It’s been so hot here the last few days, I haven’t felt like doing much. I daydream of going to the movie theatre, just to sit bathed in that ultra-cold, air-conditioned air. But I don’t go and do it because, you know, the price of a ticket would be a luxury expenditure right now, and I’m trying to be a good girl. Plus, it would feel all the more hot once I returned home.
In this heat, I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping up with e-mails, comments, or posts on the blog. To give you an idea, I’d uploaded these photos far in advance, planning for the end-of-the-month Hot, Loud, & Proud meme, hosted by my friend Noel Morata over at his beautiful blog, A Plant Fanatic in Hawaii. But then when it came time to write it yesterday, I was limp and listless and not in the mood to do anything much but sit on the couch with F. and a tall glass of lemony ice-water, watching sci-fi reruns with our little window unit blaring at full blast. (He’s recently gotten me into the Babylon 5 series.)
The garden is surely showing my neglect and lethargy, but I don’t seem to be able to muster the energy to care.
I guess this is the dark side of hot.
But there’s a bright side, too. Take, for instance, this flower bed, my favorite “hot spot” at the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Isn’t it lovely?
When I originally uploaded these shots for your consideration, I was planning this long, detailed post about how I go about photographing a particular scene, inviting inspiration to come to me. I’d received a couple of e-mails requesting some guidance on photographing garden scenes that truly made me blush. (Y’all are too kind, really.) And although I’m no expert — not even close — I was planning on sharing precisely how I do it, and what seems to work for me.
Now I’m pretty much ready to just show you the pictures.
Every artist has to find their own path, after all, and discover by trial and error what works for him.
Even so, I suppose I could rally the energy to share my top three photography tips, the things I consider essential for my own process. What’s the worst that could happen? I could melt into a puddle as I type.
Number 1: Be open to the moment. If you go out there really determined to get a great shot of a coneflower for this specific post you have in mind, your single-minded focus will prevent you from seeing the awesome way the light is shining through that sassafrass tree, or the metallic green bee perched just so on a brilliant orange petal.
I guess what I am trying to say is: Don’t be too sure you know in advance what your muse is trying to tell you.
This posture is essentially hostile to any creative process, and that attitude is the one that results in frustrating photo expeditions — not to mention overworked watercolors, collages that morph into busy messes, short stories destined for the wastebasket, and poems that are so convoluted even your creative writing teacher shakes her head in confusion.
Why is that?
Hmm… because I think when you get down to it, Art is about not knowing. About being as open as we can be to this incomparable Reality, in whatever guise it comes to us.
For me, that often looks like wonder.
Number 2: Take lots of photos. And I mean lots.
Whatever number you think is enough photos of your subject, double that. Most of them are the photos you will need to throw away to get to the good ones.
Now, this would have been tough advice to give a new photographer a few years ago, when the photographers I knew personally had invested in serious equipment, darkrooms in their houses, purchasing canister upon canister of film, and the best print paper they could afford. But you really have no excuse in the digital era. (Philip over at Capturing Beauty has a wonderful article entitled Simple Advice where he explains this better than I could, by the way.)
Take lots of pictures because… get ready for it… Practice makes Perfect. And that advice really goes for all the arts, writing included, as I personally can attest.
I am allowed to pass on such miserable clichés because my sister is a classical musician, and if you have ever observed a musician in training — and I mean a good one, or one who becomes a good one — the first thing you will realize is that lots of would-be artists give up way too early. Whenever I lament the development of my own writing skills, all I have to do is remember my little sister, practicing seven hours a day at the height of her learning curve. The vision of that kind of determination makes me get back to work.
Or rather, to play.
Because making art, any art, has to be a playful act. Or, in the case of a dark or serious piece, we might say that one has to be free when making it. Free to see it from another angle, free to break the old rules, free to blaze a new path, to explore other options.
So that’s my last bit of advice.
Number 3: Take it lightly. Take yourself lightly. I hate the stereotype of the serious artist, and I have never actually met a succesful artist who wasn’t playful and endowed with a great sense of humor, which allows, among other things, a gentle receptivity to their own fledgling ideas.
This is not rocket science we’re doing here. (Thank God. Because F. does rocket science all day long, and I have never seen an ounce of humor in a physics equation.) When you go out with your camera — or with your pen or paintbrush or instrument — you are supposed to feel a little bit giddy sometimes, a little bit free, like a kid with a big deluxe box of crayons and no parent staring over your shoulder.
I grant you permission to have fun.
Want more magical moments?