I don’t Suffer from Creative Block. But Practical Block, Yes.

Someone asked me if I suffer from creative block, like writer’s block, and how I overcome it. In photography, that might mean mental fatigue from seeing all these creative pictures from peers and competitors and being drained and feeling hopeless to produce something fresh. It might mean, there is no spark. No composition is singing to be captured during another great adventure. There are many ways to define creative block.

I don’t suffer from creative block. As someone who researches new places, imagines new compositions, always has plans and enjoys starting multiple projects every year, I just don’t lack in creativity and never have a slump by what most may assume to be a creative slump. At least not yet!

No, for me, I suffer from something else. I just call it practical block.

Sometimes, I refer to it as lazy block. I can know exactly where I want to go. The idea, composition and lighting are in mind, but wow, getting out bed is rough and maybe it will be cloudy, so I’ll stay home. For me practical block comes in when I think of the inconveniences of going out and doing photography:

  • My car doesn’t have enough gas to make the trip without stopping.
  • It’s raining, cloudy or too icy slick for my sedan to make it to the park.
  • I really don’t want to get up at 5:00am.
  • I work at 9:30am plus all the above factors so….nah. Let’s sleep more.
  • I forgot to prepare my clothing, camera gear and snacks the night before.
  • I didn’t get the coffee ready for quick start in the morning.
  • My wife doesn’t want me alarm to wake her earlier than she needs.

Does that make sense? So all these little factors come together and dissuade me from heading out. I’ve also noticed that if I prepare haphazardly, my chances for going out in the morning lower significantly and vice versa.

I will share my advice for getting out of creative block, however, as I can see myself being in that state one day and this advice should be remembered by us both, dear fellow creative.

When you feel creative block, the best thing to do is get back out in the field and practice creativity. For me as a photographer, that means getting out into the landscapes feeling the sun on my cheeks, noticing the perfectly shaped dew drops on colorful leaves, listening to the waves crash on the beach in different strengths, and more. The immersion of what once was passionate produces reminders and excitement back into the blood. Plus for me, being alone in nature has always been refreshing. That and the adventures I am on are all ways to get me excited again. Because I think it’s important when in a slump to get past the feelings in the moment and remember the highs of when we’re on location.

At least, that’s my opinion and method for me.

What’s been your experience for creative block and how you deal with it and try to overcome it?

What If?

I was listening to the LensWork Podcast today, one of the channels that spark creative thought and ideas for blog posts, and it sparked me to comment on this “What if?” question.

Brooks Jensen, host of the podcast, was describing a situation if a photographer imagined a time of shooting not traditionally pursued, or using equipment in a different way, or manipulating a light source used in a different way, what would happen? He remarks that often those attempts in themselves would not produce anything magical and come to a dead end.

But his point that really struck me was the subsequent thoughts and questions, leads and ideas that follow the what if question. For they are the ideas and thoughts, that may have never happened if never attempting a new or innovated technique or plan.

Brooks didn’t elaborate further, but I briefly shall.

As someone who describes himself as an innovator, this message appealed to me. Let’s take an example of what if being put into practice by mentioning Minnehaha Falls, a waterfall in Minneapolis. It’s been photographed from every angle in every season and is on every camera and blog it seems. But, what if? What if there is a new composition no one has tried before? What if no one tried photographing the moonlight over it? What about this particular tree framing it?

I appreciate the what if question because it allows for hope and creativity at locations deemed normal and done. This what if question helped me find a new composition at Minnehaha Falls.

 

What if?

Are People More Interested in What’s New, Rather Than What’s Better?

I recently read a business article with the title, Being Different Beats Being Better. It followed up with a quote:

“Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better. Who cares about a marginally better product or service? That’s the problem with most businesses and even people. We compete with each other for the same market.”

In the photography world specifically, is this true? Here are some of my contemplative thoughts that are general. There are exceptions all the time that I realize.

On Social Media, I’d Say Absolutely.

My primary context is Instagram & Facebook. Posts that first captured a blizzard’s wrath, the fall of an iconic rock, the Superbowl in Minnesota, the Minnesota State Fair, the Eclipse, to name a few, have caught fire on social media and traditional media outlets. I would argue that the first picture from events are more popular than the better ones (subjective but go with me here) that follow later. People both want to be on the edge of news as well as see who’s there recording and capturing the news. I’d say people are more excited about the initial shot than follow-ups unless the latter are incredible.

