options in a sea of translucence.