The Process of Realizing A Photographic Inspiration

For the artist who is a painter the brush, oil paints and canvas are extentions of what goes on in the painter’s brain. The motivating factor is the inspiration that drives the artist to create what is considered an original work of art. The painter is limited by how long they can hold onto the image within their minds that has inspired them, providing they aren’t working from a photograph. Its much more difficult for a surrealist painter since most of the content that inspires their work is the product of dreams or a too lively imagination.


The surrealist painter and photographer strive to push aside pre-conceptualizations and even painting technique itself so they can remain an open vehicle for what is called “an accidental” to happen within their work. For those of us who paint surrealistically holding onto an inspiration and a mental image that came off of that inspiration becomes a mantra.

My art, that means my painting, and all that I have learned therein is being used within my photography which I also consider another way of expressing the art. Instead of using the stuff that is the substance of mind and dreams, when I pick up my camera the stuff of photography becomes the substance of what is contained within the immediate moment.

Its also all about observation of what’s happening within the environment around me within that given immediate moment. Lighting and the big potential for an original composition come into play once a specific subject has been discovered.

“Seeing” a specific subject from all angles within the restricted space of the camera lens also comes into play. One doesn’t begin worrying about the technical aspects of the shot either because then the moment for becoming a consumate camera artist is spoiled.

For me its all about looking at subjects a little differently. How a subject is lit up by those tiny photons of light within a given moment, how the light is reflecting and refracting within the subject also plays a big part in the drama that is being played out before me.

While I am taking the shot I am also reacting to what visual messages the subject is sending to my brain.

During the shoot time stops for a split moment as my brain and mind tune into the visual messages that my chosen subject of the moment is trying to convey to me in regard to its potential for becoming a unique art form. Little questions nag at me on how can my brain and camera turn an ordinary looking little mushroom into something that is fantasmagorically surreal?

First off the inspiration for the mushroom shot was found right in my own back yard. Finding the subject to fulfill my inspiration was easy. I always have a toadstool or two growing outside in my yard since I don’t spread chemicals on my lawn.

The first shot of the mushroom is pretty much your standard shot.

The second shot reveals the potential. The third shot tells you what I have in mind as far as inspiration that will make the shot more unique.

To prepare for the shot I set my Sony Cybershot camera to macro mode, shutting down the flash option. The ambient light was strong enough to penetrate some of the more thinner parts of the mushroom. I then set the camera to shoot at 5M. This means that I won’t have to dither the end result on my computer except for some cropping and contrast adjustment.

Once the camera was set up I began to trim a few blades of grass because they had begun interfering with the camera’s macro focusing ability. The camera I use is supposed to be a “Super Steady Shot” inhibiting that all too familiar fuzzyness one gets from even the slightest movement of the camera. I’ve discovered that the “super steady shot” feature has its limits. I set the camera down on the solid ground in front of the mushroom, fixed the composition and, wa la!

The first shot was taken. The second shot revealed tiny little flys that were congregating around beneath the mushroom. This was considered a plus because it added a little “real life” to the shot.

The next stage involved uploading the three shots into my computer. Since I set my camera to take my photos at 5M this meant I wouldn’t have to dither around too much on the computer except for some cropping and perhaps some contrast adjustments. A minimum of half hour to forty five minutes was spent on the computer, uploading and then adjusting the shots.

A Certain amount of involution has to happen before one takes a series of photographs of a specific subject. The brain has to keep working to achieve the final goal that was spurred by the initial inspiration. Its all part of the artistic process that goes into the evolution of the final photograph.


John AyesAbout the author
John Ayes is an artist, photographer and a writer. You can find out more about him and his photography works on his MyShutterspace profile.

See also: Photography Tips

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