Sunday, January 4, 2009

Creativity Ideas

A milestone such as anniversary dates (Blog launch) or calendar dates (New Year) provides a good opportunity to reflect on your goals, artistic directions, how well you are on your path and most importantly a time of celebration. I like the last part best, as I think it is very important to celebrate any success that you have achieved and not necessarily at the opinion of others who may not always understand your creative ideas.

With a New Year beginning I thought I would reflect a little and at the same time suggest some ideas that might spur new photographic opportunities.

There are many words, maybe too many, written about creativity, about being creative and the freeing of the inner spirit as if there were some scientific formulae that we could all apply. Unfortunately that is not the case.

The one main thing that I do believe is that creativity is opposite to the task of living, at least for most of us. What I mean is that the everyday, logically, right-brain side, task oriented, approach to our lives does not generally allow us to be creative. There are many people whose daily job is all about creativity, but I would imagine that even these people have deadlines and pressures and therefore use a kit of tools to kick-start the imagination. The key piece they have is that they regularly practice a variety of techniques to stay on the imaginative region.

It is only when our mind is free; to wander, to explore, to not accept the status quo on what is ‘good art’ that we may find creative thoughts and with some skill and persistence create artistic works.

I do have one measure that lets me know when the force creativity is strong. It doesn’t mean I am creating great or even good works but there is a chance. This is when I am oblivious to most of life around me. I enjoy so much what I am doing that time doesn’t matter.

With this article I selected an image I enjoyed from each of the last twelve months starting with November. I thought that last December’s images were too fresh to reshow so soon. Showing images is the celebrating part. In the last year I posted 320 of my images.

In-line with the theme ‘twelve’ I thought I would also suggest 12 new ideas that might help you peruse creative routes. There is another 12 related idea and I will explain this latter. If nothing else, I hope that the best part is that there are a couple of ideas that get you smiling about images you are taking.

I would be pleased to hear your ideas or suggestions or any other thoughts on this subject.

Stop for 21 days

I need to get this drastic method out first, which includes all photographic related events therefore, no shooting, editing, or related photographic readings. Sometimes you need a holiday from yourself especially if you are working too hard at it. Or feeling frustrated about your progress or current state of mind.

As with any recipe, season for your own taste and pick any number of days you like and adjust to your own needs, but make it long enough that you are longing to try new avenues of exploration.

Quick Sketch

Take a small note pad and sketch, with a few lines as possible, a subject in front of you. It doesn’t have to be accurate or good or anything special. Just the practice of reducing scenes into simple lines, shapes and patterns will help you to better see compositions when looking through the view finder

Hang around wild ones

We do tend to enjoy the company of like-minded people with similar interests. But if you could go out shooting with someone who is completely different from your approach, this cannot help but be a learning experience. It might feel a bit painful if too radical but it should open up your vision to new ways of thinking.

This could include three year olds as this Christmas my granddaughter was allowed to use point and shoot camera. There was a special awe in the moment as I watched her look through the tiny viewfinder and the flash continuously firing away as she moved around the room. I thought I should try that sometime.

Wait an Hour before Photo Swimming

When getting to a place to begin your image taking, sit and wait an hour. Take in the whole scene; understand how time and people or things move through this space. Think about how you relate and how your images can explain this place or subject. Then go in the deep end, at least figuratively.

Words a Day

I was talking to a close friend the other day about creative ways that she could once again write more. One of the ideas discussed was to write a small number of words a day (I love easy to complete learning tools) with whatever struck her fancy.

The next day I thought that this would be interesting for me. A method to distil little things into a few words is another way of seeing with words. In line with this theme I am now writing twelve (12) words a day mostly about objects around me. I may have several such per day, but at a minimum there will be one a day. Doesn’t have to be good, just the process describing is enough. It’s only been a few days now but on 2 occasions after completing the test I later got up to actually take a picture of the object.

For those who would like to see how good or bad my words are I have created a blog to capture some of these words. Of course it is calledTwelve words a Day”.

Let Others give you 12 image Photo Theme

Ask someone who might understand your passion about photography and ask them to give you a theme or subject for you to shoot twelve images (there’s that 12 again). This could be family members, friends or fellow photographers or even another type of artist.

While there is not a need to present your collection, it would aid your creative process to either discuss results with the person who suggested or even post images and observations to a blog.

To any who might wish, I would be happy to give you a theme as long as I can see some of your current images.

A Project
Start a project to explore and document a passion you have about elements of our life whether it be new trends, your favourite pursuit or hobby or entities that are to be lost to time except as recorded by photographers.

This may be a little more daunting or demanding while the work is on going but when completed there is a unique satisfaction with your body of work. A project allows you to explore a theme over a longer period of time and in so doing your own ideas and visions may be re-focuses as time progresses.

Last year I participated in SoFoBoMo (Solo Foto Book Month) project.

I definitely found this challenging and not only did I have 32 photos ready, I also had to learn and publish a book with the results within a one-month time frame. A little stressful but great fun once completed.

Lesson leaned:

I went completely artistic with layout, but this lead to a problem that not all mass-market (less costly) book publishers could handle the photo layout. This year I will choose a standard template so I can have the book printed without high-end cost of a completely custom layout.

This year it will be starting up again and please check SoFoBoMo status update from the blog Mussing on Photography by Paul Butzi

Photo a Day

A standard practice with many photographers and bloggers. But don’t fret if you miss a day or two or that no images are the finest artistic quality. This should be fun and not a chore and should help you to better see compositional images in the everyday objects and life around you.

Go on a Photowalk

Check Facebook or other social media tools for online clubs or even join a motor and brick club and see which photowalks are planned. There are even professional photographers who organize and charge for their photowalks. Not a bad investment.

Why not organize your own photowalk. Choose a location, time and route. Have people meet at a convenient place for a starting point and do suggest a location like a coffee shop to meet afterwards for some good camaraderie. Do have an alternate date or place in case of bad weather

Take a Bus

Hop on local bus, subway, train or bicycle and decide to get on and off on many of the stops and take images of the street/landscapes or objects around you.

GPS your spot

Pick an area on a map that you can assign GPS coordinates and establish a grid range that is feasible to shoot within. Randomly pick out the longitude and latitude coordinates and go and shoot whatever you find. Do give yourself some flexibility in case the coordinate is deep inside concrete.

Even use a map on a dartboard and who knows where you will wind up.

Progression Series

For a period of time, either take new images or review works completed and see what can be learned about yourself. This could apply to many ideas above especially the photo-a-day. The one key is to wait about 6 months or more so that your judgement will not be too biased with recent mental images.


There is no need to share this work with others because once you begin, you start to judge your work and that’s not the intent of exploring creative approaches. It should be just for the pure fun of seeing what happens with no rules or constraints on what’s acceptable.

Keep the guidelines simple or adapt as you go along so that there is no failure to complete.

Niels Henriksen

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Anonymous said...

Hi Neil, was very impress with all your work. I never realize how very talented you are. You have quite a few picture i like very much. Continue with this great work, I can tell you really enjoy what you are doing.

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