DSLR surprises?

03-08-20 Arroyo Trabuco Oso Creek KI6A4152

Recently when I wrote about being surprised when I returned to the studio to find a totally unexpected as well as unimaginable landscape, I was poked about being surprised about the resulting images.

If I were on a commercial shoot, I would probably being evaluating each frame, as a client is not going to pay for a re-shoot just because someone chooses not to look at the image capture.

I do not feel the need to constantly check my camera back for personal projects, either the image capture or image data, such as the histogram. When I take local hikes and other personal photo ventures, I rarely check the camera for what I just photographed. Even when the image comes up briefly on my camera’s back monitor. That’s not where my attention is and not what I want to be looking at. I want to interact with the external environment, what is around me, to stay in the moment, what I have earlier labeled “experimental/play”.  This is also called Right Brain thinking, which is to say that I want to be engaged in the creative possibilities of what I am seeing and what I have found is that when I start looking at the resulting images on the back of the camera, I move into the analytical Left Brain thinking.

I already know that with an automated full-frame DSLR (okay, in my case a Canon 5DMk3) in aperture priority (AV), in the middle of the day, I am going to get a decently exposed image capture every time. Especially since I have already made a ton of similar images and I know how to compensate for overly bright subjects that might burn out the digital image. So I really don’t need to double check each exposure, unlike the old days with a manual exposure camera using film. In those film days there was nothing to double check, so I would bracket the exposure, hope for the best, and develop the film later the evening with my fingers crossed. That sense of anticipation of what might turn out was (and still is) enjoyable.

So now I am much more interested in the exploring the possibilities of what I am looking at, thus my process of “experiment/fun”, which means mostly ignoring what comes up on the back of the camera. It does not really matter and is distracting. It is very hard to get into the Right Brain thinking for me, as my day job is very analytical (Left Brain thinking) and so once I can make the transition to Right Brain thinking, I want to stay in that zone of creativity possibilities as long as possible. When you begin to analyze the image on the back of a camera, that act in and of itself can shift you into the analytical Left Brain thinking, which disrupts creativity. You have the danger to start reacting to the image capture, not what you are looking at. The camera back monitor provides a lot of information, but that act can influence you to make different decisions, perhaps not for the better.

Case in point, the photograph above once I saw it on the monitor for the first time was pretty interesting, but then I stated tweaking it and then the photograph acquired an interesting mix of enigmatic and mysterious qualities. If I had looked at this on the camera back (or worse case, some of the earlier images) and started wondering, “what the f**k is this?” I might not have continued to experiment/play in the same manner. This is a really wonderful image that I might have missed if I had became over-analytical too soon while out in the field.

So as crazy as it might seem, when I am working in the field on a personal creative project (especially when it’s local, say 20 minute walk from my studio), I usually do not inspect the back of my DSLR for the photographs I take. Not that I don’t look at any of my exposures, just rarely, such as to make sure the camera is functioning properly. Thus the reason that once I return to the studio and download the image, what I find on the monitor might be a wonderful surprise. Cool!

Oh and I also turn off completely my mobile phone as I walk away from the studio when I want to get in the zone of creative possibilities; no distractions from maintaining the Right Brain zone, thank you.

Cheers, Doug

Featured photograph: Untitled (Arroyo Trabuco, Oso Creek) copyright 2020 Douglas Stockdale

My upcoming events:

Medium Photo 2020 Workshop: Developing a Creative Book workshop that I will be leading from March, 19-22, 2020, a four-day extended weekend workshop in San Diego (workshop registration is still open and some spots are still available)

Medium Photo 2020 Lecture Series, I will be giving a one-evening lecture Artist Books as Art Objects on Friday, March 20th, from 7:30 – 9pm at the You Belong Here artist venue, located at 3619 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, California 92104.

Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) Faculty Exhibition, in Los Angeles at the new LACP gallery, located at 566 Washington Blvd. The exhibition opens March 21st and the closing reception is Saturday, April, 18, 2020, from 7-10pm.


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