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.


Light, gesture, colour…

flower6Inspired by the incomparable Jay Maisel, I set out to experiment with light, gesture and colour.

There is a flowering tree not far from our boat (a Hong Kong orchid, I am told) with a lovely fragrance. I love trees in general and I find myself returning to this one often. At certain times,  the light falls on the flowers in a way that is irresistible.

So today I spent some time with the flowers, trying to capture a range of their gestures (placement of petals and stamens etc.) and experimenting to see how their colour changed depending on where the light fell on them.

I love listening to Jay Maisel talk about photography. He has forgotten more than I will probably ever know. The funny thing is that he speaks in such straightforward terms and makes it sound so easy, and when you look at his images, you can be fooled into thinking they are simple to make  — that is, until you try to replicate one! He has some wonderful videos on You Tube (Google them!) and of course, his new book Light, Gesture, Colour is just excellent.

Many people snap away at flowers and are quite pleased with the results. I envy them. In my experience it’s not easy to take a good picture of a flower — at least one that satisfies me. The ratio of bad to good is quite high. Is that just me, or do you find that too?


Here are some of my favourite quotes from Jay Maisel. They inspire me to keep going and keep trying…

“We have always wanted to find the ‘it-ness’ of anything we shoot. We want to get as deep into the subject as we can.”

“You will, in time, see and show others not just the superficial, but the details, the meanings, and the implications of all that you look at …”


“What you’re shooting at doesn’t matter, the real question is: ‘Does it give you joy?’”

“Always shoot it now. It won’t be the same when you go back.” (That is oh so true!)


“The drama of light exists not only in what is in the light, but also in what is left dark. If the light is everywhere, the drama is gone.”

“If you don’t have a camera, the best thing you can do is describe how great it looked.”

“If you’re not your own severest critic, you are your own worst enemy.”

But then, on the other hand…

“Remember that most people (those who are not photographers) don’t even see the things that you missed. Many don’t even look. Ergo, you are way ahead of the game.”



THANK YOU to all my readers…

I wish I could thank each and every one of you for your kind, thoughtful and insightful comments on this post. They made my day!

It looks like the weather is shaping up for us to leave to cross to the Bahamas on our sailboat very soon. So I need to turn my attention to other things right now and will probably be without Internet access for a bit.

I hope to see you on the other side!