Finding My Photographic Voice – Part 3

First, I want to thank those who have visited Wei Chen Photo. The old man was thrilled. It probably will take him a while to figure out how to visit/follow your blog ;-(

My Experience for Lesson 4

Lesson 4 is about making engaging photos. The first assignment, to my surprise, is to take self-portrait. It’s easier to ask someone to take a photo of me, but, hey, I am supposed to be the photographer, am I not? Setting the camera on tripod, and on remote release, I guessed where I should be stand and started shooting. I missed a half of my head on the first try, but the second one was okay and I started having fun.

Writers are performers (sort of). We know (I think we do) how to bring a certain emotion out. But I only wanted my true emotion. To make sure I didn’t take a photo of not-me, I decided to pose with one of my mom’s Chinese dresses. My mom passed away on 2001, and I haven’t been able to look at her dresses yet. It was an emotional experience, to say the least. Anyway, the first photo I took was focused well, but my hands were not in it. The second was slightly out of focus, but you can see my hands holding the dress. By then, I was emotionally exhausted. I had to select one of two, but which one?

I always critique my own work. The interesting thing is I now not only critique my own work, but also hearing Otto’s voice and I critique “a little bit” like Otto (Ha!) I almost knew what he was going to say about these two photos. But I really didn’t want to take another one, so I decided to submit the one that my hands were holding the dress. Here is the photo that I didn’t submit.

Mom's dress

Mom’s dress

The second assignment is to make a mini photo-essay about something important to us. I listed many things that are important to me: peace, hope, family, love, kindness, friendship… etc. I stared at my list for a long time and it finally dunned on me that what interested me the most is life itself. My life and other people’s lives. And guess what? That means I could take photo of anything, doesn’t it? I was happy when I figured this one out 😉

I wanted to make this assignment a little more difficult. Otto has told us from the beginning that we should engage with our subject and, to this date, I had never done that. At the most, I managed to ask for permission before shooting, but after the person said yes, I usually quickly took a photo and leave. This time I determined that I would engage.

I saw a man standing there listening to the music (a lady was playing the piano and one other lady was singing). I waited. When he finally turned to look at me, I asked, “Can I take a picture of you?”

He looked surprised. I saw a big question mark on his face. I continued, “I am taking a photography class and I have to take photos for my assignments.”

He smiled and said, “Sure.” He posed.

“But, my teacher said we should engage with the person before taking his photos. (It’s easier to use someone else as an excuse! Sorry. But it’s my first try!) So… do you live in town?”

He laughed, and we had a “short” nice conversation. When I finally started taking photos, my camera didn’t work – it wouldn’t click. Speaking of embarrassment! I reset ISO, reset this and that, the camera still wouldn’t click. The man’s wife came; I explained to her what I was doing. She was ok with it, but I just couldn’t fix the camera. Disappointedly, I let the nice couple go.

I called my husband telling him something was wrong with the camera. He calmly said, “Let’s see… the last picture you took was self-portrait. Did you reset the release mode dial?”

Okay, back to business, but where did that couple go? Giving it up, I walked toward the parking lot. While I was passing a restaurant, I spotted them! We talked more, and I took several photos of them.

At the end, the guy asked me, “Why are you afraid of asking people?”

“I don’t want people get mad at me,” I said.

“No, no one would get mad when someone wants to take a photo of him,” he said.

They gave me their address and invited me to visit them. 😉

Now you all know the story. Don’t be afraid! (It’s easy to say. Ha.)

The third assignment is to do something our way, something out of the box. I have seen some people purposely moving camera up and down or left to right to create an abstract image. I always wanted to give it a try, so I did. Here is one example.

A plant

A plant


Do you like those abstract images? Do they speak to you?
In my case, I like some of them, not all of them. Some do put me into a certain mode. But, I haven’t figured out how to make an abstract image speak yet. What’s the essential elements?


