Where creativity grows

Are you a hunter or a farmer?

I needed out of the house this morning…fresh air to clear my head before I started what would be a crazy busy day balancing school work, housework and the start of my insane Christmas baking. I threw on sweats and a jacket and grabbed my camera with my macro lens. For good measure I stuffed my nifty fifty in my pocket and headed out the door. I had no idea what I was looking for. I knew there were the remnants of a variety of pumpkins on our patio and I thought I had seen some berries on the tree outside our living room window. Failing that, I knew that I could walk up to the trail a few blocks away and find something there to submit for my 52Frames challenge. That is when it hit me…I am a discoverer…an explorer. I am as far from being a planner as one can get. I am almost done with my third year participating in the 52Frames project. Every year there are a few themes that require a bit more planning, but most weeks I head out into the world with my camera and look for beauty and joy that is all around us. Click. Submit. Rinse. Repeat.

My impression of the Framers I follow is that the majority are planners and that I am alone on an island of photographic irresponsibility! Was I alone or were there others like me? Thank you Facebook for the opportunity to crowdsource my question on the 52Frames Photographer Facebook group:

Just a curiosity…how many of you approach the weekly themes as a planner and how many of you as a discoverer? With rare exceptions, I head out and discover my shot. Week after week I read about people’s elaborate plans for their shots. I’m just curious if people lean more to one than the other or if it just depends on the theme.

As I set about my day, I watched Framer after Framer respond. With well over 100 comments on the post, I wanted to distill the results down here and share what I learned. 

I was definitely surprised by the results. Of course these results could be skewed because the Framers who are planners were too busy planning and executing their shoots to respond. Regardless, the vast majority of responses were in Camp Hunter/Explorer/Discoverer.  I am NOT alone.

I spent a better part of my day reading through all of the comments. I was overwhelmed by the responses that ranged from simple statements of “discover” or “plan” to lengthy explanations of their proclivities. Here are the notes I made as I read through the comments. 

  • Another way of looking at this question is to consider are you a hunter or a farmer/cultivator. This analogy really resonates with me. I definitely oscillate between hunter and explorer. The hunter is eager to find something and there is a sense of urgency. The explorer is open to learning something new while searching. The discoverer is filled with joy when they uncover something photo worthy. Various framers talked about keeping a journal of ideas, reading the brief (even a week early) and making notes. The process they described was definitely one of cultivation of ideas. 
  • Do you end up in a different place from where you started? Whether you are a planner or an explorer? You are not alone! Over and over again Framers mentioned that more often than not they start out with some sort of idea and before they know it, they are submitting an image that is nothing like what they originally planned. 
  • Are you easily distracted? I know that I am. When we are not in the middle of a pandemic and I have my students in my classroom, I often tell my students that I am the “something shiny” person. It was refreshing to read that I am not alone. I often head out for a “hunt” and while I think I am going in search of one thing, something else catches my eye and before I know it, I am capturing something different from my original intention. 
  • Everyone is naturally drawn to one or the other, but we can all benefit from pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones. This year has been really hard for me as a Framer. Everything about the world has made it difficult to tap into my creativity with my photography. I have fallen back on the idea of shoot, submit, rinse and repeat. I have not had the mental energy to give it much more than that. I have lost sight of the intention of learning and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I am most grateful to the framer who shared this comment! It was the perfect reminder that I want to grow both as a Framer and photographer in general. In order to do this, I must step out of my comfort zone from time to time. 
  • COVID19 has messed up the best laid plans and forced people to change how they approach each week’s challenge. So many people lamented how the pandemic has thrown a kink in their plans. Whether it was getting sick or being quarantined or under Stay-at-Home orders, people around the world have had to reevaluate how they engage with the weekly themes. 
  • If you keep your eyes and heart open, you will be surprised what you might discover. The hunters commented over and over again how often they were surprised and delighted by what they uncovered during their explorations. 
  • The concept of hunting is just as anxiety inducing to some people as the idea of planning is to others. While many people overlapped in their tendencies, a lot of people were definitely in one camp or the other and the idea of being in the other camp was a source of stress. 
  • In reality, most people are a bit of both. At the end of the day, a lot of people dabble in both categories throughout the year. In more cases than not, it is most dependent on the theme. A lot of Framers mentioned that themes like nature definitely lended itself to hunting; whereas the self-portrait required more planning. 

