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Acquiring focus

Not that focus - not the one in the camera and the lens... That focus... The one in your head and, often-times, your heart...

As the horizons of our understanding and appreciation of the genre expand, we encounter more and more work of accomplished and celebrated photographers whose art we admire - and we start to experiment with capture and interpretation methods that emulate the material we respect.

This process incrementally reveals details about ourselves as artistic beings and progressively refines our skill-sets to a point where we are driven towards the creation of photography that we can call our own. It is the time in our individual development when the processes that can be learned have been learned and are inherent. We no longer create our images with one eye in the viewfinder and the other eye on the rule book. There are no set rules. Technique is so second nature that it is almost disconnected from the creative method; there is only an instinctive, emotional response to the visual stimulus of a given scene. This is when, enhanced by composition, interpretation and visual style, personal vision emerges. It is the era when you will work on your images in the field and it will be an almost meditative process, where time is compressed and irrelevant. An hour will seem like five minutes. It will have become an entirely present and immersive, right-brain experience. With your head engaged and your heart focused, all of your experience and knowledge are brought to bear on the moment of creativity with the four key principles that are the cornerstones of learning and development as a photographer :-

- Composition

- Technique

- Vision

- Visual Style

The first two can be academically taught or systematically learnt, the second two cannot; they must be personally developed over time. No amount of study of technical or academic literature or submission to the rule book will evolve a visual style or reveal the essence of an artist's vision.

- Vision is a singular expression of imagination and interpretation

- Vision provides a visceral connection to a moment, place or person

- Vision evokes an emotional, sensory, subliminal or mnemonic response

Rainstorm at sunset, Selsey Bill, West Sussex

Nikon D810, 14-24mm f2.8 Nikkor, ISO 64, 1/50 second @ f11, tripod

5th April 2016

Dawn rainstorm at Church Norton, West Sussex

Nikon D810, 14-24mm f2.8 Nikkor, ISO 64, 1/8 second @ f13, tripod

6th April 2016

Dawn rainstorm at Church Norton, West Sussex

Nikon D810, 50mm f1.4 Nikkor, ISO 64, 1/4 second @ f13, tripod

6th April 2016

At the moment when the methodological principles of photography become intrinsic, photographers have earned the freedom to exploit the more abstract notions of personal visual literacy that comprise part of their singular artistic vision and inform their visual style. Basically, we learn when and how to twiddle the knobs, push the buttons and twist the bezels on our gear to produce the required effects - and when and how to recognise (or create) compositional opportunities. This tends to yield sequences or bodies of work that have a cohesiveness in both vision and visual style; the former frequently influencing the latter - and vice versa.

However, as with cameras, minds can, from time to time, drift in and out of focus or simply fail to focus at all. This especially happens to artistic types and is as much a part of creativity as... well... creativity... For example, writer's block is a classic instance of lost focus becoming the feared and loathed scoundrel that stifles the flow of inspiration in a novelist's imaginative efforts.

An effective exercise that can help train our minds into becoming more focused is to set a specific subject for a portfolio project and confining ourselves to shooting solely within the boundaries of it for a defined period of time. If you are not in a position to hop on to an aeroplane whenever the fancy takes you and jet off to some exotic location in another hemisphere or continent for a couple of months to fan the flames of imagination and inspiration, as some fortunate togs seem to be able regularly to do, then set yourself a simpler, more local assignment. You don't need even to stray too far from home to achieve compelling results. It could be anything - a colour; a place; an object; a person; a building; a view... You could, for example, restrict yourself to one lens or one capture method for a week, or to shooting only in a town centre at night time. Far from being the constricting artistic straight-jacket you might imagine it to be, you will quickly discover a clear focus on the task and the style, sometimes to the point of obsession and fixation, as you compulsively build up a portfolio of shots based on a distinctive topic, subject or method.

So... Set yourself the task and have fun obsessing, fixating and focusing!

Beach Huts on Bank Holiday. Littlehampton, West Sussex

Nikon D810, 50mm f1.4 Nikkor, ISO 64, 6 seconds @ f11, hand-held

31st March 2016

Pair of red fishing boats. Aldwick, West Sussex

Nikon D810, 50mm f1.4 Nikkor, ISO 64, 15 seconds @ f16, hand-held

21st February 2016

Fishing boats and beach huts. Aldwick, West Sussex

Nikon D810, 50mm f1.4 Nikkor, ISO 64, 25 seconds @ f8, hand-held

16th March 2016

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