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Archive for Sunday, September 27, 2009

Behind the Lens: Book project can capture love of photography

While documenting an 80th birthday weekend with my father, I was fortunate enough to capture this photograph of him hugging a tree. Having intended to self-publish a photography book from the trip, I was carrying a camera with me and alert to photo opportunities through the trip.

While documenting an 80th birthday weekend with my father, I was fortunate enough to capture this photograph of him hugging a tree. Having intended to self-publish a photography book from the trip, I was carrying a camera with me and alert to photo opportunities through the trip.

September 27, 2009

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We get a lot of nice comments from readers regarding this column.

If you’re a regular, I’m curious if you’re reading because you’re a photographer or because you’re interested in what goes on in a newspaper photographer’s life. If you’re a photographer, what do you photograph? What do you do with the images you create? Are you working on a photo project? During the next few columns, I’m going to discuss the process behind creating a body of work and self-publishing photography books.

When my wife, Karen, and I travel, we hit the road with the intent of creating a book from the resulting photographs. Both of us carry cameras, and my wife will write a journal so we can later incorporate text.

We’ve printed three books so far on excursions to Eureka Springs, Ark., South Dakota and the spring sandhill crane migration in Nebraska. I’m currently laying out two other books about a New Mexico vacation and a weekend trip with my parents to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday. They may only be editions of one, but these small, self-published books are nicer and more creative than sticking prints in a scrapbook.

I’ve also discovered they add a different dimension to the trip. I find I’m more engaged in everything I see instead of just focusing on landmarks and typical tourist shots. I also take more photographs, and I’m more spontaneous with the camera. It makes me realize why I love photography. The process of gathering images with a purpose — the goal of producing a book — gives structure to a project.

Gathering images for any project can result in some unusual subject matter. Anybody who has traveled can relate to how road food is a hit-and-miss experience. On our New Mexico trip, I remember a continental breakfast at a chain motel somewhere in the flatlands of northwest Texas. There wasn’t anything much to photograph until I used the motel waffle iron. My batter-fried breakfast came out in the shape of the Lone Star State. It was a perfect image to sum up a little taste of Texas while just passing through.

Some photographs would never get captured if there hadn’t first been the intent of a project and a camera in hand. On the birthday trip with my dad, we were visiting a cemetery in search of my wife’s relatives. At one point, I turned around and my dad was reaching to hug a tree! It made a memorable photograph. And yes, he drives a Prius, too.

Taking photographs should be an enjoyable and creative process. But if you’re frustrated with photography because your images are scattered on your computer desktop or stuck to refrigerator doors, maybe it’s time to propose a project for yourself. So pick a subject that interests you, define a timeline for acquiring the images and get ready to self-publish your book.

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