Thoughts On Creativity

 

Creativity:  the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.  This is the definition from dictionary.com.

Creativity is a hard word to define.  We all know creativity when we see it but when we try to define it there will be people that agree and people that won’t agree.  Everyone has their own theory on where creativity comes from and how to develop it or coax it out of hiding.  I have been thinking about this topic for a long time and been reading many opinions and have tried to be more creative myself.  I wrote this post to reflect my thoughts and understanding on this topic.  Please leave a comment if you have affirming or dissenting thoughts on this subject.

Innate or Learned

Like most arguments about different ability levels of people, the first question is whether we are born with creativity or if it is learned.  I believe that creativity is innate within all of us.  You just have to find the pursuit that you are passionate about and learn all you can about that topic/area so that creativity can flourish.  Obviously people will be born with abilities that will give them an advantage in certain things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work hard and learn that craft or find the thing that you are good at.  I cannot draw or paint or sculpt art from clay.  I have tried and tried all of those but it just wasn’t working.  I do love photography though and worked hard at it to create art that I enjoy from it.

School today teaches you how to not be creative.  They push memorization and multiple choice tests so that you can be another cog in the system when you get out.  This happens in almost every country, not just the US.  The system makes you like a machine that can crank out more products in less time for the big corporations.  They don’t allow you to wander and spend time with art and new ideas.  There was a recent study that came out that showed 90% of Asian schoolchildren are nearsighted.  The conclusion they came to is that they weren’t going outside enough and were inside studying so much that their eyes were not developing correctly (http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/07/why-up-to-90-of-asian-schoolchildren-are-nearsighted/).  The reason I bring this up is that they are so focused on making the grades and fitting into the system that they are not even enjoying childhood and going outside.  Humans have a long history of connectedness to nature, you can even say it is a spiritual connection.  By not going outside you are cutting yourself off from what the divine has created, maybe even closing yourself off to the creativity that is there.  I am not saying to not study hard and stop going to school.  Just that you should try to push past basic education to learn things on your own and live a balanced life.  The more experiences you have the more creative you can become.

I will give some more of my thoughts about how to attain creativity later in this post.

A Little History on Creativity

Different cultures have explained the moment when you tap into creativity in very different ways.  Romans and Greeks both believed that humans did not have the ability to be creative on their own.  They thought a higher  or divine power infused humans with the insight and ideas to be creative The Greek’s called this higher being a “Daemon” and the Roman’s called it a “Genius”.

During the Renaissance creativity was first seen as an attribute separate from the divine, it was the ability of “Great Men”.  For the first time people were given credit for the work they created as individuals apart from a higher power.

Now we have the ability to do brain scans when people are trying to solve a problem that takes some creativity to get through.  Using this you can see certain parts of the brain activate when there is an “aha” moment and something clicks.  This is the moment when the brain connects multiple ideas to create a new interesting idea.  Even though we can scan a brain and see what parts are in motion when a creative thought arises we still can’t explain why it happens.

Most of the time this “aha” moment happens when we aren’t even trying to make anything up.  A great idea will just pop into your mind while you are daydreaming in the shower, or zoned out driving in the car.  I believe these types of thoughts come from the unconscious mind, which would have a more adept ability to connect all these ideas than our regular conscious and hectic brains would.  The question I cannot answer is if some brains just connect multiple thoughts together to make something interesting and new, or is there something more.  Whether it comes from a Muse (goddess of literature, science, and arts in Greek mythology), divine power, or just an ability of the human brain does not matter.  There are ways to get creativity to show up more often.

Ways to Be More Creative

Most people will have felt the power of creativity at one point or another in their life.  Whether it was an idea that just popped into your head during the day or if you have ever sat down for hours trying to write a paper and the words just started flowing effortlessly out of you, this is the power of creativity.  The point is creativity is not just reserved for a select few.  There are things you can do to try and have more “aha” moments or create more interesting things.

