Finding creative inspiration during bleak times

Taking pictures, among other creative pursuits, feeds my purpose.  I suspect a lot of people feel the same way. That is why during the doldrums—what I call the days between seasons—it is particularly challenging to find inspiration.

Like a lot of self-taught photographers, my entry into the medium started with my first iPhone.  Once unleashed, every interesting object I came across became a subject for my camera. It became very easy to capture beautiful shots—hundreds of them a day—with little effort. The hardest work was whittling those hundreds of shots down to one or two worth saving.

What I learned right away was that each of the seasons brings new creative inspiration. Stuff popping out of the ground, new buds on trees, rushing water and the greening of the landscape make for great subjects in the Spring. Summer brings bright blue skies, perfect lighting that lasts late into the evening, flowers in full bloom, beach and lake scenes and weekly festivals and activities.

Fall is also full of wonder for photographers.  Changing leaves, vivid colors and scenes with pumpkins and gourds at every turn. And there is no shortage of subject matter in the winter—snow on trees, festive lights, and winter recreation. Of course, each of the seasons are peppered with holidays and special occasions that provide additional material. 

Periodically, I scroll through my photo archives.  As I swipe up, I can literally watch the seasons (and years) pass.  But what I can also tell by scrolling my photos the times when I was desperate for content.  These are the periods between seasons when either the lighting was not great, or the subject matter seemed dull.   This is noticeable in my archive where there are rows of scrabble tiles, chess boards or candid indoor shots. Some are not bad, but these staged shots do not seem as emotive or aesthetic as others.

Then came the pandemic, and the opportunity to spend the better part of four seasons at the place where a lot of my material is born. That is when I noticed a whole new world of possibilities.

Almost immediately, I began to set my eyes on what would have been previously unnoticed.  A rusty bike leaning against a wall.  An old folding chair waiting to provide comfort during the upcoming summer, those weathered fisherman’s gloves hanging behind Carlson’s Fishery, a handful of beach junk and so much more.   None of these required special lighting or staging.  They just were.

Once I opened my eyes to things that were initially less eye catching, I realized that they held subtle notes of interest on their own.  What I had really learned is how important it is to periodically change my perspective, or better yet my paradigm about what composes an emotive and aesthetic shot.

Like a lot of photographers—pro or not—I look to others for ideas and inspiration.  If you have found, or better yet taken, any shots that bring you joy during the gloomy in-between days, share them. We all need ideas and yours could be just what is needed to inspire others.

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