Square abstracts

I love abstract photography. It liberates you from looking for what you are supposed to see, and lets you take your creativity where it wants to go. Today I thought I would share three black and white square abstracts.

Square aspect ratio photography is a great way to focus more on lines, which is what is being explored in these three images. They come from wildly varying locations with different lighting: a harbor wall on a rainy afternoon in Ireland, railway tracks at night in Los Angeles, and a church undergoing renovations lit by the sun through windows in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. Even so, the lines — some straight, some curved — provide a unifying theme.

Harbor detail on the Irish coast

Harbor Abstract II

Railway tracks in Los Angeles

Downtown Railway Tracks

Church detail in Dordrecht, Netherlands

Church Detail II

© 2010-2015 Laura Jewell Photography. All rights reserved.

The road we take

Everyone is different. Every photographer’s (or really, anyone’s) goals should be their own, as should the road to those goals.

Reading about how another photographer ‘got there’ or ‘made it’ (whatever that means exactly) does not always help us carve out our own road faster or better. Only in rare cases it does, if they are generous enough to let us in on the process of it, on both the bad days and the good ones. A great example is this blog by David duChemin, one of my favorite photographers and educators. Most of the times though it doesn’t, and we are better off charging ahead with full conviction to forge our own path.

Trained as a scientist, I am all for standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before us (paraphrasing Isaac Newton here). We get to learn a great deal about how to create great images from those who have mastered the art.

But when it comes to our path, what we choose to do with our creativity and vision, what photography means to us and why we do it, that path is our own.

Right now I am on a winding but beautiful forest path developing my photographic vision and identity, where I usually can’t see past the next turn. And that is perfectly fine  — for me personally, the path is the whole point.

Path in the Black Forest, Germany

Forest Path

© 2011-2015 Laura Jewell Photography. All rights reserved.

Beauty in the ordinary

I find the most satisfaction in photography when I manage to create an image of ordinary objects that possess extraordinary beauty in their own way.  When I was on the coast of Ireland in a tiny fishing village of which I do not recall the name, I passed a pile of fishing equipment on the harbor quay. The fishing lines and ropes had the most incredible colors and textures.

Fishing gear on the Irish coast

Fishing Rope Study IV

Fishing gear on the Irish coast

Fishing Rope Study I

Fishing gear on the Irish coast

Fishing Rope Study II

Looking at the weathered ocean fishing gear makes me think of the endless days and nights of rain, fog, gale and sun that the equipment and the people using them endure. It makes me think of generation after generation of fishermen with stories of adventure, of nature’s force and nature’s beauty, of friendship and hardship. A topic that absolutely warrants further exploration.

© 2010-2015 Laura Jewell Photography. All rights reserved.

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

I thought I would take the opportunity of Charlie Chaplin’s birthday today to post this image of his statue in the Bradbury Building, downtown Los Angeles.

Statue of Charlie Chaplin at the Bradley Building, Los Angeles

Charlie Chaplin

The Bradbury building is actually one of my favorite buildings in downtown LA, with incredible light inside, and a lot of old-glory charm. A must-see if you like cast iron railings! Especially lovely was this marble and iron staircase, catching some oblique light. It made me wonder about the stories of the people that must have ascended and descended these steps since the 1890s…

Staircase in the Bradley Building, Los Angeles

Stairs And Light

© 2010-2015 Laura Jewell Photography. All rights reserved.

Little pieces of the puzzle

A week or so ago, I realized that in the entire collection of several hundred images I shot on a trip to the gorgeous Olympic National Park there was none that I was actually happy with. It turned out that this was a good time to remind myself of the following.

Out of many hundreds or thousands of images, we deem only a handful good enough to be framed and hung on a wall or put in a portfolio. And that is on a good day. Henri Cartier-Bresson even famously said:

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.

From those words, we might even conclude that we might not get any worthwile images before reaching the 10,000 mark. This may not be true, but there is value in the thought that we just need a lot of practice to hone our technical and creative skills as photographers.

Sometimes the low ‘success rate’ can be very discouraging. However, all the other images that never ‘make it’ are not failures. Instead, they are the necessary little pieces that have contributed to and were essential to the creation of the images that did make it into a print or portfolio.

We needed those pieces to help us give form to our imagination and creativity, and to help us gain the technical skill to put that creativity into an image. It is all part of the process, and that is perfectly fine.

As an example of a piece of the puzzle, here is an abstract image of the lighthouse in Marina Del Rey, California. It was purely taken as a creative exercise – but one that I ended up quite liking, and it actually did make it into my portfolio.

Abstract Lighthouse in Marina Del Rey, California

Abstract Lighthouse

© 2010-2015 Laura Jewell Photography. All rights reserved.

Bonzai tree in The Huntington Gardens, Pasadena, California

Serenity in the Huntington Gardens

In the maelstrom that a metropole like Los Angeles can be, sometimes we find an oasis. The Huntington in Pasadena definitely qualifies, and will always be among my favorite spots. Not only is there amazing art, the gardens are stunning. The Japanese section is famous, and provided me with an opportunity to get more acquainted with bonzai trees. Having never really seen one up close, this collection was quite the revelation, and made for a lovely study subject.

Bonzai tree in The Huntington Gardens, Pasadena, California

Bonzai V

Bonzai tree in The Huntington Gardens, Pasadena, California

Bonzai VIII

Bonzai tree in The Huntington Gardens, Pasadena, California

Bonzai VII

Bonzai tree in The Huntington Gardens, Pasadena, California

Bonzai VI

© 2009-2015 Laura Jewell Photography. All rights reserved.

Defining success

How do we define success as a photographer? For a hobbyist, success might constitute getting an image framed and hung on the wall. For a serious enthusiast, it might mean getting published in a leading magazine. And for a professional, it might be landing a freelance job with that big client.

This raises another question: when is someone a hobbyist, or a professional? In my opinion, these are mere labels that have more to do with whether that someone chose to make their living with photography, than with the quality of their work.

As I am redefining my photography at this very moment, I am also re-evaluating what I consider being successful. I am starting to set my sights on more than creating images for my own walls, but the exact answer to that question is a work in progress. Not to mention, I might give you a very different answer in a year.

And that is okay: we don’t have to settle for a status quo because “we always thought about things this way”; instead I find it incredibly motivating to re-evaluate often what it is that we want to get out of photography (or out of anything else that we do in our daily lives, for that matter).

We should all define success in our own way as a photographer, as long as creating images that we are passionate about remains the pinnacle of that success. This is something that should never change, independent of the label that we stick onto ourselves.

What do you consider success? I would love to hear your comments!

Professional or hobbyist or otherwise, this image is hanging on my wall.

Sun through aspen leaf, Sierra Nevada, California

Sun Through Leaf II

© 2009-2015 Laura Jewell Photography. All rights reserved.