Evaluation of my be-still experience

At the end of 2014 I announced my intended participation in Kim Klassen’s year-long course “Be still 52”, a course that was focused on creating still life images. As I told you at that time, after experiencing my 52-week photo project in 2014 I wanted to improve in planning, arranging, working with light, working with the depth of field, working with textures, I wanted to open my imagination more.

Have I met those expectations? Have I improved those skills? Did the course help me to achieve my goals? Here is my evaluation.

still-life

I haven’t fulfilled all of the assignments that we got in the course but for a change, I don’t feel guilty about it. I started the course with determination not to get stressed by any deadline but to go along the path and learn and it worked well. Sometimes I used the time that I had at my disposal to shoot my own ideas instead of dealing with the assignment of that particular week but mostly I was sticking to the still-life genre. To encourage my creativity was definitely one of the aims of participating in the course and I’ve learnt that inspiration sometimes comes unexpected and it’s important to seize the opportunity and do what it asks. I intend to keep the remaining assignments in reserve and hopefully to get back to those that I find interesting later, when I’m in need of inspiration. It wouldn’t hurt to get back to those fulfilled assignments either as there is still so much more to achieve. A different angle, perspective, light, props… Endless possibilities and appealing series.

Based on Kim’s suggestion at the beginning of the course to use a prime 50 mm lens if possible, I decided to buy a new lens, now my dear Canon EF 50mm f/1,4 USM. I had been thinking about buying this lens before though first I wanted to buy its cheaper version. Participation in this course changed my opinion and I went for the more expensive but better one. More expensive but still affordable, that decided. My camera sensor has a crop factor of 1,6 so the actual focal length is 80 mm but that’s quite alright. It’s my first and only prime lens and I’m happy to have it. Using this lens when fulfilling the course’s assignments definitely helped me to work better with the depth of field and to understand it more. I use the lens not just for my still life photography but also in situations when there is less light available and as they say, it’s also great for portraits, so I’d love to try it in that way too.

still-life

Based on Kim’s suggestions (just suggestions, none of these were necessary for participation in the course), I set up several new accounts during the course:

My Flickr account. Course participants who wanted to share their work were encouraged to share their images in a Flickr group created for the sake of the course and I decided to start a Flickr account for that purpose. I used the account especially for sharing some of my still life photos related to the course and for following what other participants came up with. My photos didn’t get much appreciation in the Flickr group, whether they were not interesting enough or just nobody cared, which may be the reason why although Flickr is undoubtedly a well-known and well-functioning web application, it hasn’t grown on me.

My Pinterest account. Course participants were also encouraged to start a Pinterest account to find inspiration on Pinterest, which is a huge database of categorised links. After some hesitation I set up this account as well and created my first boards. Based on my experience I have to say that I like the idea behind Pinterest and can see its potential. But Pinterest itself seems quite overwhelming to me. Many times I saw an interesting “pin” but when I clicked on its link to learn more, the link took me elsewhere than where I expected to go or the site was loaded with advertisements. It was time consuming and sometimes really disappointing. Nevertheless, as I’ve said, I like the idea behind Pinterest and use it here and there, whether to save a reference to images or posts I come across the Internet and like, or to promote my own photos and posts.

My Instagram account. In the course, Kim also provided an Instagram hashtag for possible sharing of photos related to the course and recommended some Instagram projects. She also wrote several posts about Instagram on her blog and even started a course on using Instagram. She kept saying that she found lots of inspiration there and that the Instagram community is very friendly. Being somewhat disappointed by the lack of feedback in the Flickr group, after an awful lot of hesitation I joined the Instagram community. And you know what? I like it. In many ways. If you use it reasonably, you can find loads of inspiration there which can help your creativity. At the time when I joined Instagram, it supported just square format of images but there were ways how to get round that rule and post also images in rectangular format. In September Instagram started to support the rectangular format and more people jumped to sharing their images in that format. In my opinion, the rectangular photos don’t look that good as the square ones when presented in the app and that made me look for the square format in my photos. The format doesn’t suit every photo but when it’s well done, it’s charming and often quite artistic, and I feel enriched by creating this type of images. Also, I’ve found some appreciation on Instagram and I’m always pleased to see that tiny icon at the top of my mobile phone screen saying that somebody liked or commented on some of my photos.

still-life

During the course, Kim shared some of her Lightroom presets and encouraged us to use them, which generally helped me to work with Lightroom presets. When processing my still life photos, I like going through the presets and watching what the photos could look like. Sometimes a preset can be applied with just a slight tweak, sometimes none looks good with the particular photo, but even when none of the presets is applicable, the previews often give me an idea in which direction I should take the processing. It’s quite quick and easy and really helpful.

