Listen to the Creative Voice Inside Your Head
If you're a photographer, or any kind of creative, one of the toughest things to do is share a piece of work with the world that you are uncertain of. Criticism is all a part of the artistic process--it's what helps us improve our craft; but there's a kind of nakedness or vulnerability involved when you share something with your peers and you're not sure of whether or not they'll see what you were going for.
As a photographer, I try and find unique compositions whenever I'm out and about with my camera in hand. While I was on my honeymoon, I had the amazing opportunity to trek around Washington state--a landscape photographer's goldmine. One of the stops I made along the way was at a small beach area off a winding road on the way to the Hoh Rainforest. While the scenery at this little beach was nice to take in, everything seemed kind of flat and average. The creative voice inside of my head was quiet.
After walking around for a little bit, I saw this really interesting tree branch that had fallen onto the beach. It had several smaller, spike-like branches popping off of it, and it had a very prominent upward curve shape--it looked kind of vicious. It was laying parallel to another fallen tree. Except this one was laying completely flat on the ground and was covered in a vibrant green moss. The creative voice inside of my head started to whisper, but I wasn't listening entirely. There may have been a composition there, but I wasn't seeing it. Then I looked up at a clear blue sky and noticed contrails left behind by an airplane. The creative voice in my head was now talking a bit louder.
I grabbed my camera, looked through the viewfinder, lined up my composition, took the shot, and then I looked at it.... I felt a bit underwhelmed. I looked at the image for a couple of minutes--pixel peeping, checking the focus and exposure; wondering if there's anything I can do to make it better. By the time I looked back up from my camera, the contrails had pretty much dissipated. One of the key components of my composition was now gone. All I could do was shrug my shoulders and continue on with my drive down to the Hoh Rainforest.
When I got back to my hotel room from hiking around, I unloaded all of my photos from the day onto my laptop. I immediately start editing the photos that I was most excited about. As I'm scrolling through my photos in Lightroom, I come across that image from the beach. The creative voice inside of my head is talking to me again. I click on the image and start to tinker around with it. It wasn't a bad image, but I wasn't excited about it either. That is, until I made it black and white. Once I did that, the creative voice inside of my head was almost screaming in excitement. It changed the mood and feel of the image in a way that I wasn't expecting. Most photographers know when they've taken an image that will be made black and white. This was a time that it wasn't very obvious.
All of a sudden I have an image that I'm excited to share with the world at large. Yet, I found myself wondering if other people would see what I was now seeing. Would this photo incite the same feelings in other people? Art is an entirely subjective thing. I never take criticism personally, but sharing my art with people is like exposing a part of who I am, how I think, and how I see the world.
I posted that image as a part of a group of photos on social media. I was wondering if anyone would take notice of it amongst more grand-looking landscape photos. A few people did take notice, but one person went as far to say "I love this picture". That was a form of validation for the creative voice inside of my head. By listening to it, I found a unique composition that I may have otherwise left behind. Listen to the creative voice inside of your head.