May 23 2017

Before and After – The Jim Bridger Power Plant

 

 

 

This is a “before and after” of the Jim Bridger Power Plant that I created recently.

The before does not differ a great deal from the after, but there are a few differences. Can you spot them?

Hint: the first change is abbreviated b&w.

I like to use the word “create” rather than “capture” when talking about my images.

Why?

Because a “capture” implies that the image is an accurate representation of reality, as the scene appeared to the camera and eye.

I like “create” because it suggests that the image is not accurate, but rather it has been created through my Vision into something new and different.

And when did the “Vision” for this image occur?

When I first saw this power plant from I-80 from several miles away. As soon as I saw it, the Vision of the final image appeared in my head and guided how I shot it, how I exposed it and how I processed it.

Vision was the driving force.

Why am I always mentioning Vision? Because it breaks my heart to see people chasing equipment, technique and gadgets…thinking that these things are key to creating a great image. Those things can certainly be “elements” of a great image, but not key and not even always necessary.

So please, focus on your Vision! I spent most of my photographic life pursuing the wrong things and was lucky to have a mentor who was even more bull-headed than I am, and argued that I did not need document, but rather I could create.

Thank you Vered.

Cole


Mar 5 2017

Photographer’s Forum Spring 2017


Mar 6 2016

How to Critique Another Person’s Image

2006-3-1 Urban Starfish - Final 9-4-2007 1000Urban Starfish

 

My philosophy is: Don’t. Ever. Never.

Why? Because my opinion, no matter how well intentioned or experienced, is bound to miss the mark.

Why? Because my advice comes from my point of view, my Vision and my definition of success.

Not yours.

If I really want to help someone, I’ll offer encouragement instead of advice. If I do comment I’ll say only positive things and qualify my comments with a “what I like about this image is…”

I’ll never tell another person what they should have done or what I would have done with the image. This is not useful, no matter how well intentioned I am.

If the person presses me for an opinion, then I’ll simply say: What I think is unimportant. What do you think of the image? How well does it express your vision?

Generally I find that a person asking for an opinion does so because they have not yet found their Vision. This now opens the door to talking to them about the  importance of Vision as the driving force behind an image and not relying on the opinions of others. 

And above all else I try to be kind and encouraging. I try to remember that each person is on the same path as I am. Today they may be behind me on that path, but tomorrow they could be ahead of me.

That’s a great reason to treat each person as I would like to be treated: as one who has tremendous creative potential and is seeking to find their Vision.

Cole

 

 


Feb 20 2016

How Do You Respond?

2016-1-7 Self Shadow, Barely There 1d

Someone is looking at your work and says: tell me about your Vision.

How do you respond?

 


Oct 9 2015

My Thoughts On; What’s Wrong With This Picture?

2015-9-19 Monolith No 85 - Final 10-4-2015 1000

 

Last week I asked: “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” 

Many of you guessed that I was up to something because I never list specifications and I never ask others about my work (it’s a Vision thing).

So what was the real point of the post? It was that the listing of technical specifications detracts from an image. They’re not just superfluous, but they actually detract from the viewing experience.

Listing specifications draws attention away from the only thing that matters (the image) and it furthers the folly that with the right equipment and processes…anyone could create this image. 

  • If only I had a full-frame camera…
  • If only I had white lenses…
  • If only I had a tablet with 2048 levels of sensitivity…
  • If only I had an 8-core processor…
  • If only…
  • If only..
  • If only…

I loved what Stephen said in his comment: “An artist doesn’t praise or blame their tools, what only matters is their final work.” 

There were other comments that brought up some important points that I’d like to reinforce:

1. Equipment and processes do not an image make. If I had to choose between the best equipment in the world but without my Vision…or a Kodak Brownie with my Vision…I’ll take the Brownie. 

2. Never learn the rules of photography. But if you already know them, try to forget them and vow to never consider them when creating an image. Rules are an inadequate substitute for Vision.

3. Create for yourself. When you create an image you should only care what you think of it and not be concerned what others think. The best success is when you create an image that you truly love.

4. There is no right/wrong or good/bad when it comes to art. There is only what you like and don’t like. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that if more people like an image, that it’s a better image. The only thing it means is that more people like the image.

5. Never ask others about your images. Don’t you know what you want? Haven’t you discovered your own Vision? If not, then listening to another’s opinion will not help you find it, but will actually harm the process.

6. Don’t give other people advice about their images, even if they ask. Why not? Because it’s their image and what you think or would do with it is unimportant! (sorry to be so blunt)

When people ask me what I would do with their image, I say: It doesn’t matter what I would do, what is your Vision for it? If I kept telling you what I would do and you kept following my advice, it wouldn’t take long before your images would start to look like mine! (which is not a good thing)

7. The creator gets the final word. When I showed this image to my wife, the first thing she said was: “I like it but you should get rid of some of that rock wall.”

My response was: “No, this is how I see it.”

And unlike most things in marriage, I get the final word when it comes to my images!

 

While the original point I wanted to make with this blog post was that the listing of specifications is not a good idea, I think the more interesting discussion has been centered around Vision. And as you might have noticed, I am fixated on Vision.

Why? Because finding your Vision changes everything. It gives you the confidence to create what you want without the need for validation or the fear of criticism.

Vision changes the image and it changes the image maker.

Cole

 

 


Jul 24 2015

Criticism, Praise and Advice

2015-7-10 Spiral Jetty 1g 1000

Spiral Jetty

Sometimes it seems that everyone is either an expert or a critic! Show your work to 10 people and you may well end up with 10 different opinions about your image. Why? Because everyone has an opinion.

So who should you listen to when it comes to your images? Family, friends, art experts, gallery owners, curators, MFA’s, other successful photographers? Who?

My suggestion is that you ignore all criticism, praise and advice and listen only to yourself. Why? Because other people’s comments about your image reflects their tastes, their ideas and their Vision. So no matter how well intentioned or how much of an “expert” they are, their advice is going to miss the mark when it comes to your Vision.

We all know how damaging harsh criticism can be; it can discourage, demotivate and cause you to doubt your potential. But even constructive criticism delivered in a kind and gentle way can mislead you and take you off track. That’s because others don’t know your Vision of the image, only you know that.

I was once told that I should not center “The Angel Gabriel.” At first this advice caused me to doubt my Vision and I actually tried to re-crop the image off center. It was a disaster because that was not how I saw the image. Right or wrong, for better or for worse, centered was the way I see Gabriel.

2006-5-20 The Angel Gabriel - Final 12-4-2011 1000

Strangely enough, I also find that praise can be disruptive to Vision. Praise sounds so sweet and we so want to believe it, but it can take us off track. There are many images that I’ve pursued but did not love simply because they generated praise. Praise is addictive and hard to ignore, but you must for the same reasons you should ignore criticism. 

There was a time in my photographic life that I would ask people what they thought about my work. Why? Because I didn’t know where I was going and I mistakenly thought I could find the answers by asking others. I could not.

There’s an infinite number of voices out there and even if you had the time to listen to all of them, that would not help you find your Vision. That can only come from a great deal of hard work and solitary introspection. There is no other way.

So how do I view criticism, praise and advice? I try to be appreciative of the person’s sincere intentions but take their advice with a grain of salt and do my best to not let it sway my own opinion of my work (for good or for bad). Only I know my Vision and how closely I hit or miss the mark, and for that reason I believe that my opinion is the only one that matters.

When I see people asking for advice on their images, it suggests to me that they may not have found their Vision. And when you have not found your Vision, you are uncertain and need advice and reassurance from others.

Find your Vision and ignore criticism, praise and advice. 

Cole

P.S. If you need help finding your Vision, here is the story of how I went about finding mine.

 


May 28 2015

Look Inward

2015-5-26 Storm Cloud 1a

Storm Cloud, 2015

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I have been accused of being arrogant for suggesting that the source of my Vision lies within myself and is not dependent upon the outside world or those who have gone before me.

I don’t believe this to be an arrogant idea. But here are some additional thoughts that may convince the unconvinced that I am in fact, arrogant.

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Look inward.

Everything you need is already there.

Discover your Vision.

See for yourself.

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We are all creative as children.

But then we learn how to seek approval.

And something atrophies and almost dies.

We forget how to please ourselves.

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There is a difference between Vision and Inspiration.

Inspiration comes from without, Vision comes from within.

A person can only do so much with Inspiration.

Inspiration without Vision is an unproductive effort.

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Look inward.

Ignore what others are doing.

Do what you feel inspired to do.

Create work that you love.

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Art is very selfish.

Or at least it should be.

If you are creating for others,

then you are not creating your best work.

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Do not compare your work to other’s.

Judge your art only by how you feel about it.

Create art that you are proud of.

Create art that you love.

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Look inward.

You harbor that secret ingredient.

The secret to success.

Your Vision.

.

.


May 8 2015

Different Is Not My Goal

2015-1-1 Ahu Tahai 2d

When I photograph, I do not seek to create images that are “different” from everyone else’s, I don’t calculate how to create unique images and I don’t research what others are doing and then react.

Different is not my goal.

Instead, my objective is to produce work that comes from my Vision and that is honest and original to me.

2015-1-1 Moai at Rano Raraku No 2 - Final 2-20-2015 1000

My work is all that I focus on and have control over. As my mother used to say: what others are doing is none of your business!

When I went to Easter Island the only photographs that I had ever seen were the 1950’s documentary images contained in Thor Heyerdahl’s book “Aku Aku.” I never looked at anyone else’s images for two reasons; first I didn’t want to subconsciously copy someone else and secondly I didn’t want to consciously try to be different from someone else.

