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May 22, 2008

10 Writing Reasons To Take More Photographs

What's the relationship between taking photos and writing with greater confidence: realising the power of our words?

I've been thinking about that this week as I've followed a series on taking more and better photos: The Fire Of Images, by my good friend Amy Palko at Lives Less Ordinary.

Although I enjoy taking photos and have taken a lot of pictures while out and about (ever since I got a digital camera in honour of a trip to Mexico a couple of years ago), I'm keen to learn from Amy (and others, including you!) about ways to be more purposeful in the way I take photos, and to capitalise on the benefits for the art and craft of writing.

As Amy suggests in 'Why I Think You Should Take Photos:

Carrying your camera with you and taking photos of whatever catches your eye, automatically turns any outing into an artist’s date. You give yourself permission to be creative: to be a person who creates.

Her post contains a number of compelling reasons why it's a good to have a camera with you at all times.  Thinking about my own reasons - and the associations I can see with writing - generated this list of 10 writing reasons to take more photographs

Because taking more photos, with a greater sense of purpose, offers:

1. The opportunity to add more variety into my blogging (and any other media I might create).  I'm a fan of posts that are based on one photo plus short, to the point, commentary, and I wouldn't mind trying some myself

2. A focal point when I'm out walking: taking photos helps me to capture a moment, a thought, a feeling and lodge it for future reference

3. A way in. A picture often provides a frame or a hook for a piece of writing: it offers the unifying idea that the words wrap themselves around

4. A boost to my creativity.  Taking pictures - and learning how to take more and better pictures - will stretch and stimulate my creativity.  I'll be interested to see how that interconnects with (or is different from) my writing mind

5. A different sense of perspective: challenging myself to take pictures with a greater sense of purpose will (I hope) help to open my eyes and see things differently, things I often don't notice at first look like patterns, depth, perspective, texture.

6. More ideas for things to write about: the more I look, notice, capture, see the more my writing brain is stimulated

7. The chance to share and learn: early exploration of the photo-sharing site Flickr (combined with 'everyday' conversations with people on Twitter) has helped me understand how much daily life shapes our experience (and our words): the weather, how the seasons change, what the skies above us look like, the landscapes that surround us

8. An appreciation of editing: I haven't edited my photos up to now but I am keen to learn and experiment, both to produce better results and to learn the read-across for the writing process.  What are we editing for? The techniques are different but the answers might be similar: clarity, impact, emotion, power, resonance

9. Greater appreciation of my environment.  The photos I take are nearly all in response to something I see in the natural or city landscape I'm walking in.  That landscape is the inspiration for a lot of my ideas and writing, and the better I can appreciate it (in different ways: like texture, or patterns) the more I think my writing brain is likely to respond

10. An invitation to experiment.   The possibilities of playing, exploring and experimenting through digital photography - and the chance to get feedback and encouragement through networking sites like Flickr - give us all the chance to dive in: to test the water, to experiment, to see what works.  Similar to the possibilities blogging gives us to test and develop our writing voices.

I'm not saying we should take more photos just to develop our writing - far from it.  But my focus here is on writing, and I'm intrigued by the interplay between the two.

I'd love to hear your perspective on this:

Does photography influence the way that you write? (Or vice versa...)
Do you see photography featuring in your writing or blogging plans in the future?
Do you think there's a relationship between taking photos and realising the power of your words?


If you'd like to stretch and develop your own photography please do check out Amy's series, including today's post of practical tips. 

Her aim in the series is to help you gain enough confidence in your photos to start actively sharing them through sites such as Flickr.


The photo at the top isn't a total non sequitur. 

It's a picture I took in Edinburgh's Royal Mile, of poet Robert Fergusson.  He looks like he's striding through blossom, fixing the picture in my mind at a certain time of year, in one of Scotland's most beautiful seasons, on a particular day when I was out walking with Amy and Liz Strauss.

It was noticed by a friend on Flickr who runs a pool of Fergusson photos, teaching me something about hidden interests and points of connection that we only learn by sharing.

More photos of the world round about me at my flickr photostream.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

Photo Credit: Fergusson Strides Through The Blossom by Joanna Young on flickr

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Comments

Photography can capture the essence of emotion, memory, connection, humor, etc., in one image -- time and space held in two dimensions. Writing takes two dimensional words on the computer screen or page and expands them into emotion, memory, connection, humor, etc. I think both complement each other.

It's not only great photographs that help a blog - it's also funny images that you can dash up in Photoshop as well that can catch the imagination. I've found that images such as

http://www.askowlbert.com/images/pushups.jpg

(I made that for National Push Up Day)

generate a great word-of-mouth, too.

