April 25, 2014

Preconceived Ideas

2013-10-19 They Walk Among Us - Final 11-28-2013 1000


A story…

Every autumn I go to Bandon, Oregon to photograph Monoliths. I have very specific conditions that I prefer; clear skies with wispy clouds that allow me to use long exposures on the Monoliths.

Unfortunately this last October I had not called ahead and made this request with Zeus, the god of clouds, rain, thunder and lightning. What I encountered was fog and lots of it, and unfortunately there is nothing for me to shoot in the fog.

So I decided to go up the coast and check out Cannon Beach, I heard they had some great Monoliths and I was hoping that the weather would be better there. Unfortunately it was just as foggy and so I decided to give up and head home where I would rent some movies and veg out.  

Because as long as the fog was obscuring my Monoliths, there was nothing for me to photograph there.

But something inside of me said: Wait a minute, there is always something great waiting to be discovered…in every light, in every weather and  in every location. It may not fit into your preconceived ideas of what you want, but there is something here for those who can “see.” And so I stayed.

Through the fog I faintly saw people walking towards me and it reminded me of spirits. A title immediately came to mind as I imagined the image: “They Walk Among Us.” Using the fog, a long exposure and by over-exposing, I created this very high-key image…in the fog.

It reminded me that having preconceived ideas (knowing what I want) might sometimes be a strength, but at other times it may make me blind to unexpected opportunities.

Whenever I’m at a location and feeling that there’s nothing for me to see, I’ll ask myself this question: If I had a time machine and could transport all of the great masters of photography here, could they find a great shot? 

Of course they could!

So what is the lesson for me? That sometimes I need to look beyond my preconceived ideas of what I want…and see what is being offered.


23 thoughts on “Preconceived Ideas

  1. Living has taught me that you cannot go back again. Nothing is ever the same and when we are fixed on finding our preconcieved ideas we ristk missiing what “is there”. Your post reminds me of my on-going lesson to “shoot what presents itself”.

  2. It gave me a chuckle how you struggled with preconceived ideas, that is everything you have previously ignored. Well done producing minimalistic images full of misty mystery-awesome.

  3. I cam across this yesterday in the current issue of “Outdoor Photographer”: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)

  4. I enjoy heading out to a location with a good idea of what I want especially if I know the weather gods are on my side. But I never leave out the option for spontaneous generation of a new series 😉 keep it up Cole, high key looks good on you.

  5. Hi Cole, I have two friends which are opposite: One works only with preconceived ideas and the other is always looking for “something to be discovered”. Nothing wrong with both conceptions. Sometimes we are are too exclusive in life (either…or). Sometimes there’s no need to be exclusive. In this case, why not taking the best of both worlds?

    Best Regards!

  6. Conception… is only a starting point. Where you go from there is what matters.

    The ability to take what is given and make the most of it, is an extraordinary talent.

    The definition of an artist.

  7. I’m a big fan of combining Homo Sapiens with long exposures, like this, like “Angel Gabriel”, “Ghosts: and like Titarenko’s work. Actually, despite all the obvious differences, I see a structural similarity between this one and “Angel Gabriel”.

    I can see those two hanging together as a people series, preferably with a third one with a similar composition? Are we talking triptych here?

  8. That is right Cole. A restless mind and vision is always looking for something new. This could be the first rule (rules?) for a photographer.
    I think there are two lessons: “Let yourself be surprised”, and “always look back before you leave”.

  9. Hi Cole,excellent work as usual! I’ve resigned myself to creating new images out of familiar surroundings.I don’t travel much and tend to shoot at the same locations routinely. In a sense, when perception doesn’t equal reality, I focus on one shot. If I can walk away with one really good composition, my goal has been achieved!

  10. Excellent post, Cole! I think a lot of photographers have preconceived ideas of images they want to make, particularly when traveling. But sometimes this can be a hindrance. I agree with you that there is always something waiting to be discovered. I believe that creative photographers look beyond what is visible and see what is possible.
    The title to your image is very appropriately named. It does look other-worldly.

  11. I sincerely doubt you need the input of the “Masters” as in all probability, their advice would be… to continue what your already doing.

    I can only imagine they would frown upon the imitation of themselves.

  12. The notion that everything should be as we wish it, can be as much a stumbling block to interpersonal relationships as it is to creativity. Sometimes it is difficult to be Zen-like, but patience, patience, patience!… leads to such lovely and fluid results, as can be seen in this image.

  13. Fabulous post Cole. I love that area of Oregon and am not surprised that you were able to capture and create incredible photographs during your stay. The image above is spectacular! All my best,

  14. Brilliant high-key piece Cole…the emerging forms speak to a very ethereal memory or secret place in the mind…and way to go on the self-reminding.
    No vegging.

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