Here is a list of ways to coax creativity out of your unconscious or even from the divine:

  1. Do your work everyday.  The more you grind down and keep doing your part of the bargain (assuming the creative part comes from the daemon) the more opportunities there will be for you to be open to receive an insight or creative idea.  The more you immerse yourself in your art the better chance you will learn the ins and outs and create something interesting.
  2. Find something you are passionate about so that you can put in the amount of work needed in point 1 to consistently make creative things.
  3. Be ready for it at anytime.  Creativity is fickle, it can strike at any time, and leave just as fast as it came.  You have to be ready for it to strike at any time.   Most of the time it will not be in a convenient location, which is a big reason a lot of people that come up with many ideas carry around a notebook to capture these “aha” moments.
  4. Learn your craft like the back of your hand.  If you like photography then learn how to do the basics such as what shutter speed, iso and aperture are and how they can help you create different effects in your pictures.  Make changing these settings so ingrained that you don’t have to think about them when you are presented with a beautiful scene to capture.
  5. Be your own best critic for your work and keep improving it on a daily basis.
  6. Travel and explore new things.  Don’t just stick with your one form of art or you will never grow.  Explore museums, read literature, and expose yourself to other art forms so that your brain has numerous different ideas to pull from to make new creative connections.  By traveling you will be forced to see things from other people’s point of view which will broaden your horizons.
  7. Don’t specifically search for creativity.  You will never find it.  There is no exact definition or understanding for creativity so it will be impossible to find it.  If you are searching for it that means you are not concentrating on your work enough for creativity to shine within you.  Just keep your mind working on your specific art and others will let you know when your work is creative.
  8. Don’t be afraid of doing your work.  Don’t listen to other people when they judge you or say you are not creative.  To make great work you have to be confident in what you are doing.  I am not saying to block out constructive criticism, just don’t listen to the haters that don’t ever create anything and sit on the side line being critical about what everyone else is doing.

Conslusion

Let me know how you view creativity in the comments.  Everyone may have a different method of invoking the muse into their life since no two people’s art is the same.  Just get out there and do what you love and let creativity come to you in whatever vehicle it will arrive in.

 

 

Share
Posted in Motivation Tagged , , , , , , |

An Artist’s Awakening

I thought the following essay was worth sharing here on our blog.  This isn’t just for artists, but for everyone trying to become a better person and live a life of value.  Please read and share this if it touches you.

The Awakening
(Author unknown)

A time comes in your life when you finally get it. . . when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out–ENOUGH!  Enough of the fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on. Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.

This is your awakening.

You realize it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to magically appear over the next horizon.

You realize that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings, and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you. . .and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate, or approve of who or what you are–and that’s OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions.

You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself. . . and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval.

Your stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you – or didn’t do for you – and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and everything isn’t always about you.

So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself. . . and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.

You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties…and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.

You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with.

You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” looking for you next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not you job to save the world and that you can’t teach a pig to sing. You learn the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.

You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say “NO”.

You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

You learn that your body really is your temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drinking more water, and take more time to exercise.

You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.

More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You learn that no one can do it all alone, and that it’s OK to risk asking for help.

You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.

You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people. . . and you learn not to always take it personally.

You learn that nobody’s punishing you and everything isn’t always somebody’s fault. It’s just life happening. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.

You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself –by yourself and you make a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than you heart’s desire.

You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

You hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind.

Finally, with courage in you heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can.

.

Found this article at http://skinnyartist.com/an-artists-awakening/ This site is great if you are an artist or are trying to grow you business.

Share
Posted in Motivation Tagged , , , , , |

Lens Choices in Photography

If you ever visit a photography forum or any group in Flickr there are hundreds of questions from beginning photogs about what lens they should get.  It is really hard to choose a lens when you only have a certain amount of money to spend.  Not very many people can go out and buy all the lenses and gear they want, so they have to choose from a whole line of lenses.  It is hard not to go online and toss the question around to random people to get some opinions on which lens you should buy when you have no idea.  I have decided to write a post to hopefully make it easier when you want to either buy your first lens or add to your existing lens collection.  I shoot with Canon products so I will be using Canon products as examples in this post, I am not implying that Canon is better than any other brand.  Most other camera companies will have the same type of lenses, including Nikon.  Please read the following and let me know if this helps with your purchase decision or leave a comment if you have further questions.

