Be open…

doorwayWhen it comes to advice on photography, there is no shortage out there — and in the hopes of improving my photography, I’ve read and watched a tremendous amount of it. You too?

But one piece of advice — from the incomparable photographer Jay Maisel, who I’ve mentioned before (see some great quotes here) — has always resonated with me, and so tends to rest there in my unconscious every time I go out into the world with my camera.

Be open. 

That’s it, that’s all.

Don’t go out looking for something specific to shoot — be receptive and willing to let that something come to you.

This is what happened to me recently when I was visiting a friend, who has, with her partner, created a magical garden in a minuscule space in the city.

The garden is as much vertical as it is horizontal, with climbing vines everywhere, producing amazing veggies and flowers throughout the growing season.

At this time of year, the arbour drips with concord grapes and the musky rich smell is intoxicating as you enter the gate.


I had in my mind that I wanted to capture the whole thing with my camera, and I busily set about shooting this view and that view. I took pictures of squashes, jalapeño peppers, nicotiana, cosmos, morning glory vines and much more… It was all truly lovely.

cosmos heart leavessq

I was losing the light so I noticed myself moving very quickly, not wanting to miss anything. But I had this feeling that I wasn’t connecting enough to this beautiful space. My preconceived notions were getting in the way.

How many times does that happen to me — to you?

So I deliberately slowed down and let the expectations go. I walked through the garden again at a slower pace, really taking in what was there. I tried to stop looking for the view I thought I should be capturing and just left myself open.

That’s when I saw the seedheads on the dill. I hadn’t noticed them at all before — they were brown and blended into the background   — kinda of mousy — not showy at all. I had been more fixated on the brighter colours and bolder shapes.

magical seedheadsrgb

But, this time they captured me. Their delicate, intricate beauty became evident when I paid them the attention they deserved.

And they turned out to be magical, even luminescent, in the fading light of the garden.

As well as a great reminder of some of the best advice ever.