Art Shows

Because I have now have an art season under my belt, with over a dozen shows to my name, I’ve seen lots of the competition. Without dragging my ego or meek sides of me into this discussion, I’ve wondered how the consumer feels about seven to ten photographers with similar images. Do they see with “new glasses” or “good, better, best glasses?” Just between these two aspects, which has a greater impact on them buying:  “Oh, I’ve never seen this (scene, location, angle, view) before” or “Her work is the best out of the lot.”

Booth Shot.jpg

I’m obviously leaving out emotional attachment which is maybe the greatest reason for buying a photograph for a wall. But I think this blog’s title is an important one that shapes marketing, releasing work, and even photographing in the field. Someone’s values may have them release shots as soon as possible because they know the market has an appetite and the shot will be picked up. Someone else may defy this to get a shot they imagine and will spend days or even years getting it right before releasing it. Does either approach bring in more sales than the other? Or drive the market’s acceptance deeper?

I’m still thinking through this for my own application and conclusions. How about you?

What are your reactions to this post’s title and other questions?

Do people care about finding top-notch work more than what’s the freshest thing?

 

 

 

Photography: “The Shot” or the Story

Do a majority of photographers place more value on finding that one shot than focusing a story?

Does “the perfect shot” tell enough of the story?

Is there room for more story telling in photography from photos that aren’t as popular?

One of the podcasts I listen to is LensWork and I find that Brooks Jensen complements a lot of thoughts I have on photography which in turn, creates posts for my blog. This is one such post.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that I post mini-collections of locations that I photograph. I’ll post “non-sexy” photos with “sexy” photos to reveal an immersive experience to my viewers. All the shots are interesting to me so I don’t just post arbitrarily. For me, it’s about exposing beauty both apparent and subtle, loud and silent, detailed and grand. I personally have a greater connection to the environment when I slow down and take it all in. And my observations then are expressed to the public.

Here is a mini-collection of photos from bluff country in southern Minnesota.

Whether you’re a viewer or a photographer, do you tend to be attracted to or focus on finding that sexy or perfect shot? My example today could be the featured image of the silhouetted barn. Or do you take in more? The collection above really shares the beauty of the area in a way one image cannot. This collection isn’t tight enough, or focuses enough on one specific location like Whitewater State Park, to allow me to say, if I remove one photograph, the story would be incomplete. However, this is a future goal in mind when I do “series photography” again. A goal, is to intimately connect four-to-six images in a way where if I removed one, the viewer would miss out on the story.

Think of the most famous or most liked photographer you know or follow. Do you only know their popular images or can you recall any of the other images that may surround the popular images?

I’ve barely scratched the surface with this topic and will likely post again but let me leave with you with a comparison that is in my mind.

If you listened to the linked podcast called The Rest of the Story, you’ll hear Brooks mention that “we live in the age of the orgasm. That we are only interested in the dessert. Only the headline matters but not the rest of the story.”

What if photography can be like listening to a concept album? There will likely be “orgasmic” tracks or your favorite tracks that you repeat over and over. But there are also layers, interludes, outros, soft and heavy tracks, different emotional pieces as the album progresses through the playlist. If listening carefully, we began to see more than a single hit but a piece of an entire performance. What if the same can be true with photography? Yes, the brilliant sunrise may be the most powerful image. But I’d like to think that the other images make that sunrise more powerful and then put together, are greater still.

I’d appreciate your input as I process this idea and think about it more in my work.

The Secret Location(s)

Should I always share photographed locations with others?

I ask myself this question a lot. I think the answer is a ready no to always, though I often consider the reasons why.

Why share?

  1. Give others a chance to also experience beauty.
  2. To reveal excitement of a new location.
  3. Photographers should be expanding creativity, discovering new locations, and improving the art. Could become a niche.
  4. Because it’s a nice thing to do.

Why not share?

  1. More exposure, especially to a secluded spot, may lead to unacceptable disturbance of the land and nature if it grows in popularity.
  2. Simply because having a few secret places is nice to enjoy alone. I think there is a special quality about it, like a treasure I’ve personally uncovered and I don’t want intruded upon.
  3. To avoid competition in sales, fame, and fortune.

When I begin my podcast in 2019, this may be one of the initial topics I explore with fellow photographers in the area and pick their brain on what practices they hold and if they think it’s a good thing or not.

I think there is definitely a sense of pride and protectiveness that comes with secret spots and maybe some selfishness as well. But I can see others overwhelmingly willing to share to others because they want others to enjoy the same beauty they did.

What do you think?