Don’t Make It About the Technique

I’ve been experimenting with impressionistic motion blur techniques on land and on water as inspired by William Neill and his recent book Impressions of Light that Kathy happened to buy me for Christmas (thanks!). I have been following this work on his website and on his blog for quite some time and find it really appealing. I really like some of the results I have been getting, especially on water, and have made some prints which I’m really, really happy with. The thing I like the best is that Neill’s work has inspired me but I don’t feel like I am just copying someone else’s work or style. I feel like it is very personal and allows me to express myself in a personal way.

I belong to an informal photo support/print review group that meets a couple of times a month, and I took some of my prints to our meeting this week. I got a number of favorable comments about the work, partly because it is a real departure from my usual landscape work, partly because it is – not just in my opinion – pretty nice work and partly because everyone is being polite. But not too polite because it is a pretty tough crowd!

Among the many comments I received was one that went something like “you need to do more of this, but don’t let it become about the technique.” After additional discussion and conversation, and some subsequent thinking on my own, I think that comment summarizes in a lot of ways what I am trying to do with my work. It’s so easy to get hung up on the gear, the software, the technique that for many people creativity becomes about the “how” and not the “why.” When I see some bandwagon that everyone is jumping on, whether it is some new selective-focus lens, special effects plug-ins or some special filter, I tend to run the other way. There’s nothing wrong with using the tools, but we don’t go around wrecking the furniture just because we got a new hammer.

I need to explore this further, as I’m not sure where my head is going with it. Not every scene or subject is appropriate to photograph with motion blur any more than it is appropriate to use a Lensbaby to photograph everything we see. I think I need to do more of it, with different subjects and under different conditions to learn more about where it works and where it doesn’t, what I like and what I don’t like. And I probably need to get back to the beach. Kathy will hate that!

One thought on “Don’t Make It About the Technique”

  1. beautiful work – thank you for showing us these photos that make up a new direction you are traveling in.

    keep up the great work Tom.

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