Zen And The Art Of Being Surprised ~

Expose for the secrets, develop for the surprises.  I've lived by this proposal, and have passed it along as (hopefully) sage advice all my life as a photographer. It's not original with me -- I certainly can lay no claim to that level of wit and wisdom -- as I've heard it variously attributed to Ansel Adams, or to one of his assistants, Ted Orland. And even they may have picked it up in a bar somewhere for all I know.
In Adam's case, it would have been a way to describe how he used his zone-system of calculating exposure to accurately pre-visualize a scene; in a nutshell: expose for the shadow value and process for the highlights. Great advice with Tri-X film. Not so great with a digital sensor.

And yet I think it's the greatest piece of advice to enhance creativity I've ever heard. Learn your camera, understand your processing, figure out technique in such a manner as to completely forget about all that when you're out there chasing the light. If you get hung up on how you're shooting, you'll have a hard time understanding what you're shooting, or even why. Point the camera and let it flow, and then take delight in discovering the impact of those images when you open them up and give them meaning.

The image directly above is the secret I shot a couple weeks back on my walkabout with Bill. Wasn't much to look at, but I could tell there were some wonderful textures and colors hiding in there. What I discovered was the image at the top of this post, and it was pure joy to peel back the layers and reveal the image I felt was there, somewhere.

We're surrounded by secrets, and that's a wonderful thing, because it means we're surrounded by surprises. Deep breaths, clear your mind.

And go find them.