Practicing Intuition With Your Camera

I spent the last few days in Mexico City with a close friend from Oxford, England. We spent the time not only enjoying the sights but really practicing taking pictures with the idea of letting the picture come to us.

Fortunately Mark Powell, one of Mexico’s great street photographers was our mentor and I have taken classes from him. Mark points out that we take pictures for many different things. We may want to record a journey or family or a topical category such as architecture or flowers. As a street photographer Mark says that he looks for situations where the shot comes to him. It must be taken instantly as the transitory scene is never to appear again. It is a picture that makes you ask a question, and or reveals more than you expected to find there.

Like most everything we do, the left side of our brain rules the day. When we get ready to take a picture, we think it though, trying to get everything just right in the frame. If we are a tad better we begin to improve our composition and even become quite good at obtaining a beautifully art directed picture. But Mark urged us to begin to let the scene open to us. Not try to get the “correct” picture as much as intuitively let the situation prompt us. Shoot the picture and then see what you captured without realizing the full extent of what was there.  You can shoot on the fly while walking, maybe not even looking through the viewfinder or screen on the back of your digital. Yes, there will be a lot to discard,  but maybe there will be a gem. It is the photo that tells a story, and not one you conceived of. I had taken some photos before arriving and Mark was kind enough to critique them from this point of view.

I said to Mark that I have just written a book coming out shortly and I have proposed for conversation’s sake that instead of just ourselves living our lives in solitude, we have invisible partners making the journey with us. They have the benefit of other dimensions to draw from, and we have the physical form to express their ideas as well as ours in the material world. The goal is to improve the communication. Synchronicities, meaningful coincidences, are one way to do this. This photo exercise is another fun way. When you get an urge to take the photo, and get more than you thought you could, where did that come from? Perhaps it is another set of eyes on the same subject sending you the urge. Obviously I cannot prove this line of dialogue, but if the downside of this exercise is zero and the upside is all positive potential, why not as the Nike adds say, “Just Do It.”  As you begin to get more of these shots look for the extras that reinforce this.

I passed by this Corvette and took this shot because I was drawn to it. Mark commented that while it was technically good and it could be perfect for perhaps a stock photo it did not reveal a story, and It was a photo we will have all seen.

The next shot is a street scene taken on the fly. You see the woman approaching, almost as if she could be curious, and the man standing there, but there is not enough of her. You want more.

The next shots are more of what Mark is talking about. They are shots grabbed at the instant where the picture surprises you. This is another shot taken by just pointing the camera as I move by. It is a blessing of a man by another holding smoking incense in direct contrast to the odor coming from the portable toilets. Here is an example of what Mark calls the story coming to you. The next shot is another example of this kind of shot. It takes place at the Roswell, New Mexico, museum dedicated to the controversial alien space ship crash in 1947. This shot Mark liked for many reasons. He said it is not a shot you see from everyone’s camera. It was taken instantly and the element of the aliens above the group below is the central focus, but the lights at the top add another dimension as if they were spacecraft and the scene is natural showing the flow of life in a museum.  The final shot is one grabbed in traffic. It came and went instantly, but after it was captured the elements revealed themselves, the cloud color, the power or phone lines and the contrast of green. So get your point and shoot camera and as you go for a ride or walk see if pictures will come to you. You’ll have fun. I promise.

copyright©2010 Sandy Sims

copyright©2010 Sandy Sims

copyright©2010 Sandy Sims

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  1. This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.

  2. Katharine says:

    Sandy- this is really the essence of art- understanding what the left provides but allowing the right brain to take over, which is when art really happens. Excellent post and the photos are fascinating. Peter and I enjoyed meeting you and Patti in San Miguel and I am glad we can follow your blog.

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