Great article,

Barbara

I'm so glad you've been enjoying the series, Joanna, and that it has inspired this wonderful post. I agree with all your reasons, but the one that is really getting my synapses firing is the relationship between photo editing and editing for better writing, and what we are trying to achieve when we perform editing. I'm going to give this one further thought, and get back to you.
Needless to say, I love the post!
Amy
xx

Joanna,

Very good timing. In the past several months I've started using photos in my rambling posts. But I knew I needed to get my act together and get a bit more serious.

So I'm now in the beginning stages of ramping up my photography. You see, even though I worked as a photographer years ago, when digitals came out and I switched to design, I started sliding. Now I'm back with a DSLR - the Kiss.

Learning how to edit digital photos can be a part of the craft.

'The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers' is on the way via amazon.com (I'll let you how it reads if you like).

As usual, I've collected a ton of photography links but I won't load you down with them here ;-)

1) Does photography influence the way that you write? (Or vice versa...)

Now that you mention it, yes it does. When I wrote my Brandy Morning post I wrapped it around the scene I took going up the hill. That very same hill.

2) Do you see photography featuring in your writing or blogging plans in the future?

Absolutely. And even more so now you've created this post. I intended on using photography on a regular basis, but I hadn't put it into words. Not really. It was just floating out there somewhere. I bought the camera. Ordered the book. Started making my moves. Now I need to wade through the manual ...

3) Do you think there's a relationship between taking photos and realising the power of your words?

I'm not not sure if I understand the question exactly as I came up with two answers.

Beautiful photo btw. At first glance it reminded me of the characters in London who freeze in place.

Joanna, I believe the creative mind always flourishes when allowed to create in new ways. Photography, art, dance all flex the artistic muscles and expand your perspective. For as long as I can remember I was always fascinated by the idea of taking beautiful pictures. Blogging has deepened that desire as so often it is the visual image that sparks creative thought. We see the bend in a road or the smile of a stranger and our minds create stories around those images. I am keen to learn from Amy too and of course to finally buy a camera!

Hi SpaceAgeSage

That's a fascinating way to think of both photography and writing.

"time and space held in two dimensions"

I love that, thank you!

Joanna

Barbara, you really are a woman of many talents! I'll have to ask you another time how you conjure up images like that... Maybe when you're on a coffee break :-)

Joanna

Amy, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I wanted to do something worthy of your inspiring series - and point people there.

Plus the more I've been thinking about it (and experimenting) I've found more and more connections between the two - maybe a rich seam we can explore together...

Look forward to seeing where your thoughts on editing take you.

Joanna

Cat

Wow - that's exciting! I can learn from you as show us what's what with the new camera. Are you on flickr btw?

You reminded me of that beautiful post you wrote on brandy morning:

http://www.designers-who-blog.com/index.php/archive/a-day-of-remembrance/

The pictures and words went together in a very powerful way. I think this would be a real strength for you to play to - and a great way to engage and connect with people too, to draw them in through the pictures.

I look forward to seeing where you go with this...

Joanna

Karen

"Blogging has deepened that desire as so often it is the visual image that sparks creative thought. We see the bend in a road or the smile of a stranger and our minds create stories around those images."

That's how it is for me too, and I recognise that dimension in your own writing - you take so much inspiration from the world about you.

Amy is an inspiration isn't she? I've had a camera for a while, but it's Amy who's got me thinking about how to *use* it.

Joanna

PS Let us know when you get yours!

This is really wonderful, Joanna. Thanks so much for leaving the link on Seeded Earth's comments.
I consider myself both a photographer and a writer. They are intertwined, inseparable. I always carry a camera as a photographer to snap that fleeting photo. (And I always carry a camera for my mind, ready to snap those fleeting ideas - a notebook!) :-)
I can process what I've discovered out in the world in my own time - it's always at my disposal.

It's funny you should post about this today. I just got a new camera (a Nikon D40) a couple weeks ago and have been taking pictures like crazy. As if I don't do that ALREADY. Since I started my knitting blog 3 years ago, it's a rare day that I don't take pictures of something, but in the last couple of weeks, it's kind of exploded. And the last two posts I've written? I used my own pictures instead of stock photos. SO much more fun!

Bo, I'm glad you didn't mind me leaving the link - it seemed the natural follow up to your post about everyone taking photographs! Must be something in the air.

