Power of Limitations
I often say to people that never crib for things that you do not have or situations that you have no control on. Even with regards to photography I am a strong proponent of working within what is available rather than amassing latest photographic equipment and gizmos.
How many times did we say to ourselves?
- Only if I had a better lens my images would have been better!
- Ah, only if I had the latest full frame camera, I could make larger prints of my images!
- Shooting in the home sucks, I wish I have large a studio!
“No matter what situation you are in, what equipment you have at hand, focus on the fact that you need to achieve the end result. The more one is constrained with choices, the more one has limited access to equipment and resources, the more one becomes creative. That is the “Power of Limitation”!”
No amount of latest photographic equipment or gadgetry is going to make you any better photographer than you already are. All that equipment and gadgetry will only enable you to have latest technology at hand…but that does not mean it can enhance your skills or make you a better photo artist!
You can enhance your skills at whatever you are doing only with practice with whatever you have, and you can be better at whatever you are doing only if you thoroughly understand what you are doing, and WHY you are doing what you are doing…. Period.
The reason I am saying this is, because I too am an human like every one; and I too at times get in that phase of thinking that alas I could do that if had this or only if I could do that… And I have to often remind myself of the “Power of Limitation”, which then puts me back on track of creativity.
As I pen this, most of the world is in a Lockdown due to the COVID-19, a pandemic that is here to forever change the way we live.
I had many plans had this pandemic not given a reason for countries to be in a lockdown. Being the month of April, the Astro season was on with plenty of opportunities for astrophotography, I love capturing the Galactic Centre in various photographic compositions. I had plans for my travel, I had plans for outdoor photography, all of which got stalled as I was restricted in my movements outside and was forced to stay back home. That was getting on my nerves and got in that phase… “only if I could travel to places, I had planned, I would be shooting new places”. And then I reminded myself… do what you want to in the resources that you have… do not crib. But here I could not even get out of the house, leave aside finding a dark spot for astrophotography.
So, what next… The pandemic required that we follow certain precautions to be safe from infection, frequent washing of hands was one of them. And as I was at the wash basin washing my hands, I accidentally happened to blow a small soap bubble. The light on the dressing mirror illuminated it and I saw a streak of rainbow colours travel over the surface of the bubble… and that was it.
I was prevented from traveling; I could not go out to do astrophotography…but no one had stopped me from doing astrophotography in the confines and safety of my home!
I searched for things I could use for my newfound fantasy astrophotography project. A roll of parchment paper in the kitchen cabinets, a spare sheet of black plastic sheet which I had purchased to make mudguards for my recumbent trike, a large salad bow, a bottle of dish washer liquid and a generous amount of Glycerine ( which I always stock as I never know when I will need it to add some gloss on food or fruit when I have the urge to photograph it) some water and a straw. That was it and the process began.
I made a bowlful of mixture of dishwasher liquid and glycerine in equal proportions and added water, testing how much water was right so as not to make the liquid too runny nor too viscous. I tested this by blowing bubbles as large as 5 inches across in diameter and stopped adding water once I found that the bubbles stay for good three to five minutes in the bowl. ( In case you accidentally add a little more water and make the solution runny you can add some glycerine to increase the viscosity a bit). I allowed the liquid to stand a while till I set up the shooting scene.
I hung the roll of parchment paper from the curtain rod on my windowsill and taped the free end of the parchment paper to the Black plastic, which would form the black background of my images. The parchment paper would give even diffused light for my fantasy planets from my south facing window.
With the setup completed, I started shooting making best of the light hours available. I shout about 90 GB of data over two days spread in shooting span of 4 hours each day.
I must have blown hundreds of bubbles, some thin some thick, some that showed vibrant colours, and some that turned transparent after a minute or so. Every bubble gave a different pattern of colours on the surface. Every image that I shot was unique. Tired with static images, I then decided to make use of the natural movement of the colours on the surface, learning to direct the direction of travel of the colours, replicating the spinning of the fantasy planets. I achieved this by blowing very gently on the surface of the bubble using a straw and directing the straw in the direction where I wanted the flow to go.
Once I mastered this without blowing off the bubble, I started blowing multiple bubbles of different sizes and then directing the flow of colours in different directions on different bubbles. And then the opportunities were endless.
I shot the entire series on a mirrorless Fujifilm XA5 camera with an old NIKKOR 35-70 mm lens modified to work as a macro lens by tweaking with the front elements of the lens which gave me a depth of field of only 3mm at the smallest aperture.
No focus stacking as the bubbles were dynamic. No fancy lights, no fancy props, no fancy equipment, and I had a heap of images that I could tell a story with about a fantasy in space.
Once the shoot was complete, I jotted down all the thoughts that came to my mind as I was shooting the bubbles, to make the photo-story Heliopause and Beyond that was posted on to my Instagram profile. You can view it on Instagram by searching with hashtag #heliopauseandbeyond.
No matter what situation you are in, what equipment you have at hand, focus on the fact that you need to achieve the end result.
So often we think that we need more equipment to be a better photo artist. Better lenses, better cameras, better lights, better models, better shooting conditions etc. But in fact, we need less.
How many times did you reach for your camera bag and were wondering which lens should I use for this portrait shoot? The 80-200 f/2 or the 105 mm prime f/1.8, should I use the camera manufacturers lens that is in my bag or the third-party faster lens?
Try making a pinhole attachment for your camera using an old body cap, with a fixed aperture in range of F/200 or something and then as a result longer exposure times, no focusing, and then see the fun. Try doing that and you will appreciate the Power of Limitation in real sense.
What creativity actually needs is less distraction (in terms of equipment choice ) and more focus ( on end result). The moment we accept the constraints, we are able to focus more on the compelling end result.
By not accumulating ‘I may need it someday’ – fancy equipment, by eliminating distractions that hamper one’s creativity, one can increase her/his potential.
Limitations and constraints can make the creative process a little challenging, but at the end you will appreciate your efforts and be thankful of the constraints that increased your creativity.
The more one is constrained with choices, the more one has limited access to equipment and resources, the more one becomes creative. That is the “Power of Limitation”!
The next time you are out to shoot something, subject yourself to self-imposed constraints, and experience the ‘Power of Limitation’ in true sense. The constrains could be as simple as shooting landscapes at a full wide aperture or using only the kit lens that came with your camera. Anything that you feel you cannot do without…set that as your constraint and try and achieve the result you have in mind. I am sure you will enjoy the process as well as the end result.
Till then… happy clicking.