The mood…

Sometimes I get a brilliant idea, or I get bored and just decide to mess around with my camera to see if I can grab a few decent shots. The funny thing is, when the two collide, I usually end up with shots that I thoroughly enjoying and really learning from. The other day, for example, I was getting a little bored and wondering when I’d get a chance to get out and just photograph something, anything, of any decency. So, I went outside and found some hibiscus flowers to photograph in the evening light; needless to say, it had been raining & the sky was a little too dark, but it worked.

- Raindrops on Hibiscus -
– Raindrops on Hibiscus –

On the above photograph, I ended up tweaking the colour temperature, clarity, saturation, & using the tone curve adjustment apart from adjusting the noise levels. Sure, it’s a darker image & a moodier one than I’m used to, but it is a more emotional image than I’m used to; I could’ve lightened it up, but it works, in terms of feel, just as it is here. I’m never really even close to perfect with this, but I did score this one a slight touch darker than it was in reality and I kept it that way for this version because of the feel of it all…And it isolates the flower & raindrops just right for this specific composition. With other shots, I had them a bit lighter, but this one, at least for me, easily holds its own when put up alongside the others.

Personally, I just wanted to get something right on this shoot, so getting even one close to decent was good enough for me; getting several really good ones was definitely a good thing for me. To a certain extent, it’s like that in life because we need to be willing to go out there when the weather isn’t all that great and we might just be surprised; sure, we all need to take our time, but we need to be able to also reach out for help & inspiration. In a way, we, myself included, always need a little inspiration to get out there go about things with a positive mood, breaking away from defining ourselves by the labels that society puts on us.

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I got nothing…

Isn’t it always a real downer when we’ve got nothing to say, nothing to do? Sure, sometimes not having anything pressing to do can be a good thing, but sometimes it leads our minds to wander and then we get lost in that wandering. Sometimes all it takes is a good book, a good drink (the non-alcoholic kind), or even just a nudge from that still small voice inside, to get back on track & get inspired. Oddly enough, for me, it sometimes is a good song over the radio while I’m driving, or from some other music player; it’s some country song, some gospel song, or, on the rare occasion, a Good Charlotte song (I’m thinking of either The River or We Believe, or even something from their newest work) because my strange mind just works that way. While I’m not exactly onboard with everything about them, the band does inspire me a bit in their music.

- Tree & Flowers -
– Tree & Flowers –

The above photograph was taken a few months ago, but while I was thinking about the new album from Good Charlotte, Youth Authority, I figured that, in a completely unrelated way, I should take a second look at some of my photographs from the gardens where this shot was taken. This shot, and another that was similar, stuck out to me, but this one had a better composition so I decided to bring out what I remember feeling at that time when I took the shot. Did I get it? Maybe. Did it in inspire me to try it again? YES. With all the refinements that I made (vignette, clarity, vibrancy, noise & select color adjustments), I actually succeeded in bringing out my intent for this photograph, something I couldn’t do when I was going over this shot the first time.

Thinking about it, when I got nothing, inspiration can come from the most unlikely of areas, often from something completely unrelated. Inspiration can often show up when we’re not even thinking about what to do and sometimes we just have to ride that wave, or just remember what it was for when we’ve got time to get out and follow through on what inspired us. So, when we got nothing, sometimes I think the best idea is to just go back & learn from past things we’ve done to inspire us.

For lack of ideas…

Now & then it seems like I’ve run out of things that really matter for me in photography, but then something comes along that helps me grow. Whether it be the frigid cold of winter, the downpour when it’s too warm for snow in winter, or just the general lack of ideas when it comes to photography, there’s always a time when I think that it’s all been done before. Originality is something that can be quite hard to come by, but all that’s really needed is the desire & drive to do something different, or at least try it. Tweaking a method can result in a new way of seeing, working, or even editing and that’s what downtime is good for…I guess.

When it comes down to having ideas of what to take photographs of and when to, it’s usually a matter of what effectively speaks to us. And by this I mean what we want to say through the scene in front of us, or even the prospective scene. It’s about what it makes us feel and how it does that; when I’m looking at something, I mostly want it to say something, even if it’s just speaking to how the colors & textures intermingle in the beauty of a natural scene. I look at traditional Asian decoration and I’m astonished by the intricacy of the designs, making me want to convey the flowing lines through the simplicity & beauty of a natural scene in front of me; this usually leads me to floral shots because of the little details in flowers & other plant life around me or in the scene itself. Sometimes, it’s a simple country song that leads me to go for a nature shot and, other times, it’s an alt-rock song that makes me do just that same thing. In the end, it’s what inspires our ideas & how we go about getting past the lack of ideas in going for the photographs in front of us.

Having a lack of ideas can be some of the worst poison for the creative type, not just the photographer, and it’s something that we all suffer from, not just the average person but some of the people who make photography a living. In a way, it’s kind of like having a close friend desert you, just not quite as severe; it’s most likely that way more so for professionals, but that’s just a guess on my part. A lack of ideas should make us want to read up on what else’s out there and then try to do something different, or even seek out new ways of seeing a scene & potential shot(s).

Diversion…

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.

Drawing a map…

While we tend to focus in on a certain path, we can easily get stuck in our ways and when something comes along that questions our methods, it puts a kind of obstacle or wall in front of us. It becomes a bother, to put it mildly, and we get all frustrated and try to find a way to rid ourselves of it instead of working with it. I’ve done it so many times that I’m getting tired of treating obstacles just as obstacles, but, the thing is, how do we get unstuck from our ways and get past those obstacles?

Here are some ideas (some I’ve said before):
-Just get out there and force at least a few shots.
-Just pause & examine a scene closer.
-Just get out the camera and try to capture something, anything, on the camera.
-Just go over old shots and see what could be done differently, then go out & try it.
-Draw out a plan, or map, of what you want to do with your photography, then go for it.
-Get a second opinion of your work (and methods).

These might not always work, especially if stubbornness has any say in it; stubbornness seems to be all too friendly with me sometimes when I get stuck in a rut. Having a kind of introverted personality, I’ve definitely struggled with just wanting to get out and try something, following a plan, even if it’s just for a single shot. I really don’t have much of a planning type of personality, so it’s more like a fight to get organized, but sometimes drawing a map (plan of sorts) can help me overcome my disorganization; being disorganized is something I’ve gotten all too used to, but I’d rather work with this obstacle that just swing the other way just for the sake of doing so.

Sometimes going for a plan can be restrictive, but what I’ve always held to be true is holding that plan loosely (when it comes to photography) can have some really creative & surprising results. Constraints keep our minds from wandering too far, just make sure that the constraints aren’t choking and that they serve a purpose.