I think they're closely intertwined too, but I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when I push and stretch my picture-taking - my guess is that'll weave it's way into my writing too. Hope so!

Here's a link to Seeded Earth for anyone who doesn't know your blog and is looking for some visual inspiration

http://gardengrow.wordpress.com/

Joanna

-- Deb, that's a great additional reason to add to the list - so much more fun!!

Are you and your pictures on flickr by the way?

Joanna

Hi Joanna
I've enjoyed Amy's series too and her beautiful photography and words. She's spurred me into thinking more about the connection between the two, so your post is timely.

I've also enjoyed following your own journey exploring new forms of media and encouraging the rest of us to do the same. Once again, you're setting the pace with style and panache.

Thanks for sharing these insights.

Thanks Yvonne, you know I love to learn and experiment, and I've been blessed in having Amy as a teacher not just on-line but down the road!

Look forward to seeing you on flickr :-)

Joanna

In a blog post, how do you handle crediting the photograph?

Hi Aneesa

Good question

The most detailed guidance I've found is from Skellie in this post on how to use pictures from flickr

http://www.skelliewag.org/the-flickr-guide-part-2-how-to-caption-or-credit-photos-in-posts-163.htm

As I'm not that skilled in html I tend to pop the credit down at the end of the post. I also link to the original photo.

I didn't credit this picture as it was mine! But perhaps I should have done...

Hope this helps

Joanna

Joanna,
You've such an interesting idea, to compare the kinds of creativity involved in writing and taking pictures. A little of it is in that phrase, "taking pictures." There's certainly a creative aspect to it, but it seems more passive, more like a hunt to find the thing and get the perspective and then take the picture, taking it from reality as much as making it yourself.
Writing is starting with absolute chaos and turning the dictionary into life and color and wonder. Writing seems the more impossible task, the greater act of creation.
But as a viewer, I think those differences fade, and what strikes me is that a photo is a thousand things all at once: color and form, light and shadow, shape and recognition, field and negatative space -- all in a glance. By comparison the paragraph plods along, straining to crank up the engine of the imagination
Dale

Joanna,

Yes, I have several old flickr accounts somewhere. And I also post photos on Facebook.

Problem is, I have CDs filled with photos so it'd take me ages to keep up with all I take. I honestly don't know how people do it and get sleep.

In saying that, I do intend on starting a new flickr account for my new camera. I've learned a few amazing photography tweaks (the book hasn't arrived yet) and keeping them all too myself is, just ... well ... I just couldn't stand it :-)

"I didn't credit this picture as it was mine! But perhaps I should have done..."

I started crediting photos after I used a couple from house guests and such.

I don't use online photos because I guess in a way I'm too lazy so that's never been a problem.

Also, it's quicker for me to take the photo than to do a search and then make sure I'm using a reputable photo (there are stories of photos being grabbed off the internet then submitted under a different name).

Sigh. It's tedious worrying about all this, but I do.

Cat, I know you do worry about such things, and that's what makes you a person of such integrity.

Good point on me crediting my own - I'll add it later.

I know what you mean about uploading. I've got zillions of pictures from Skye I'd love to sort and upload but it would take me for ever. I'm trying to get into the habit of doing it as I go along (saving, looking at, fixing then selecting the best pics I want to put on flickr, then add them on via the uploader.)

So I still have the record of the whole lot if I want them, but I've gone through a mental filter in terms of what I chose to put on flickr. I guess that too is part of the editing and improving process.

Joanna

Dale, I'm glad you found the comparison interesting. It's still rumbling away in my head, so thanks for adding to the distinctions and comparisons in such a fascinating way.

I tend to think of taking pictures in the same way as you: capturing something out there. The best pictures I've taken are good because of the magnificence of the subject.

But as I look into it further I can see how much more art and craft goes into it, how much potential for self-expression and reflecting your unique view of the world.

As for the viewer / reader response, I don't know. I love your description of the photo:

"a thousand things all at once: color and form, light and shadow, shape and recognition, field and negatative space -- all in a glance."

But I also know great paragraphs are the opposite of what you so humbly suggest. As you are wont to demonstrate :-)

Joanna

i had to change my blog template to accommodate larger pictures for my blog, i find the writing is definitely complimented by an image, and finding one mostly on flickr is an additional expression. Some of my favorite blogs are those who use original images and I find myself very drawn to them and their pictoral essays. I am now hunting for a new digital camera - since I still use film and the delay that adds to any digital process I have hesitated to add my own photography as a staple - once the learning curve is low with the new camera I bet I will feature more original photography - seems to be the natural thing to do.

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