You must experiment!

Chris Lane / Art, Design, photography / / 0 Comments / Like this

Failure to experiment leads to craft shows and chintzy work.

The whole process of creating art is completely subjective and open to interpretation at all bounds. I want to urge everyone to not be afraid to experiment in their work. Artwork can be created by the numbers, but most viewers will be able to tell it is done in a formulaic way. It won’t stand out amongst the crowd. I recently attended a local arts & craft show and I couldn’t count how many people were selling mostly the same stuff. If it wasn’t rock bracelets, it was plywood cutout figures. They might be good at what they do when making those figures, but they weren’t willing to experiment. All of them looked the same, to the point I was wondering if they weren’t homemade but rather being resold from elsewhere. That means that they were either being made from a pattern or the entire genre has simply become stagnant.

The thing about experimentation is that no one has to know. Photography, for example, is great for experimentation. It is so easy to try something new, especially with digital cameras. Try getting lower, to the point of laying in the grass, and get a shot from a worm’s eye view.
Grass closeup

Try climbing a tree and shooting through the leaves into the light. Try a slow shutter speed and purposefully move the camera around while the shutter is open. Try use a really slow shutter speed and throw your camera into the air. This is actually something that people do regularly. And if you don’t like what the result is, no one needs to see it. Put the picture on your computer and look at the result. If it is cool, post it for people to see and say you were trying something new. Likely, other people will think it is cool too. If you don’t like the result, learn from it. You can trash the file, but learn why it is trash. Try something similar, but change the method. Instead of tossing the camera in the air, try panning yourself quickly around in a circle. This next shot is doing exactly that.
Experimenting is fun
These particular experiments will certainly come out with some pretty abstract stuff, but that is part of the point. If it is something totally different than the typical smiling face in the center of the image snapshot you usually take, then great! And that panning experiment would be a great way to try taking a following shot, such as someone going by on a bicycle or car.
Here is another experimental shot of my wife and son on the couch. I zoomed the lens with a slow shutter speed (f/22 6sec. ISO100). It comes out with a rather odd result.
Zooming

If you don’t want to try something that could possibly break your expensive gear, go with something a little more mild. Take photos in the dark. You could get a fairly inexpensive put anywhere type tripod, or don’t, and see what happens. Get up earlier. Stay up later. The first time I shot city lights at night was an interesting experiment for me. I could see different settings that got different results. That was when I only used film in my Minolta X-700 camera. Through this experiment I learned that a smaller aperture will make the lights star, whereas the larger apertures don’t, for example. This first photo, of the Castle Water Tower in Arbroath, Scotland, was taken at f/1.7 at 1/15 on film (I didn’t have the ISO written down on the picture, nor what lens I used).
Arbroath Water Tower
This second photo was taken at f/16 at 1 sec.
Arbroath Water Tower
The whole point of this is to have fun, try something new, and discover different techniques. You won’t move from where you are unless you are continually learning. So go experiment! Share your experiences in the comments below. I’d love to see links to flickr or elsewhere. And while you are on flickr, you can find me there as well.

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