Hidden Gems

I want to tell you a story about a photographer that I know. I’m not going to include her name but this person has been on several of my workshops. This past year she took one of my flower photography workshops. I think it was on the next to the last day of the workshop; I was watching closely as she collected one nice image after another.

All week long she had been sharing them with the group and they were all impressed. Afterall they were lovely images. But as I watched her in the field, I noticed she was getting comfortable, looking for easy lighting situations, filling the frame with the flower, repeating her steps over and over again as if it were a job. Don’t get me wrong, her images were beautifully captured; they just lacked soul-her soul.

It had occurred to me that she was not living up to her potential in the field. So I approached her and asked her, “Are you happy with those shots? Do they wow you? Are you pushing your limits? Are you exploring options outside of the norm?” Her answer to my questions may shock you. She replied, NO, I am not really happy with them; I mean, they are pretty but they are not special. So I asked another question. Do you want to leave this workshop with one special image? She immediately got up and said something to the effect of “I am all ears”. I was just being honest but in a gentle way, we had built up a trust over the years and I knew that she respected the fact that I only wanted the best for her photography. It’s kind of a sisterly relationship. I have this bond with several of my clients and it is what makes my time in the field so special. I don’t even limit this to women as many of my male clients share the same brotherly bond with me.

You see, I knew that she had special talents; I have followed her photography career since we first met. She knew what went into a great picture–she is an award winning photographer. She was just stumbling to put her creativity on paper as many of us do from time to time. I knew that hidden under all of those safe images she had a spectacular image inside of her waiting to emerge. She just needed a nudge, someone to be frank with her. That was me.

I gave her a few suggestions and sent her in the right direction to find her hidden gem. As she developed the image she would come to me for feedback and guidance as she was a little out of her comfort zone. By the time that the shooting session was over she had produced one stunningly, creative shot. I was impressed and I was also excited for her. I hope that she will take that spark and run with it. I also hope that she will not be mad at me for sharing this story.

The point of the story is to inspire you to stop taking safe images and start pushing the boundaries of your own self imposed photography prison. Break Out!! Be free, explore all your options, try to create something that will wow you.

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23 Responses

  1. Carol Johnson says:

    Excellent post and lesson all of us photographers need from time to time. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Dennis Bishop says:

    I agree very much with your philosophy regarding this, Denise. If we don’t try anything different, we won’t get anything different. And that’s not growth. It’s in trying new things that we make discoveries.

    Will all of them work? Probably not. But some will, and that can mean a lot.

  3. Lynn Rogers says:

    Denise, what I think is the most special part of this story is that you took the time to build a relationship, encouraged her along the way, and when the time was right (which takes great wisdom and perception) gently and tenderly helped her go deeper. That’s a true gift.

  4. Deirdre Sheerr-Gross says:

    You are a Gem…
    and a wise woman…

    You could have written this for me.

    In the Falklands, you asked me to open my eyes and heart to photograph the world with my soul…
    You encouraged me to use my camera…
    not as everyone says you “should”…
    but to find…
    What makes me happy..
    What bring me joy!
    Thank you.

    I am excited to explore the photographer within…

  5. Sue Eberhart says:

    Amen to all of the above thoughtful comments. Your ability to push our thinking and photography is what makes the moments of learning and traveling with you unique, special and treasured.

  6. Mary says:

    Exactly riight Denise. We don’t have to worry about wasting film anymore. And no reason to fear failure; we all shoot some crap sometimes. But if you don’t try something totally different, you’ll never know what you can achieve.

  7. Sharon Hallowell says:

    Thank you! I need a good kick in the butt sometimes, and lately I am feeling stagnant. It’s always inspiring to view your images, and I will try to make use of your great advice!

  8. Denise, I LOVE this story! It is hard to push the boundaries to make the image an exceptional one. I am the editor of my photo club newsletter (Schenectady Photographic Society) and would really like to reprint this message. It is SO TRUE! May I have your permission? I will, of course, give you credit and include your contact info. You can check out my club’s website: http://www.spsphoto.org. Thank you for sharing this message.

  9. Ron May says:

    I believe that all of us have a creative artist inside waiting to get out. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. For a lot of us, it is insight and encouragement from an instructor that helps it get out. You are such an instructor and I thank you for the encouragement you have given me on the workshops I have attended. 🙂

  10. Lesliediana says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. You are always an encouraging vibe. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I am at a crossroads, sure others have been here, where I am not sure if I want to continue in photography because my images have become so blah, blah, blah. And no, I am not where she is with award winning images. But, this is spurring me to not give up on my love for photography and get out of my comfort zone.

  11. I was on that particular flower trip, Denise and know that you could have been talking about most of us who were there. I saw any number of us approach you for help or heard you subtly suggest a technique to try. You have a sense of what to say and more importantly when to say it. It was a great workshop and was glad I had the opportunity to be there.

  12. Jim Fennessy says:

    Inspirational story Denise. I feel that you have done the same for me and my photography. And I am far from alone in realizing how much your efforts have improved not only my photography, but the way I see and visualize images and scenes without the camera in hand. Thank You!

  13. Nancy Bell says:

    Inspiring story. And you are indeed a very special teacher. I know that woman found that time with you memorable and appreciated the gentle, but demanding, instructions to do more…feel more… experiment more…

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