Photography | Making Something Out Of Nothing

The facade of an old building in the town of Maldon in Central Victoria, Australia.

The images I'm sharing with you today were made during a workshop in regional Victoria. It was the weekend and the workshop participants had got up early and traveled to the country with high expectations for making great photos. However, the weather was inclement and the participants, while keen for information, were less than enthusiastic about photographing outside.  

Teaching Photography Involves Song And Dance

You can’t really teach enthusiasm, but you can inspire through example. When teaching on location it’s important to be out there, in the trenches, regardless of the conditions. Participants are expecting to come away with great images and a tutor must do their best to help them achieve their expectations.

Ripples and patterns on the surface of a lake make for an interesting image.

Learning Photography | The Chicken Or The Egg

You want them to learn, but they want to create. The balance between information and experience is a delicate one and it takes years to understand how best to position and deliver content in a way that doesn't overwhelm the learner. Ultimately, if the experience isn't fun the process of learning and the take home results will be compromised.

In fact you can't completely understand anything without actually doing it. Theory and practical photography must, therefore, be provided in a balanced manner. A good approach is to provide an overview of a particular technique, allow the participant time to put that technique into practice and then review it and, where appropriate, build on it with added information and visual examples.

The penny will drop when it drops, At the end of the day an experienced tutor needs to constantly remind themselves how long it took them to learn those so called Fundamentals Of Photography

Photography | Get Your Head Right

So, there we where, wanting to make great photos on a cold, grey and bleak winter's day. Actually, that kind of light is often very sympathetic for certain kinds of photography.

"Tell it to the judge" I hear you say. Well, in days gone by, I had to convince many a bride that, while the weather was bleak the light was beautiful for portrait photos. Put a blanket or shawl in the car and, with a more positive attitude, what looked like a major problem quickly becomes an opportunity.

One advantage of a weekend long workshop is that, as facilitator of the event, you have the opportunity to move sessions around, based on the circumstances that you find yourself working under, while still presenting all the advertised content by the end of the workshop. Flexibility is key for tutor and participant alike.

A close up photo of a bottle of olive oil and it's reflection have produced a wonderful u.

Finding Inspiration Through Abstraction

On the morning of the workshop the light outside was flat and uninspiring, though later that day the weather changed and provided great light for dramatic landscapes. But this was the first session of the workshop and, wanting to keep motivation up, I immediately adapted my program to the conditions at hand.

A fun and engaging session on window light portrait photography was followed by an improvised still life tabletop demonstration. Before you can say I'm hungry, participants had grabbed their camera and were enthusiastically making similar images.

The above image features a close-up of a portion of an olive oil bottle, surrounded by aluminum foil, photographed on the kitchen table at our workshop base. I made the photo with a Canon 180 mm f/3.5 L series Macro lens. The trick when you're doing this, without such a specialized lens, is to walk up close to the subject (e.g., on the edge of the camera's ability to focus) and move your camera, ever so slightly, back and forth until sharpness can be achieved.

The average kit lens will allow you to produce interesting close-up images when used in this manner. So, with a new way of seeing the world and a more physical approach to their photography, bad weather was forgotten and the group got on with having fun and making great images.

I photographed this wallaby skull in an abandoned mine in regional Victoria, Australia.

The image of the wallaby skull was taken mid afternoon, when a sudden blaze of sunlight caused us to head into the shade for more controlled lighting conditions. I found the wallaby skull nearby and photographed it on an old sheet of rusted iron, which I placed on top of my car bonnet, for some on location tabletop photography.

An abstract image of an out of focus plant backlit by warm sunset light near Harcourt in Central Victoria, Australia.

The final photograph emphasizes the texture qualities of a wild flower near the shores of a reservoir. While the poor weather prevented the opportunity for our planned sunset, matching alternative subject matter with appropriate technique produced a worthwhile image.

Photography is not always about the exotic. It’s about what you can make out of what’s in front of your camera’s lens, wherever you find yourself. Embrace the notion of Making Something Out Of Nothing and explore your creativity through three simple approaches, which I can outline as follows:

  • Move yourself
  • Move the subject
  • Change perspective and move towards abstraction by changing lenses and/or by using the lens your have in a more interesting way

Finally, don't let the notion of inclement weather dull your spirits. A positive attitude is at the heart of creative endeavors. Make it fun and you're half way towards making really great photos. It certainly works for me and I'm confident it will work for you to.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru