Can You Shoot Thirteen Views?


I was reading a book recently called “Beyond the Obvious” by Phil McKinney (great book by the way) that challenges people to think about concepts and questions, and then encourages people to look beyond the knee-jerk reactions and responses.  This same mentality exists in the world of photography.  We see a scene, a portrait, or something that catches our eye and our instinct is to capture that “something”.

McKinney illustrates his point in asking the reader to answer the question:

“What is half of 13?”

He then goes on to show that there are many responses to this. The canned answer is always 6.5, and that’s what came to my mind too.  But in going “beyond the obvious”, he shows that if you think about it from the perspective of say, a deck of cards, and 13 cards in a suit.  Since the ten, jack, queen and king all are values of 10, then really, half of thirteen in that scenario is 5.5, not 6.5.  You could also say that half of thirteen is really “thir” with “teen” being the second half!  By illustrating that you can divide either numerically or semantically, entirely different perspectives, thoughts, and answers can be right at the same time!  Once I got on the mental plane of looking at things differently, my own result was that half of 13 could also be 1 or 3 – applying the semantic concept to the number…

That is such a great concept, and one I’ve always tried to help people understand here in many different ways.  The “half of thirteen” way is probably one one the most succinct I’ve ever seen though.  Let’s take that concept now and apply it to photography.  Go get your camera!  Right now…seriously!  Go get your camera, and pick some random object in your room, office, or where ever you happen do be.  I don’t care if it’s your SLR, P&S, or camera phone.

Now what?  Take 13 pictures of that object.  Make each one different!  Change the angle, change the light, change the object itself.  It doesn’t matter what you do, just do 13 different things.  I can guarantee you that at least one of those photos will be something new, unique, and even compelling.  Now, take the most compelling one, and post it here.


To get you started on the right mentality, if you’re not already, here’s my own set of thirteen:

The shots above come from the “Wreck of the Peter Iredale” – on the coast of Astoria, Oregon.  Now, granted, the setting sun, and the unique nature of the composition made my 13 shots a little easier, but there’s now reason you can’t do the same.  Take a speaker and shoot it from as many angles as you can.  Run out of angles?  Try a different tack and change the lighting!  What happens if you pop an on-camera flash?  Try throwing your hand up to act as a barn door of sorts.  There’s no end to potential…it just takes thinking outside the box!

Consuming Versus Creating Content

Swimming Duckling

Let’s face it: we have a lot to keep up on these days.  On top of managing our own social media footprints, there are magazines to read, forums to attend to (building and engaging with your own community of colleagues and friends), gear reviews, software tutorials, tech conferences, and then of course all the other life activities like laundry, cooking, cleaning, and all that other fun stuff that takes all of our time away from what we really enjoy doing:  creating content!  So, which is more important: consuming or creating content?

But if you look at all the other stuff that goes on instead of creating content, what it boils down to is that we spend most of our time consuming content versus creating content.  Thus begins the debate over how much time should be spent on consumption versus creation.  It’s a question creative ask themselves all the time:  “why does it seem I spend only X% of my time creating and Y% doing other stuff?”

The answer to the question of consuming versus creating content can be traced to a root “problem”: we are always learning.  Anyone who stands up and says they know everything about any subject is feeding you a polished pile of…well, you get the idea!  I contend that we are always learning (consuming content).  If you are reading a magazine, you are learning new material.  If you are perusing another artists portfolio (yes, even your friends), you are learning about what inspires others (and may in turn inspire yourself).  Watching tutorials?  Yep, that’s learning new tips and tricks too!  Notice a trend here?  Hopefully by now you see that consumption is just another word for learning!

So, never be afraid of saying that you are consuming more than you are creating – consuming is just a fancy word for learning, and learning is good!  What are you consuming today?

Swimming Duckling

Editor Note:  I wrote this several years ago, but it seems particularly salient lately as I have been creating much less than I have been historically.  I've been in more of a consumption mode lately, which means I am reading a lot, listening to other podcasts, and much more.  While that means the blog here has languished, it has given me a bit of time off to rekindle my own creative juices - which are definitely now brimming with ideas.  Suffice to say, I believe some new content may be forthcoming!

Spark Your Creativity and Take Time to Play


Ever feel like your creativity is  at a standstill?  Something got it on hold?  The common belief is that creative or mental blocks come from trying too hard to actually be creative.  So, how can we stop trying to hard?  It’s not that we should stop trying per se. It’s more that we need to stop trying to make every image a powerful image.  Being playful often starts with just laughing at yourself.  Seriously…laugh at yourself.  Do something stupid or silly.  That becomes infectious and can move you forward to play, which in turn will spark your creativity!.

In being playful with your work, it’s often even more helpful to put down the tripods, and SLR’s.  Put down the lenses and filters. Put down the soft boxes and fill flashes.  Being playful means letting go of the “rules” of photography.  I’m reading David DuChemin’s book, The Inspired Eye and in it, he speaks to this idea that that inspiration can come from play.

Some ideas from David include taking a day and try taking pictures whenever the mood hits.  Even if you are shooting through wet glass, or in a moving car.  Take a picture with your focus ring taped down.  The softness from the out of focus shot can force you to look at something more generic like the lines and energy of a scene.  It really is inspired capture that David is going for here, and that can definitely come from play.

One of my favorite images from my own library is a niece – I was literally playing.  I wasn’t expecting anything great, or show-stopper quality.  Just goofing around.  I was laughing and being silly, and so was she.  I took the camera to ridiculous angles, knowing it wouldn’t work (or so I thought).  Just goes to show you the power of play in photography:


The upshot?  Take time to play – only good things can come from it!