You are at a crossroads again. Every now and then, you arrive at a point in your photography where you are left uninspired. It’s that moment when you feel like you’re drawing blanks even as the conditions are just right. Stages like these occur every once in a while, no matter your experience in photography. Feeling uninspired can be daunting and seemingly endless. But once you realize that these are the best moments for self-reflection, there’s another opportunity for personal growth. It’s times like these when you ask yourself: “What is your reason for pursuing photography in the first place?”
Reliving the Experience
Photography doesn't always have to be about art. In fact, most people own a camera just to record their lives for later enjoyment. Whether the pictures are then viewed on the back of the camera or printed, it doesn't matter. In some cases, the quality of the image doesn't matter that much either. This is why a good camera in your eyes also doesn't necessarily reflect the needs of somebody else.
This is why I think that, as a professional, recommending a camera to somebody who is just starting out shouldn't be taken lightly. A couple of buttons, settings, or theories about composition too much and the whole allure of photography can go down the drain. I’ve seen this happen on a number of occasions where friends or family would throw their camera on eBay in the first year of this fantastic past time.
The difficulty comes when a budding photographer realizes the amount of effort, experience, and skill that go hand-in-hand with the images they want to shoot. Some will be turned off by this and forget they even have a camera. Others rise to the challenge and seek to become better image makers who need the best tool for the job. A third group are happy with just the click of a button, because it gives them the opportunity to relive a time of their lives indefinitely.
Another reason for many photographers to be in it for the long run, is the enjoyment of being around the subject. This is certainly true for passionate professionals no matter the genre. In landscape photography, that means frequent outings in beautiful scenery. Even if you wouldn't have the time nor patience to wait for the light to be perfect, the scenery is the subject of our fascination.
I can go a step further and add that the weather is a big factor in my enjoyment of photography. Two types of weather can literally keep me up at night. One occurs here in the Netherlands in temperatures around freezing, when the barometer suddenly drops. That often signifies the appearance of large clouds containing hail, which make for epic clouds to so serve as a backdrop for seascapes.
The other is slightly more dangerous but also involves a drop in air pressure. Storm systems that can produce lightning and even more spectacular cloud formations like super cells make up for hours of spare time looking at weather charts. I wouldn't call it storm chasing, as I won’t chase a cloud halfway through the country, but there are similarities. I know it’s quirky, but I am infatuated with severe weather. Not the raging hurricane kind, but the thunderstorm and monstrous cloud kind.
For me, that love for the outdoors, the environment and the ever-changing weather need to be reflected in my image-making to maximize my enjoyment of any photo.
In it for the Likes
Just the other day I spoke with a client about how he noticed that his most colorful images generate the most interest on the web. In his email, he spoke about wanting to learn the skill that prevents us from cranking the saturation slider all the way to the right.
When I was starting out, HDR photography was used to give this surreal, game-like appearance to primarily urban exploration environments. It’s a time when I embraced the drama of an image, without regard for almost anything else. And to some extent, that worked well to generate interest on DeviantArt, where I shared my first images when things got serious for me.
But today, with the pervasive like-button being in the same place where there are pictures, I can imagine that the whole point of photography could be very different for some. We live in a data-driven world, where heart and thumb icons express the appreciation of art, cats, and what we have for dinner.
Indeed, the gamification of photography has seeped deep into our subconscious. A like counter now judges for us whether or not we appreciate the image next to it. Comments have either shrunk to a nihilistic “beautiful,” or even shorter “top,” or don’t exist at all. How can we be better photographers if all there is, is a colorful icon twice the size of your mouse cursor? I think that the challenge of sharing images on the web today isn’t about finding acceptance in thoughtful critiques anymore. Breaking free from the Thumb is the name of the actual game.
Personally, I take great joy in looking at my own simplest and often most bland images today. There’s something timeless about a picture that doesn't scream for attention or appreciation. Photography is like music. The more you listen to it, the more it becomes a part of you. There’s a powerful lesson to be learned from looking at our own work when everyone but you can value it. Do you still get high on your work even when it doesn't generate as much likes as you might have hoped?
The Images Will Come
I’ll be honest. Thomas Heaton’s closing words of his latest video inspired me to think about the reasons for photography. The images will come by itself when you’re passionate about doing what you do. And I agree that enjoying the outdoors is the basis for great landscape photography.
In my next article, I’ll be diving into tips and rules about (wild)camping; one of the key things you can do to be even closer to our subjects when the light is good. Until then, enjoy Heaton’s latest video and enjoy the outdoors; no matter your reason for taking pictures.