In a video on his YouTube channel, Ted Forbes launched the first of a series of assignments. As an avid follower of his videos, I decided to join. The topic is “Variations”, the assignment is to take ten shots at the same scene. This is how it went (original pictures available here).
With the first two pictures, I cheated. I cheat a lot, cheating is my default way of doing assignments: I always try to stretch the rules, play with them, push their boundaries – I just can’t help. In this case it was probably just laziness because I already had taken those shots for a previous post so I found myself with a topic and 20% of the work done (yes, this is the wrong kind of cheating – but it made me start).
The third one is a picture I wouldn’t ever think of taking if it wasn’t for this assignment and as it turned out I like it so much it became my profile picture on many social media. It required me to put my camera on a tripod and to use a remote: so it wasn’t just the “thinking” but also the need to move my lazy ass and set a couple of things up.
The fourth one was easier (it required just a mirror), but I love it for the exact analog look I usually crave for.
Out of ideas, I took a picture of my FG-20 in its old bag: it turned out just right but it’s definitely an image I don’t like. This in accordance with the rule “allow yourself to fail”. Even if I have eleven images now, I decided to keep it because of this very reason.
Then inspiration stopped flowing and ten images seemed a lot. In the meantime, stuck in the traffic, I thought that a series of images from behind my car’s window would be even more interesting so I changed topic and started over. I matched the photos with the song that was playing on my iPhone at that time looking for a synaesthetic result. I produced ten images in a relatively short amount of time. For the records, the result was conceptually intriguing but visually not very good. Anyway, accomplished the mission, I carried on with my life waiting for the next assignment.
Back to the assignment
At the same time I was leading a workshop about creativity and this assignment seemed perfect for my group – so I forwarded it with a couple of adjustments. But my incomplete first try was bothering me, it was like I didn’t push hard enough and just went for the easy stuff, so I went back where I left to complete my first set. Unexpectedly, it just took 24 hours to create the last five photos.
Number five was taken with my brand new Fujifilm Instax mini 90 (it was actually my first shot with it). I placed the Nikon over the book that inspired me the most when I was a kid and probably shaped my taste forever (the photography of Irving Penn)1.
Six and seven are the result of a quick-and-dirt light painting, a technique I rarely use. Number seven underwent a slight analog-emulation treatment in Color Efex Pro, just to put a bit more focus on the light trails.
For nine and ten I borrowed my mother’s iPhone 5s (which used to be mine) because my Olloclip lens doesn’t fit on my 6s anymore. One at 10×, another one at 15×. Again, better results than expected and two shot I wouldn’t take if I wasn’t on assignment.
After that I found a picture I casually took of my small Canon Selphy printer spitting out a print of photo number 4 and I added it to the bunch – kind of a “meta” statement.
Conclusions. Being on assignment made me:
- Physically set things up
- Fight laziness
- Be purposeful
- Ask myself if I was really pushing my boundaries, not just the ones of the assignment
- Take pictures I wouldn’t take and discover that some are better than average
- Dedicate some time to being creative, setting it as a goal and not just a by-product of my normal life
- Actually there’s another one: Alfred A. Blaker, “Photography: Art and Technique” ↩︎