Every winter, when Oregon is a drippy, dark, freezing mess, I like to head to a warmer, brighter place for a couple weeks. Seasonal affective disorder therapy. Change of scenery. Ideally, I'm off grid for most of that time. No ringing and dinging. Just light, breathing room, and creative space. It does the spirit good - and when I get home, I can channel all that energy and creative juju into new projects.
This year, we did a little Pacific Rim tour - Korea and Australia. I grew up in Korea, so it was fun to show my partner around Seoul. Australia was uncharted territory for both of us. We explored the southeast and spent a few days in Tasmania. It's wacky to look south from there, to know that Antarctica is just a quick flight over the water. It's also lovely to look north, to imagine the rest of the world stretching away beyond the horizon.
I feel strongly that photography is less about what we photograph and more about how we do it. The things, subjects, and scenes matter less than our treatment of them, you know? It's especially easy to forget this when traveling, I think. It's easy to spot novel things and snap pictures without considering light, mood, emotion, or meaning. Pictures that simply show what something looks like are a dime a dozen, though. So, even if we're only in a place for a short time, it's essential to dig deeper, to look for "what else" is there, as Minor White would have said. Sure, it's a painting hanging over a couch in a historic home - but what else is there?
The first time I made the image at the top of this post, I just photographed the reflection of the light on the frame. On my second pass through the room, I noticed my silhouette in the glass and realized that was the stronger shot. It captured a little more of the "what else" - especially because the volunteer guide started chatting about ghost sightings just after I made it.
Now that I'm home, I'm sorting through my images with "what else" in mind. It's a great way to edit. Is this too straightforward, too guidebook-like? Does this have a sense of mystery about it? Does it go deeper than the surface level? Does it pull at the heartstrings? If so, it's worth a more serious look. If not, I take a breath and let it go. Sometimes, that means I have to "kill a darling," but it's worth it for a stronger overall body of work. It's worth it to have a collection of images that really means something, instead of a collection that's watered down by images I'm trying to convince myself about. Shoot passionately, edit ruthlessly! It's the advice I always give myself - and it has served me well.