My goal, as much as it was humanly possible, was to work in a creative vacuum. I wanted to see the Moai through my Vision and find my own Passion.  

2015-1-1 Moai Sitting for Portrait No 7 - Final 3-5-2015 1000

Are my Easter Island images unique? I may never know the answer to that as long as I practice Photographic Celibacy and do not look at other photographer’s work.

And to tell you the truth, I don’t want to know. I love my images and am content with the knowledge that they were created honestly through my Vision.

Cole


Apr 24 2015

Is Imitation the Sincerest Form of Flattery?

2009-6-25 Lone Man No 20 - Final 4-21-2014 1000

Last week someone asked if I was flattered when people copied my work.  I said no, but that I wasn’t offended either.

What I actually feel is a bit of sadness. I’d rather see that person putting their energies into finding and following their Vision rather than walking where I have already walked.

Now these are friends and well-wishers who send me these imitations and so I am sincerely touched by the kind gesture. Sometimes they send a Lone Man or a Harbinger and sometimes it’s an Old Car Interior.

But honestly, I’d prefer they sent me something that they had created from their own Vision.

2008-7-26 Harbinger No 1 - Final 1-17-2009 1000

I very well understand imitation because I’ve copied other artists too, sometimes unconsciously and unfortunately sometimes consciously.  For years I tried to copy Ansel’s work, and not just his look.  Once I went to Yosemite and tried to recreate specific images of his!

I look back now and see how silly that was. Was my goal in life to be known as the world’s best Ansel Adams copycat?

Someone once wisely said to me: “Ansel’s already done Ansel and you’re not going to do him any better.” It’s true.

I know that many believe that imitation is a part of the learning process. I have many photography students contact me to say that their assignment is to copy one of my images.

I must say that I strongly disagree with this approach. I believe that their time would be much better spent finding their own Vision, and that imitation actually retards their personal Vision progress.  

2004-12-20 Old Car Interior -  Final 2-27-2006 1000

Colefucius says: They who walk in another’s footsteps, never finds their own path.

Is imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? I don’t think so.

Cole

 


Mar 20 2015

If You Don’t Have Vision and Passion For A Project…CHOOSE A NEW PROJECT

2015-1-1 Tongariki No 6 - Final 2-13-2015 1000

 People write to me about their projects and say such things as:

I just cannot get motivated…

I’m in a slump…

My project is on hold…

I haven’t shot anything in a while…

I don’t know what’s wrong…

I need to get back to it…

I just can’t seem to finish it…

My rule of thumb is: If I am not energized and excited about my project, then it’s time for me to:

CHOOSE A NEW PROJECT

For me, a successful project must have two ingredients: Vision and Passion. If I don’t feel these I know the project is doomed, it will be a chore to work on and that lack of passion will be felt by the viewer.

Many feel that the key to a successful project is to have a unique subject, an exotic location or an interesting technique. And while those qualities may help, only Vision and Passion can ensure success.

When you have the right project, you cannot wait to get home to work on it. The right project has you getting up early and skipping meals. When you have the right project you find yourself working long hours and wishing there were more. 

And most importantly; when you have a Vision and Passion for your project, that energy and conviction will be felt through your images. 

2008-5-10 Auschwitz No 4 - Final 7-5-2008 750

After I created the Auschwitz images many people suggested I apply the ghost theme to other locations. The idea sounded logical: the Auschwitz series had been well received and so why not leverage that popularity by using the same approach at other locations?

So I started to work on “The Ghosts of Great Britain” where I created ghosts at English castles. But the project fell flat because the images were not compelling and it all felt gimmicky.

2009-5-6 Old Wardour Castle No 1 - Final 6-1-2009 750

So what went wrong? The project lacked Passion.  

At Auschwitz I felt inspired to create those images and I had a Vision for the project. I gave no thought as to how the series would be received and in fact I didn’t care!

But “The Ghosts of Great Britain” was completely contrived and calculated to be popular. I did not feel that same Vision or Passion for the project and it failed. I scrapped the series and only kept the one image above.

This was a great lesson for me and a mistake that I will never make again. 

Many people ask where I get my ideas from and I tell them that every time that I have an idea, I write it down. And then I reveal that I’ve never once used any of those ideas! Every successful project that I’ve pursued has come to me spontaneously, unexpectedly and as a sudden burst of inspiration.

And then they ask: But what happens if you don’t have a project that excites and inspires you?

And I reply: Then I wait until I do.

Cole

P.S. I’ve mentioned “successful project” a few times now and I want to explain what I mean by that. I do not consider a project successful because it wins awards, is published, is exhibited or sells. 

Success for me is creating a series that I love and am proud of, and that is the only kind of success that matters.