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PUSHING BOUNDARIES Inspiration for Impressionist Photography

And breaking out of creative comfort zones
image of a gannet

Some of the most spectacular photographic opportunitiescan be found in the west coast of Auckland, New Zealand. This region was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions over the past 22 million years. Its turbulent past created a diverse environment of wild spirit, rolling surf, dramatic cliffs, and distinctive black sand beaches. These beaches were made famous by the Academy Award winning movie, "The Piano" (filmed at Karekare Beach), and popular TV series like Xena Warrior Princess and Hercules (both filmed at Bethells Beach).

The west coast is also home to unique wildlife. Otakiamiro Point at Muriwai Beach is the site of one of New Zealand's few mainland gannet breeding colonies.

Locations such as these provide us with excellent photographic opportunities, but they can also present challenges, forcing us to photograph in innovative and new ways.

"Impressionism; it is the birth of Light in painting."-- Robert Delaunay

Every day images are created at exactly the same spots; every day we can see more and more images online, in books and magazines - and it's becoming increasingly more difficult to be original.

So, what can we do to look at the familiar places through fresh eyes? We can start by not photographing the obvious. We can also explore some alternative techniques and hope (or plan) for a pleasant visual surprise waiting for our camera. Or we can simply look at our own work and try to break our photographic routines to challenge ourselves.

We all have our own methods for creating photographs. Perhaps it is the use of a particular lens, or the subject matter, or a specific technique. If you are not sure, just look closely at your images to discover your own visual patterns and preferences.

I believe that all photographers should go through a reappraisal of their work to keep it fresh and exciting. You can easily achieve that through a series of open-minded experiments.

Through experimentation you will develop a skill for looking at subjects in a more imaginative way. You will find that one idea leads to another and that your creative juices then begin to flow. You will also discover that there are no boundaries, only those you impose on yourself; but in order to make your own personal discoveries it is important to spend time playing.

If you don't normally use a tripod, take one with you. It may feel cumbersome at first, but it will make you slow down and compose your images more carefully. If you shoot mainly with a wide-angle lens, leave it at home and take a telephoto lens instead. It will help you to capture landscape more intimately. If you like sharp images, have a photo-shoot exclusively using defocus. It will reveal to you a more abstract look of the familiar site.

When you experiment you are not always in control, but part of the skill is to recognise the happy accidents and use these to your advantage. The challenge of working outside your comfort zone can result in some refreshing new work and, without doubt, it will make you a better photographer.

Key Points to Remember:

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