Photo credit to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crsan/5011052457/sizes/l/in/photostream/.

Type of Photography You Are Interested In

The first question you should ask yourself is what type of photography you want to do.  This is by far the most important question to answer before investing your money in some new glass (another term used for lenses).

If you want to do sports photography you are going to need some faster lenses – meaning that the lens has a large maximum aperture such as a f2.8, especially if you are going to want to shoot events indoors or at night under the lights.  The reasoning behind this is that you want to keep the shutter speed high so that you can freeze action.  The only way to do this is to raise the ISO and open up the lens’s aperture.   A lens with a longer focal length would also be helpful for some extra reach when you need it.  A good lens for this would be an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM.  You can get the one with or without image stabilization (more on this later).

If you want to do something like wedding photography then just like with sports you will need fast lenses.  You will need fast lenses so that you will be able to keep a fast enough shutter speed when the lights are low by using the maximum aperture available.  Most people that shoot events like weddings prefer zoom lenses because of the flexibility that they provide with different focal lengths.  I will explain zoom vs. prime lenses later in this post.  Two lenses that would be very useful with weddings would be the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM and EF 24-20mm f/2.8L USM.  These focal lengths will cover almost everything you need.

A wide aperture lens would also be very useful for portrait photography so that you can get a beautiful out of focus background.  All the lenses I have suggested so far would work but you can also take a look at some prime lenses.  They have wider apertures to get that wonderfully shallow depth of field.  Prime lenses are also usually sharper than zoom lenses.  A good lens for portraits would include any of the following:  EF 50mm f/1.8II, EF 85mm f1.8 USM or EF 135mm f/2L USM (currently on my wish list).  There are many versions of the 50mm and 85 mm to choose from based on how much you are willing to spend.

If you want to shoot landscapes the aperture is not as important because you will usually be using a smaller aperture to get more depth of field, meaning more of the picture will be in focus.  By using a smaller aperture such as f/8 the photo will also be sharper.  I won’t explain this now but most lenses are sharpest in the middle of the aperture range, so like f/5.6 to f/9.  You will also be using lenses that have a wider focal length so you can get more of the scene in the picture.  This isn’t to say that you can’t use lenses with longer focal lengths (which can compress a landscape and make it look great).  I use my EF 70-200mm f/4 is USM all the time for landscape pictures.  A good lens for landscapes would be something like the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens.  You may need something wider like the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM if you are not using a full frame camera.

I have covered numerous types of photography here but not all.  If you have other questions you need answer please drop me a comment.

How Much You Want to Spend

After finding out what lenses you may want you will have to figure out how much money you want to spend.  It is easy to spend thousands of dollars on lenses.  The good thing about buying quality lenses is that you can use them for many years, unlike camera bodies that you will most likely be replacing every 3 years or so.  Lens technology isn’t so rapid that yours will be outdated any time soon.  The more expensive lenses, particularly the L lenses actually keep their value better than the cheaper lenses, which is also something to think about before you buy.  More on L lenses later in this post.  A lot of people ask if they should buy a new body or new lens.  You should always buy good lenses before you buy a better camera body.  Good glass will make more of an improvement in your photography then a new camera will.  Also if you ever decide to move up to a full frame camera you will need nicer lenses anyway to be able to take advantage of the higher resolution that they provide.

A lot of camera bodies come with what they call kit lenses which are bundled with the bodies in one price.  You usually don’t want to get the kit lenses, even though they look like a good deal in the bundle.  You would be much better off buying some prime lenses or an L zoom.  Some camera bodies do come with a good lens though, such as the 5D Mark II being bundled with the EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM lens.