Quite a few Framers expressed that they felt their role as a “hunter” or “farmer” was dependent on what they wanted to get from 52F. When I started as a Framer in week #1 of 2018, I was looking for something to help me rediscover my photography mojo—something I had lost while writing a book. I know that I have lost sight of the learning aspect and many of the comments that stuck out to me focussed on that component. That being said, people engage with 52F for a wide range of reasons. Seeing these different “intentions” helped me to frame my viewing of the album from a place of empathy. Not everyone is coming at the challenges from the same place (myself included).

Here are some of the most mentioned reasons for being part of this group. 

  • Share the beauty in the world with others.
  • Interact with other photographers from around the world.
  • Document what is happening in life.
  • Photographic adventures.
  • A reason to bring a camera everywhere.
  • Learn something new- creatively, technically or post processing.

The conversation was filled with countless tips and tricks on how to approach the themes each week. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Read the tips and tuts each week.
  • Look at the Pinterest board curated by a volunteer each week.
  • Utilize social media to follow other artists (not just photogs).
  • Keep a journal of ideas.
  • Keep a list of techniques you want to try/learn.
  • Take a camera with you everywhere you go.
  • Have a photography bucket list.
  • Create your own Pinterest board of ideas. Check out mine here.
  • Check out this book with items for your photography bucket list.
  • Look at the challenges in advance (they are released four weeks at a time)

A Framer took the time to share this extensive passage from Jay Maisel’s book and it resonated with me so much that I wanted to share it here as well. If you are like me and have no idea who Jay Meisel is then you might be interested in taking a look at his amazing street photography HERE.  Another Framer mentioned this series on Kelby One, but I do believe you need to be a member to view these videos.

  • “Objects are there for you only if you really see them.  If you don’t, they don’t exist.  And a lot of people don’t see things.”
  • “Before you are going to be able to see, you have to look.  And before you look, you have to want to look.” 
  • “If you prepare too well, it is not as interesting, and you get into a kind of a tunnel vision.  You don’t see around you and you don’t go to all the possibilities that may happen.”
  • “Your life will be infinitely richer if you are aware of the things around you, if you are aware of the way the light falls, if you are aware of what happens when a person wearing one color walks in front of a person wearing another.  These things are all superficial, but they’re joyous.”

I am four weeks away from becoming a 3X Warrior. Thank you so much to everyone who engaged in this inspirational conversation. You have helped me to refocus (pun intended). 

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2 Comments

  1. Batya

    Apparently I’m one of the most veteran members of 52frames, and I probably shoot with the least expensive phone camera, a simple Xiaomi. Rarely do I plan. Sometimes in my head, but I don’t make up complicated sets.
    Quite often I’m attracted by some spontaneous “model” of sorts. And then I shoot, and then I may edit or I may not. Sometimes I have a bunch of “possibilities,” so I ask on the small groups I’m in for suggestions.
    Don’t get me totally wrong. The challenges have stretched my photographic skills and knowledge. Being spontaneous is fun and creative .

  2. Jen

    Hi Batya-

    So sorry that I am just seeing your comment. I love that you shoot with a simple mobile phone. That means that you have a true eye for photography. I remember when my dad bought his first ever huge DLSR…he spent a small fortune on it, but he always had everything set on auto. He had what amounted to a super expensive point and shoot camera, but he took beautiful images because he had a real eye. Thanks for popping by The Oodlearium and saying hello!

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