Overcoming Winter’s Inertia

The sign reads “Eggs from Happy Chickens”. If happy chickens make better eggs won't happy photographers make better pictures? Become a little inspired and find your photo happiness.

I absolutely love to take pictures, any pictures, and I’m not particularly choosey about the subject. I would rather wander around back roads looking for photo opportunities than do just about anything else. I like to shoot slowly and capture the same subject ten different ways. Learning a new technique and working at it until it becomes entirely mine is actually something of a thrill for me.

All of this is true, provided I can first get my butt out of the recliner. By the time winter is over I seem to suffer from terminal inertia. You know about inertia, right? “A body in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to become lazy and shiftless” (At least that’s how my parents always phrased it as they handed me a list of chores to be done). Unfortunately the same rules that apply to motion also apply to creativity.

Now it’s not as though I hibernate from November through March, I really do continue to shoot pictures. It’s just that my scope narrows so much that I seem to be trapped in my own house and yard. Spring is the time to push outward and at the same time gain some photo-momentum.

What works for me may not work for you, we all feel motivated in different ways. But what I have found effective is to physically change my perspective and to add challenge by limiting the equipment that I use. This last Sunday was my own official kick off to warm weather photography.

There is a small town near here that is full of art vendors. Hand crafted goods spill out of the storefronts onto the walkways and curbs and they attract shoppers like bees to clover. It also attracts a whole lot of photographers too. So this town would be my starting point, but to change my perspective I took a completely different route, literally.

In the past I have driven directly from home to this town as straight and quick as the highway could get me there. This time I drove 15 miles out of my way so that I could enter the town from the other side. I’ve often thought that if we approach a location in the same manner we develop a skewed perception of it. We find the parking places we always use, we start shooting pictures of the usual subjects, and we let familiarity replace creativity. If you have a favorite location to shoot I’d strongly suggest that you try this same trick and come at it from another direction.

I created some challenge by limiting the gear I packed in my bag. I packed my Fuji F300EXR compact camera, and for my DSLR I packed the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 and Tamron 18-270 VC lenses. The 28-75 f/2.8 had a Neutral Density 8X filter on it and if I used that lens I had to use the filter. I didn’t physically limit the 18-270 VC lens but challenged myself to take the first picture of the day with it and to shoot in such a way that I could add a strong vignette to the image in post. As for the Fuji compact – It was set for black and white pictures and had to stay there.

My afternoon of creative reload actually paid off. I feel that the biggest impact came from approaching the town from another direction. When you don’t see the familiar waypoints right off the bat you are likely to find all sorts of new subjects and details.

Two of my three equipment challenges worked well. The Tamron 18-270 VC challenge of shooting for a specific post-production look was actually a bit tougher than I thought it would be, but the picture of the sunburst above is the result. Forcing myself to use the 28-75 with an ND8 mounted at all times proved worthwhile since it also meant that I had to use a tripod. Unfortunately the Fuji F300EXR set for black and white challenge didn’t happen; but that’s only because I never took the camera out of the bag.

I know that I need to continue finding new ways to challenge myself; it’s what keeps me motivated. Most photographers need to keep stretching and growing or they lose their creative edge. Some find that entering contests provides motivation; others like to shoot on assignment or for a specific task. No matter the method used the goal is the same, to keep our eyes and our perspective fresh and our photography satisfying.

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