Once Upon A Theme

Once Upon A Theme

A Photo Essay

 I often look for ways to produce more successful, higher-quality images. One very effective technique I use is to select a subject or theme on which to concentrate. A themed self-assignment works as well in my backyard as it does while traveling around the globe.

A number of years ago, I started noticing the varied shades of green and other subtle pastel colors in hardwood forests in early spring. I began to realize that flowering plants are not the only interesting color in the springtime. I  focused my efforts. The more I looked, the more I saw. As I began exploring this subject, I started seeking out new, more effective perspectives. I began to develop my technique for vividly capturing the varied shades of green. In short, my concentration on this theme really got my creative juices flowing and motivated me to get out in the field and work hard at producing images of a unique subject that had visually inspired me. The theme became a driving force.

Foothills Parkway, East Tennessee

Concentrating on a subject or theme helps develop your photographic technique. This is a win, win situation. Your skills increase while you enjoy the process. Being productive and creative is much easier if you are inspired. Good subjects for concentration while traveling, or at home, might be; people, seasons, modes of transportation, doors, roads, bridges, buildings, architectural details, flowers, or just about anything your heart leads you to. The list is infinite. If the subject arouses your interest, you will seek out ways to do well with it.


For me, travel itself sometimes awakens my interest in a subject. I might begin focusing on doors because I notice some interesting doors on a trip. I then start developing a good file of distinct and interesting doors, locally. With each trip I will expand my files with images of different, more exotic doors. Travel can both initiate the interest, and then enhance your prospects of developing a diverse, interesting file on your chosen subject.

Spring from Newfound Gap Rd, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN-NC

I think it’s better to develop your technique closer to home you can then be more effective when you travel. Travel is expensive and photographic opportunities are sometimes limited, so you need to be able to quickly and effectively capture the image you desire. Working within the context of a theme helps you become a quick and effective photographer, both at home and on-the-road. This approach also provides you with strong images on an interesting subject, good for developing articles for photographic magazines, prints for a gallery, or sharing with friends.

Spring Foliage, South Carolina Mountains

The more unusual your subject, the more likely you are to find interested galleries, or editors that want to publish your work. They constantly look for “different” subjects that have not been covered recently in their publication. I find that once the process of seeking out a subject or a theme begins, other interesting subjects materialize. I believe the higher level of concentration on one subject just naturally helps me to “see” other interesting subjects and themes. My positive experiences with thematic self-assignments has made me a believer.


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