The following quote came up in a conversation with a friend, John Benzik, yesterday; “In an almost classical sense, U2′s guitarist has turned limitations to his advantage, using simple techniques and abundant imagination to produce one of the freshest styles in years.” This is an excerpt from Guitar Player Magazine, 1985 interview with Edge, guitarist for U2.
This quote made me think a great deal about how we see limitations, how we let them affect our photography work, our career work and our life work. One could invoke several long-standing cliches that capture the same sentiment: “take lemons and turn them into lemonade” or “play the hand you’re dealt,” etc. It also got me thinking about a topic often discussed in art and I’ve written about here before; finding your voice. The quote really brought a lot together for me.
My voice for black and white landscape photography is, for the most part, shaped by limitations. What are those limitations? The most significant is that I love shooting over water and Lake Superior, but I don’t live near the lake so I can’t take advantage of ideal conditions. I go to Lake Superior when I can and shoot the hand that Mother Nature deals to me. If I want to shoot, then I often find myself seeing the landscape differently, pushing my technical creativity to capture a mood of the landscape in the specific conditions. My compositions often get distilled into very simple messages and ideas in an effort to manage what I see as endless possibilities for competing/busy subject matter. Does this result in a fresh look at the Lake Superior landscape? I believe so. This voice routinely shows up in other landscape work as well.
You should train yourself to work with what’s given to you, not to shy away from it to wait for better circumstances. Its this willingness to push yourself in moments that are uncomfortable or less than ideal, to just play with the subject at hand, that helps to shape your voice and style. This is true of today’s image from Lake Superior.
I’m not fully satisfied with the overall composition of this image, but I’ll revisit it in different conditions soon and see if I can get a result I like even more.
These limitations are a sturdy force for positive growth and creation as a fine art photographer, musician or in any aspect of our lives. What limitations do you have in your photography? Have you figured out how to leverage them to your advantage?
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