“Shoot what excites you” – Jay Maisel

At lunch on Thursday Jay gave us the following suggestion: “Go out for 45 minutes and just shoot what you love. Shoot what excites you”. I got three of my favorite shots of the week from these two short sessions. The learning was seeping in. Was I seeing better? Was I was digging deeper? Was I beginning to discard my preconceptions and shooting (and editing) only that which truly excited me?

On Wednesday, I explicitly remember going through a phase of shooting doors and door knobs in a desperate attempt to clean up my framing. These shots will be hidden away forever, they are studies. I also shot some recipe shots of people playing cards at the park. For these I received the critique, “You don’t look like you are enjoying yourself.” This critique was devastating but psychologically strategic. When I arrived at the workshop I was shooting intuitively. After some instruction, my photography became more inhibited and restrained. This critique (and I understand it is a common zinger), reminded me to maintain a heightened awareness of frame but not to loose the excitement.

Thursday afternoon I was out shooting with two other workshop participants. We had about 20 minutes until we would meet for dinner and were near a local park. We notices some interesting activity of two Greek men playing chess and they agreed to allow us to photograph their game. Amazingly we didn’t seem to bother them in the least.

Most of the time I spent doing portraits of one or the other of the two players. I played with moving around the depth of field on their faces, their hands, and the pieces. Two things, however, were bothering me. There was too much distraction in the background and the timer they were using for the game was really ugly and had writing on the front. Jay would crucify you for including text if it wasn’t part of the story. So I began to look for an angle to minimize the timer, As I moved around to my left I noticed the sun streaming in across the table and through the white captured pieces on the edge of the table. I then honed in on the players actions and saw the repeated action of him hitting the top of the timer to reset the clock. The placement of the white rook and black king was icing on the cake.

This was the last image I showed on Friday’s critique. Silence. Jay looked up, grinned, and said in an undertone, “did you know this was good when you took it?” “Yea”, I replied in the same undertone.

This image is printed as a small 8×10 on my wall in my office with a few others from the week. Everyone who comes into my office comments on my photography and invariable I hear, “I really like that chess one”.

4 thoughts on ““Shoot what excites you” – Jay Maisel

  1. ajaygoel800 June 16, 2012 / 10:50 pm

    Great post Nancy…and this one resonated like a thunder…’When I arrived at the workshop I was shooting intuitively. After some instruction, my photography became more inhibited and restrained. ‘ so true.

  2. Massimo August 12, 2018 / 5:02 am

    Great post, you really give me the feeling of the Jay’s lessons !

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