About Helen C

A retired computer programmer who loves writing and photographing, and has managed to publish a YA novel "Jin-Ling’s Two Left".
This entry was posted in photo, photo and thoughts, Photo Question. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Finding My Photographic Voice – Part 3

  1. Cee Neuner says:

    Very good post…..I like your photo of yourself. To me I couldn’t have done it. I stay away from cameras. I bet it was emotional for you. Wish I were there to give you a hug.
    I don’t like abstract photography, or any kind of abstract art for the most part. So I wouldn’t have done well with that either. 🙂 Good thing I’m not taking the class.


    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Cee. I wish you were here too 😉
      You don’t have to take abstract photos for the workshop. It was my choice. I wanted to try something new. Like you, I have problem with abstract art too. Most of the time, I am confused by it.
      I am pretty sure you know your photographic voice already. As a beginner, I’ve learned a lot from the workshop. It changes how I take photos, for good. 😉 Helen

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cee Neuner says:

        I’m thrilled it has changed your eye and style for the good. I know I always get something out of it when you write about your classes. I’m always learning and changing too. I don’t understand abstract either…and I really don’t want too. But then I obviously like clear sharp vivid pictures. 🙂


        • Helen C says:

          I like clear sharp vivid pictures too, but it seems like I always have problem to get them as sharp as I wanted ;-( Without a tripod, that is. Maybe some hand exercise? 😉 Helen


  2. Amy says:

    Thank you for sharing your photography learning, Helen! These two are great images, Helen. To me, a great photo should give viewers a room to image, related to, or tell a story, like your “mom’s dress”.


    • Helen C says:

      Amy, I like what you said about a great photo! Now (lesson 5) we have to select our own project to work on and I am thinking something like “catching a story moment”. What do you think? Helen


      • Amy says:

        Glad you like my small opinion 🙂 So much I want to improve my photography skills, I believe blog is more than that, which I have problem to achieve, but you do great. I said to one of my blog friends that if we want to be entertained by perfect photos we can always go to NG or Flickr.
        The other day, a blog picked a bad image of my all shots and commented that it was a great photo. I told him/her that actually that I knew it was a bad shot, but it told the story 🙂


        • Helen C says:

          Yes, I noticed that some photo, good or bad, was special to us in its own way. The water photo I posted for Finding My Photographic Voice – part 2 is not a great shot, but I am fascinated by how soft water (no shape) could look like hard ice cubes. I can still stare at it for a whole day.
          I like how you always use photos to tell us a story or a fact or history. It is fun reading it while looking at the pictures. Helen


  3. Dalo 2013 says:

    Very nice writing and thoughts of your process, getting involved in the scene/subject is so important and I like how you approached the couple 🙂 The creativity of the last shot is great, it it always the interesting ~ artistic shots that teach about both camera/settings and expression of what you see. Very nice!


    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Dalo. I’ll be honest… I begin to feel like a photographer 😉 I didn’t feel that way before and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be one, but now I am quite certain. Helen


  4. pambrittain says:

    I like the picture of you—you take a good picture. I also like the plant. Actually I like just about all you do.


    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Pam. Say… didn’t you say you would start taking more photos? I will try to write more and you will try to take more photos? 😉 Nice to have a friend like you! Helen


  5. Amy says:

    The second one is very creative and fun, and beautiful, Helen. I like it.


  6. First, let me say you are a beautiful woman. Love your self portrait..
    Second, High Five Helen for breaking down your barriers and really engaging with your subjects.. See, you may have made new friends all from a photo..


    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Lynne. I am very happy. This workshop has changed me (as a photographer). I can’t thank you enough. Haven’t done my assignment for lesson 5 yet. Ha ha. Lots to think about. Helen


  7. Prior... says:

    well I was looking for a different photo of you – because I have a fun idea i am working on (just a post I want to make) and I found this post of yours with your image – I will share more later but wanted to say hello and hope your current trip is going well


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