Do you Need Image Stabilization (IS)

I would recommend getting a lens with image stabilization.  Even though this won’t help stop motion it will help you capture images handheld at slower shutter speeds.  This is very helpful for subjects that don’t move.  The longer the lens the more useful image stabilization is as well.  When you don’t have IS you have to rely on fast shutter speeds to avoid blur in your picture.  When you get up to longer focal lengths, such as 200mm, every little movement by you translates into more shake in the picture.  A good rule of thumb (not an exact science but good) without IS is to double the shutter speed according to the focal length you are using.  For example if you were using a 50mm lens you would want a shutter speed of 100 to avoid motion blur.  With IS you can use much slower shutter speeds and still get sharp pictures.  Sometimes I get away with holding my EF 70-200mm f/4 IS USM lens at long focal lengths using very slow shutter speeds like 1/20s because of the image stabilization.

Zoom vs. Prime Lenses

A prime lens has a fixed focal length that you cannot change and a zoom lens has many focal lengths built into one lens. Many people like prime lenses because they are sharper and have higher maximum apertures, meaning they let more light in.  You can also get some nice prime lenses for cheaper than you can get one really good zoom lens.  Zoom lenses are closing the gap quickly on sharpness though and for many people an aperture of 2.8 is good enough.  A lot of people like prime lenses because it makes them move around to find a better composition instead of just standing in one spot and zooming.  With prim lenses you have to zoom with your feet, meaning you have to walk toward or away from your subject to change the composition.  If you want to see if a prime lens is right for you then just leave your zoom lens at one focal length for a day and see if you enjoy staying at one focal length.  The only reason to get zoom lenses over prime is that they offer more flexibility, especially for shooting events because you don’t have to change lenses as often and can get more of a variety of pictures quickly.  Personally I prefer to have both for different situations.

L Lenses

If you are just beginning in photography and don’t know if you will fall in love with it then you will probably be fine buying a lens without an L in the name and a nice red ring around the barrel.  If you want the best and know you will keep taking photographs then you should just spring for the L lenses to begin with to save yourself money in the long run.  L stands for “luxury” in the canon lineup.  They are sharper and the colors rendered in each photo is better.  They also have a constant aperture throughout the zoom range unlike a lens like the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS.  At 55mm this lens has an aperture of 4 and at 250mm it has an aperture of 5.6, which really limits your ability to shoot with it in low light.  L lenses are also built with USM, which stands for ultra sonic motor which provides fast and accurate auto focus.  Once you use your first L lens you will never go back for this reason alone.  It just feels smooth when it is focusing.  The last reason to by an L lens is that they are better built then the regular lenses in the lineup.  They usually have better seals to keep out weather and are encased with metal barrels.  L lenses usually keep their price after you buy them so they are a better investment in the long run if you love photography and have the funds to buy them.

There are some lenses that can almost match the optical quality of an L lens that do not have that designation.  You can try them out to see if they work for you.  A zoom lens that comes to mind is the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, which has great optics but is not very well built.  This lens is still pricey but it may be worth it to you.  Many of the prime lenses will have great optical quality as well without paying more for the L build quality.

EF vs. EF-S Lenses

EF-S lenses were introduced when camera makers started making consumer priced cameras for the masses that were not full frame.  EF-S camera bodies have a smaller mirror box – meaning the sensor is smaller than the standard 35mm frame size of a film camera which is the same as a full frame digital camera.  I don’t want to get too far into camera bodies in this post but I will explain a little bit to understand the lens.  EF-S cameras usually have a crop factor of 1.6X, which results in your lenses not really being at the focal length that is marked on them.  For instance, a 50mm focal length on a full frame camera would be about 80mm on an EF-S camera.  For a visual on this take a look at this page: http://philipbloom.net/2010/08/20/which-lenses-to-buy/.

EF-S lenses have a shorter back focus distance which means the back part of the lens gets closer to the image sensor since the mirror is smaller (http://photonotes.org/articles/beginner-faq/lenses.html).  EF-S lenses are cheaper to build then the EF lenses because of this.  If you want to get a full frame camera now or in the future you will have to buy the EF lenses.

Conlusion

I know I have not covered every facet of what goes into buying a lens but hopefully this helps answer some commonly asked questions that most photographers have.  Ultimately you will probably end up trying numerous lenses before you come to own a set of lenses that you really love.  Like I said before, please leave a comment if you have any other questions that you think I may be able to answer.

Share
Posted in Photography tips Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |