That dreaded day…

Recalling my days as a student, there wasn’t much that was as terrifying as the realization that summer break was going to be over soon and school was starting up. It meant homework, tests, readings, more readings and yet more tests; it wasn’t exactly something that was too eagerly looked forward to. But the back to school sales during my university years were good enough that stuff was cheaper, and less of a worry…It meant cheaper tech and less of a hit on the bank account. Nowadays, that dreaded day can be anything from coming up empty creatively, the day when the workload is way too heavy, or even when you realize that holidays are approaching fast and you’ve got a big list with no real way to satisfy everyone.

Coming up empty, creatively, tends to suck the life out of a person quite easily and has the tendency to make people just want to sink down on the couch. It has a habit of just sneaking up on me like some kind of bad nightmare and making me think my last decent day of doing something worthwhile has passed. It’s then that, while feeling bored, that I get the idea that maybe, just maybe, I should look through my previous photographs and see if I can’t learn something from them, tweak them, or just enjoy them. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make that dreaded day just a little bit better or put a little enjoyment into it; especially when I’m feeling a bit down, looking back at photographs can both make it worse & a little better because it helps me look at these images with fresh eyes.

Looking at things with fresh eyes helps us from making rush decisions, not just in photography, but in life as well, because it gives us some space from the initial shock/reaction and often gives us at least some perspective. It helps dumb down, to a certain extent, that dreaded day into something at least a bit more manageable, but then again, sometimes we don’t grow without a little bit of rain (a.k.a. trouble).


Finding a flow…

Sometimes finding a flow to a place (or shots) can be quite frustrating because we can end up worrying if we’ve fallen into a rut. I usually end up worrying about this quite a bit as a result, mostly because it comes all to naturally for me. Falling into a rut isn’t any fun at all and it makes us, myself especially, more susceptible to the criticisms we face from others and even from ourselves…the ones that say we’ve been faking it all along & we’ll never get a good shot again. I’ve faced those criticisms more times than I can count, most coming from myself after a run of bad shots.

The thing is, and I’m almost 100% sure of this, we’ve come to the point in society & culture that we know how others will react, so we can then learn how to forge a way through to the shots we want without letting the outside world pigeonhole us. We need to find a certain flow to how we work that will still allow good advice from others help us along while getting past what keeps us growing & finding a certain flow. Getting stuck in a rut isn’t fun at all, especially if it just seems like nothing’s going to work at all; finding a way out of it usually takes a single idea or concept and then we have to just run with it, creating a flow around it.

Sometimes, we just have to get out for that flow to come to us because all it takes is one little idea to get the creative juices flowing. We get negative about the state of the world and it easily causes us to forget why we enjoy photography, putting us in a kind of rut. Being in a flow is more like getting shot after shot that works well and seems to buck the likeliness of a rut where nothing seems to work. At the same time, it should also keep us learning & trying different things with how we present the subject in our photographs.


It gets a bit tricky when we can’t get the shots we thought we could, doesn’t it? It’s like aiming for the bullseye & completely missing the target. It’s in these somewhat frustrating times & situations that we need a diversion to get our creative juices unstuck. Sunset photographs are the same way for me because, for some reason that escapes me, I always end up screwing them up, but not sunrises for some reason; if I focus on a subject within the scene and use the setting sun as a far-off background, I’m fine, but otherwise I’m hopeless. What I usually end up doing, as a result, is looking for a kind of diversion…a scene that will help distract me from my creative rut.

- Rim Light -
– Rim Light –

The scene above was just the one I was looking for; I had decided on looking for scenes with rim lighting and this worked just right, even if it was somewhat of a happy accident. I figured that, when my sunset shots weren’t working for me, I’d try rim lighting, not something I thought could work out given the sunset; to put it simply, I was completely, and utterly, dead wrong. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the light bent around the subject, stalks of dried up flowers, in this case and lit up the two strands of thin spider webbing. Now, don’t get me wrong, but I never pictured that rim lighting could show up this well with anything I could possibly do; I always left this for the masters to do, never really thinking about how I could get it done myself. The color of it all was more of a duotone, one of rich golden hues & strong contrasts, so I guess it worked out alright.

The thing is, with a diversion-type of shot like this, it helped the creative rut all but disappear and provided some good, strong ideas for more shots, even if they didn’t pan out. It doesn’t so much matter that the others didn’t turn out, it matters more that it made me think more about what I was doing and opened me up to new possibilities. Sometimes, we think of these types of shots as only temporary, because they might not lead to any others, but they provide us with learning experience, if we study them further & examine what makes them work.

On creativity & peanut butter…

While the two things don’t necessarily go together, the imagery works, especially because of the sticky nature of peanut butter. Getting stuck in a creative rut can really stink and it’s not particularly sweet at all, like getting peanut butter stuck in your teeth. It stinks because you wonder why you’re not getting the shot and you can’t seem to figure it out; I’ve been there before and it’s not a fun place to be. Sometimes it’s due to laziness, sometimes it’s due to frustration, and other times it’s due to lack of inspiration, but either way, it still stinks, precisely because it can drag you down.

Creative ruts can sometimes be countered with force; by that I mean forcing, or coercing, it to come out by just taking random shots. While it’s something I’ve definitely done before, creativity doesn’t always come out as a result, but it’s always worth a try, especially in a rut. On the flipside, forcing creativity can make us wonder at what we’re doing wrong and help us figure out if we’re going in the wrong direction. How do we know? The simple answer is that we don’t, but the struggle can sometimes reveal problems & sticking points in how we go about getting the shots we try to get. Example: for the longest time, I used to ignore the light meter completely while always going for something underexposed and, after trying to go the opposite way repeatedly, working with the light meter, I was able to be more creative and get closer to the shots that I was looking for in camera. Mind you, it was completely the opposite way because I still use the lessons I’ve learnt from underexposing while working with the light meter; I’ve become better at getting snow at the right exposure (+1 to +2 stops) while learning what I can from underexposing for some scenes.

Creativity is also like peanut butter in the sense that once you get to that point, it can stick like peanut butter, not always permanently, but feeling like it just might, and we forget that being creative, in photography is growing. The problem is that we tend to not like being in one place for too long, or we just get lazy; trying to learn & move on instead of just moving on is usually better. Working at it, trying different things creatively, is just as good as peanut butter & chocolate (I guess I’m craving certain chocolate right now), because they keep one foot in the past (by learning from the past) while doing things differently (trying other creative ways to get the shot). Example: going vertical instead of horizontal, using a different white balance/angle/aperture/shutter speed, or even changing the way/method we go about our post-processing. Trying something different might just work…Just try it.