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One year with Sony Alpha cameras and ZEISS E-mount lenses. Developing my own photographic eye in a in a scratch book manner. Hunting the stream of inspiration and sharing it through a popular blog platform.
This is what 'Days of Zeiss' is all about.




Photographic exploration

Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Loxia 2/50 – f/7.1, 1/60sec, ISO160, raw Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Loxia 2/50 – f/7.1, 1/60sec, ISO160, raw
Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

I have a firm believe that everyone has their own photographic eye, that is the way of seeing things and photographing them. While it is, of course, built from the repertoires of visual culture, it is also your own personal way of translating the sceneries you encounter to images that also contain something of yourself as a photographer. Think of it, for example, as your own visual language that repeats in the undercurrents of your own photography. However, as interesting as it sounds it is also difficult to find – which you definitely know if you have tried to search it – and one of the biggest obstacle against finding your own photographic eye is to photograph routinely. It is so easy to fall into habit of using same visual motifs again and again (been there, done that and trying to escape it all the time) and so difficult to challenge them by daily basis.

Here is one simple way how to resist the 'routine photography'. This one often works brilliantly with prime lenses but I don't see why one couldn't use a zoom lens too if he just decides in advance what focal length he is going to use (creative limits are important here). So, what I sometimes do when I find a photographically interesting place is that I decide, in advance, what prime lens I'm going to use to shoot that place. The place might call, for example, for a 50 mm lens, but I might choose something else on purpose just to make things more interesting. Or some days I just feel like using some particular lens so I decide to go with that one. The focal length you choose will of course define your approach, but it will not be determined by it because this technique will force you to be creative.

Then I define the limits of that place. For example, if it is a train tunnel I decide that I will not leave tunnel in the search for better images, instead I give myself a time limit, an hour for example, in which I have to use on that particular place and try to come up with one interesting shot. What usually happens that within the first ten minutes I have already taken the shots that come to mind routinely and by a habit. Once I've taken them my mind will naturally open up for different kind of shots as it is no point in repeating the ones that I've already taken and which I had in my mind when I came that particular space in the first place. Now here is where the real photographic exploration begins as I've emptied my mind from any pre-thoughts and I actually have to face that sometimes an unpleasant feeling that I don't have an idea how to shoot the place interestingly. This kind of position forces you to try out different things and searching for different angles, ideas and interpretations. Maybe you find that framing the place with something from the scenery is actually more interesting than your first ideas. Or maybe you end up capturing just some interesting detail of the place rather than representing it as a whole. However you end up solving the problem (and it might turn out that you find the best picture only later on when sitting on a computer) it is pretty much guaranteed that your solution most likely exceeds the ideas you had in the first place – and by doing so it will also represent your own photographic eye better than any standard visual imagery which often kicks in when you enter into these photographically interesting places.

This is also the kind of exercise that will eventually be very enjoyable experience if you just give yourself that half an hour or an hour just to explore without any artistic pressure. Of course not every place turns out to be interesting after an hour, but once you find your own way of interpreting the place it will give you great pleasure to step out of that standard visual imagery. I often find that especially the Loxias are perfect for this kind of easygoing photography as manual focusing each shot individually kind of supports this kind of thoughtful exploration. No 'beep-and-click' like with autofocus, but taking your time for each shot and having important pauses after each shot giving room to new ideas which will emerge into your mind. Try it, highly recommended!