Rules of Engagement – Art Walkabout in Fort Scott Kansas

“Perfection will paralyze you” Keith Carter

Walkabout sounds Australian. The Native Americans believed that you could find spiritual guidance in the everyday. An art walkabout is a personal spirit quest— a letting go of all expectations. Being present and immersed in the moment. Exploring whatever moves you as you walk. It’s about moving away from a technical approach to image making and shifting towards using your intuition and passion.

Rules are designed to give you repeatable results. Like a recipe. If you follow the rules, you get a desired result. It’s great in the beginning when you are first learning the art of image making. Finding an authentic voice or point of view requires departing from that and trusting your intuition in bending the rules. Finding out where the edges are and stepping outside the boundaries of rules.

My background in commercial advertising photography involved a lot of rules. The quest for perfection in lighting and image clarity and sharpness. My recent acquisition of a Lensbaby Composer has pushed me to break the rules and trust my intuition.

A Lensbaby is a wonderful, funky lens created by Portland native Craig Strong, that is beloved for it’s imperfections. You manually focus the lens with a sweet spot of focus that can be shifted around by literally moving the lens on a ball socket. The edges smear light and focus and create these wonderful shapes and patterns. It breaks all the rules. Think of running with scissors next to a pool during a thunderstorm with a kite in tow. Yeah, that’s a Lensbaby. It’s creative freedom.

Not getting caught up in the pursuit of perfection, but rather a world inside the viewfinder that is more about space relationships, form and light. A still moment that has no distraction, no sound, music or noise. Just you and the moment. The art walkabout is a solitary experience, soulful and present.

Letting go of the outcome, the rules of engagement changed. These are a few favorites from my walkabout in Fort Scott, Kansas. Why Kansas? More on that in a future post. The images are darker than I would normally prefer, but they feel right to me. It’s how it felt to stand there on that winter day in Kansas.

How do these feel to you? What do you like about them? I hope this inspires you to grab your camera and take a walkabout for yourself. Turn your world upside down and backwards. Change the rules of engagement.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Jamie Bosworth

    In your hands I think Lensbaby = Time.
    Love the balances in these… the color, the textures and the stillness.
    Told you that you would like the feel of it. ;0)

  2. Brian Laurent

    Wow, vivid and rich colors, great placement of focus. I’m glad you took it into the realm of art and approach vs. the nerdlinger techie stuff I asked for. The isolation and decay are beautifully haunting. The grain elevator reminds me of a prison guard tower. Thanks Randy.

  3. Gary Canazzi

    Nice to see some of your non-portrait images. Not everyone is gifted to take on different subject matter so successfully as an image maker.

    Really like all these image choices (I know there were more) and of course your insightful writing.

  4. Jennifer

    I like how these images are so dreamlike. So vivid, yet fleeting all at the same time. So in the moment, yet… to be honest with you, I was thinking that this would be a great lens to take portraits of my kindergarten class… so sharp, colorful and focused, but always in motion. Great inages Randy!

  5. Randy

    Thanks for the comments guys! I really appreciate your thoughts on my Lensbaby Art Walkabout in Kansas. This is a great lens for portraits, but it’s very different than what you’re used to. As with anything, the more you practice shooting with it, the more you figure out how to make it work best for your style.

    The lens is totally manual. You focus it manually and the aperture is controlled with magnetic discs that you drop in. There is a set of discs that come with the Lensbaby. Each one has a hole that represents a different f/stop. With no disc, it’s the equivalent to f/2.8, but there are discs that range up to f/22. I think most of these were captured using the f/8 disc.

    There are some wonderful effects with this lens using it wide open, with no disc. The smearing I was talking about is very evident. Personally, I wanted to mimic more of a tilt/shift lens or a vintage 4×5 camera. The unique aspect of this lens is that the field or plane of focus is not flat. It’s kind of a sweet spot bubble type of focus. If they ever develop a flat plane focus model, I’d be the first to buy it!

  6. Randy,

    I’m not a photgrapher, so I can’t respond in the language of photography. But I’ll say this. These are friggin’ gorgeous. I like how the eye is drawn to the one thing that that seems to be the focus and how it become such an intense and beautiful moment to look there (the color, the shape, the light), while everything else that is happening in the lense (the blurring, the other images) inform that one thing/place. Wow. The colors in all of these is quite remarkable, how rust and a broken windwhield are so lovely and, well, broken at the same time. It is about being present.

    I also like what you said about learning the technique and then breaking the rules. As a writer, I’m just learning how to break the rules.


  7. Randy


    Thank you for the wonderful and inspiring comments! It’s always wonderful when non-photographers stop by and take the time to comment. It really makes my day. 🙂

    I feel I have only begun to tap the potential of this wonderful new tool that helps me see in a new way. What a gift, to be able to change your perspective. As in life, it brings a freshness and opportunity to step away from the rut of experience.

    I love following writers. So hard to find someone who takes the time to express a good turn of phrase. I look forward to reading through your blog.

    Thanks again!

  8. Fritz Liedtke

    I love my Lensbaby. And I love Keith Carter. A good mix, actually.

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