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| p.2 #18 · Getting Unstuck - How do you re-motivate yourself? |
New gear can be a good motivator, and it's worked for me in the past, but I'm at a point now where I know that if I can't get the shot I want with what I've got, the problem is certainly not the gear, so I've found some other ways to kick-start myself. These are probably only realistic ideas if you don't depend on photography for a living.
I will pick a single lens and camera and use nothing else. I tried first to set a time limit on it, but I don't always have a full day or a weekend or a week to devote to photography. So now I stop when I've got five shots that I'd be proud to print. This works especially well when I work with lenses I've pigeon-holed for specific purposes, like my Summicron-R 90 that only gets used for portraits. I also keep a small notebook with me so I can note shots I'd like to come back and try with a different lens. So not only does it make me consider how to best use the lens I have, it forces me to consider all of my gear and gives me something of a plan for future outings.
I find ways to challenge myself with skills I lack. Moving to all manual focus lenses has been a big and persistent challenge for me (and an equal source of frustration, at times), so sometimes that alone has been enough to keep me going. But as I've gotten better, I've wanted to take on more, so I've been exploring different techniques to represent motion in still photography and matching them to different subjects and scenarios. It's not something I devote a lot time to when I'm otherwise productive, but I keep my eye open for opportunities. The next time I'm feeling stuck, I'll turn my full attention to it. Carsten, it seemed like mastering HDR pushed you quite a bit, so that may be all you need. How comfortable are you with strobes? How about macro?
If I'm stuck because I'm feeling like a miserable photographer who isn't worthy of the gear he has, I go to my never-fail spot where I always leave with at least one or two shots I'm proud to claim. My favorite is the zoo, which, yes, is much like shooting fish in a barrel, but that's the point. When you make it easy on yourself to get the shot of a subject you like, you remember why the reward of getting the shot is worth the effort and frustration you're feeling outside of your comfort zone. Then I feel like I've got a renewed purpose.
I find something easily accessible that changes over time, and I work on documenting those changes. I got this idea from a friend who documented the construction of Denver's Platte Valley developments over the past decade plus. It wasn't the only thing he shot, but when he was otherwise in a rut, it was something he could easily fall back on, and he really challenged himself in choosing his locations. I've been working on an open space that's being surrounded by development and, as an off-shoot, a rabbit warren that's being picked clean by predators with increasingly less space in their hunting territory. Every couple of weeks I spend some time checking on the rabbits.
If all else fails, take a break. Sometimes spending time without the camera makes you appreciate having it.