If you’ve been reading my guest blog entries here on 1001 Scribbles over the past couple of years or the offerings on my own blog you know that I specialize in landscape photography. It is, in fact, the only kind of photography I regularly partake in. Every once in awhile, however, I get into a rut. It doesn’t happen very often—partly, I think, because I’m not able to get out with my camera anywhere near as often as I’d like—but every now and then it occurs.
What do I do when this happens? Something different.
Specifically, I change things up. Sometimes that involves going to a new place, or, at the very least, a new area of a broadly familiar place. This past fall, for example, I spent a few hours one afternoon at the Morton Arboretum, a place at which I’ve photographed many, many times over the years. But on this occasion, I went to a part of the arboretum that I’ve never explored during autumn. This forced me to avoid falling into the trap of “same old, same old.” It’s often a subconscious thing, when going to a known location, to focus on known elements. In fact, it usually takes extra effort not to succumb to the familiar, and if you’re in a rut that will prove nearly impossible. Newness forces a reboot, of sorts, and funnels the subconscious in new directions.
If new places push the mind in different directions, new subject matter ups the ante even further. I very, very rarely feel the need to do this, but on occasion I feel compelled to take a completely new look at things by changing genres.
I’m no wildlife photographer—I don’t have the mindset, quite frankly, to engage in this type of photography on a regular basis, and I don’t think I have the skill, either. I definitely don’t own the kind of equipment that wildlife specialists usually rely upon. But every now and then—literally, every few years—I stick my neck out a bit and head off to see if some sort of animal will deign to pose for me, as the deer and heron in the accompanying photos did. For me, photographing wildlife is an opportunity to essentially take a break and mess around. I go into the exercise free of expectations and never come away disappointed, even if I come back with nothing of merit. It’s an opportunity to clear my head while still remaining engaged with the tools of the trade.
Another option is to simply force myself to look at subject matter—even familiar subject matter—differently by, for instance, specifically searching for abstracts. Abstract images exist everywhere, at all times—in water, rocks, tree bark, all sorts of manmade objects; you name it, there are abstracts. Once you get in the abstract groove, you’re transported to an entirely different plane, and that’s when the doldrums have been shaken.
A final approach I use kind of doubles down on the abstract concept by forcing myself to look at things differently—literally—by working exclusively with close-ups. That’s when I pull out my macro lens and take a completely different look at all of the things that make up the world. For me, this serves as the ultimate reset: I’m looking at a common, familiar set of elements, but in a way that makes them functionally unrecognizable. After a session peering through a macro lens and seeing things in a way I never do when looking at the landscape, I always find myself thoroughly visually refreshed.
If you find yourself temporarily stymied or bored with your (ordinarily) preferred subject matter, give one or more of the above techniques a try and see if you don’t find yourself rejuvenated and ready to get back to business.
Thursday Tips is written by Kerry Mark Leibowitz, a guest blogger on 1001 Scribbles, and appears every other Thursday. To read more of his thoughts on photography, please visit his blog: Lightscapes Nature Photography.