Participating in the course has helped me further not to be afraid of experimenting and sharing results of that experimenting. It has helped me to feel more confident, to be an author presenting their work without nervous trembling and fear of negative response. What a relief. I’m happy if you like what I created but if not, it’s fine, it’s just me, I find it equally important.

Still life photography has changed my attitude towards some old things. I grew up in quite a poor family and when I got married and started my own household, I loved to have everything new and modern. I still do. But I realized how beautiful and charismatic some of the old things are and feel enriched by that knowledge.

I’m quite sure I’ve improved the planning, arranging, working with light, working with depth of field, working with textures, I’ve opened myself to the imagination more… Nothing is perfect but it’s definitely better than it was a year ago. I’d even say that my (not only) still life photos are better than they were a year ago. Better created, better processed. I like them more.

I’ve noticed an interesting aspect of having participated in the course. I like Kim’s photography and somehow I expected she would teach me in the course how to create the images she does. And though she used her images in the course and described creation of some of them to demonstrate her ideas and processing, the result of my participation in the course is not imitating her style but finding my own ways how to open myself to creativity and listen to that inner voice of mine. Isn’t that awesome?

On the downside of the course, I wish it was much more personal. I wish its participants would have communicated more with one another and also, I wish Kim would have provided some targeted personal feedback. Nevertheless, I’m aware of the fact that this was just too big a group for such a personal aspect and I accept that. Smaller group would be (much) more expensive, and also, everybody had the chance to ask and communicate with Kim via lesson’s comments when necessary.

Another thing that I didn’t find ideal was that the course was not new, it was running its second year, and it seemed to me that new projects somewhat overshadowed this repeated course. It might be just my impression though as I can’t really compare those two years when participating just in this one.

still-life

As you can see, I’ve been inspired by this be-still experience enormously, the course was definitely worth the money and time. It all feels just like starting and I wish to continue shooting this type of photographs. I seem to be able to relate to the style and I’d love to get better. One year was definitely not long enough. I was thinking about repeating the course and filling the gaps but that might not be really motivating and I rejected the idea. I was pleased to get to know that on 20th January Kim starts a new be-still course Be Still | One Year [Wiser] and I enrolled in it right away. The new course is designed in monthly lessons so its pace will be a bit different than the previous weekly rhythm but I believe that the inspiration and motivation will stay the same. As usual, I’m going to share my photos related to the course here on the blog and you are invited to share the journey with me.

Kim shares not only her photography skills and techniques in her courses but also her be-still philosophy so it seems right to conclude this post with thoughts that Kim shared in one of her lessons and that I liked enormously. I even printed them and attached them to my pen holder at work to read them again and again, to remind myself of their wisdom. Take them with you.

“What are you feeding your creative soul?
What are you absorbing?
What you focus upon… you become.
What you focus on… comes to you.
Hold in your mind what you want more of.”
Kim Klassen

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12 Comments

  1. Hi, Petra. It was fun to see all these "Be Still" photos again, but all together in one post this time. You really did create some beautiful and artistic images through this process. I enjoyed your comparison of Flickr, Pinterest, and Instagram. I also enjoyed reading what you've taken away from this course. I'm looking forward to what you will create as you go through the next course. Kim's words are inspirational and motivating, too.

    1. Linda, thank you so much. As you must have noticed, I’ve presented here just some of the photos I took throughout the year and just some of their versions, otherwise the post would be too crowded. I’m really eager to continue shooting still life, it’s not easy but I find it very inspiring. The first lesson of the new course starts just in two days and I’m looking forward to joining it very much. I’m quite curious to see the new format…

  2. Your photos from the class are beautiful and it certainly sounds like you got a lot out of the class. I took it as well and found some much good information and Kim is such a sweet person. I signed up for the new one too and I am looking forward to the new format…..

    1. Nanci, thank you so much. I find Kim’s lessons inspiring and certainly don’t regret setting off for this path. I’ve learned a lot along the way and want to learn more, it would be too soon to change the direction. See you in the class!

  3. Hello Petra, I found your aspirations and what you received from this year of focusing on stills to be very interesting. It is a type of photography that I don't practice often. I'm much more comfortable shooting spontaneous landscapes. However, I admire the care you've taken creating these stills. I'll look you up on Instagram. I'm not an avid participant, but do love looking at others' inspiring photos.

    1. Barb, thank you, I’m pleased you find this interesting. I hadn’t had much experience in shooting still life before and started shooting it more because it meant that I had to think of the contents of an image in a different way. I have to think of finding and arranging the props and of choosing or creating the light, it’s very different from “just” going somewhere and looking for a shot. I post just some of my images on IG, especially the square ones as I’ve mentioned, but it’s inspiring to be part of the IG world.

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