Why Not Challenge Yourself?

When we talk to our students and other photographers, we often find that creativity is much harder to learn then technical skills. One of the most frequently asked questions is – How do you learn creativity?

Unfortunately there is no quick and simple cookie cutter approach to learning creativity. Instead we ask students to challenge themselves which then forces them to see creatively. One of the exercises we conduct during our workshop is called compositional challenge. During this exercise students are asked to come up with a stunning image at a location where good composition is difficult. We had the same opportunity to challenge ourselves during our visit to Banff National Park in Canada.

Cascade Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Take a close look at this beautiful image (above) from Cascade Ponds just outside the town of Banff. There is little evidence in this image of the massive damage caused by recent floods. The reality is that the picturesque park at Cascade Ponds was a mud pit and uprooted trees were lying everywhere (as you can see in the image below).

Cascade Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

The park service was busy cleaning up the mess and had managed to get some of the trees out, but the mud and low water levels persisted throughout the park. Our goal was to come up with something worthwhile at a location that was quite difficult to photograph.

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We had to think creatively to get a good photo from a location like this. Here are some of the techniques we used to create good images from Cascade Ponds:

  • I chose a composition that avoided the messy pile-up of trees. If you look closely at the Cascade Peak reflection photo, you may see a few fallen logs on the left side of the image.
  • Using a wide angle lens, I was able to minimize the massive amount of mud deposits and fallen trees on the shore by placing them away from the lens.
  • I used reflections of the clouds and mountain to hide the color of the muddy water and the unattractive floor of Cascade Ponds. Reflection also served as a foreground element for the photo.

Below is another photo taken on the same day, in the same location, using similar techniques.

Cascade Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Sure, we could have selected a location that was not affected by the floods; but where is the challenge in that?

I can start off like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.

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