Photographer Ed Kashi recently stated: “Photography is like a passport into worlds in which we would otherwise not enter.” I heard Ed, a well known and well traveled photographer, on a podcast (TWIT Photo) recently and have been pondering these words since. They’re true enough for me as photography has either allowed me into worlds in which I would have otherwise not entered (natural disasters, backstage passes) or, at a minimum, prompted visits into such worlds (Antelope Canyon, Yosemite in winter). Photography has been a passport I’ve been eager to wield.
But during those times in between such passport moments, also known as my life, I constantly seek photographic inspiration. Mind you, I don’t live by the bountiful plains, a rocky coast, or any other creativity-inducing scene. And so, I’ve found it a struggle sometimes to catch that spark… to be pushed to new limits as a photographer.
Fortunately, there have been a few approaches that have helped me to find those moments. I’m opening this up to 2 Guys Photo readers to provide comments and to answer the question: How do I find inspiration during everyday life?
How do I find inspiration during everyday life?
Start a one year project: The photos above were shot at a park located a mile from my house. There are stone and compacted dirt paths there that I know all too well as I walk them often. The park is small, quaint and very familiar and I find it to be a real challenge to take photos there that are unique or interesting. As a photographic quest, I set out to capture scenes from the park during the four seasons, prompting the creation of a one year project.
Fill your head and your spare time: I have a long daily commute and used to fill it with music and sports radio. Nothing wrong with that, but I now digest a nearly endless stream of photo-themed podcasts. Many are subtle infomercials for the organizers’ interests and business ventures, but there are a few highly informative and even entertaining podcasts that are worth following. I enjoy TWIP, DPE, Photo Focus and TWIT Photo.
Embrace limitations: Take it from one who knows… the endless stream of product introductions that attempt to convince us that the newest version is necessary in order to reach artistic nirvana… is not helpful. Instead of bemoaning what’s not in our kit, let’s take what we do have and seek to extract greatness from it. As I’ve been walking around with the fixed lens jewel, the Fujifilm X100 (see my earlier posts), I’ve became fond of the certainty in knowing the precise compositional frame I can expect while shooting. At first, it was frustrating. But now, as I’ve become accustomed to the limitation, I prefer walking about with only one focal length. 2 Guys Photo Featured Photographer, Bob Tullis, commented about his move to a smaller sensor micro 4/3 system, saying: “I’ve considered it a personal challenge to create compelling expressions without the refined fidelity the full frame DSLR had provided.” It’s true that micro 4/3 cameras don’t possess quite the dynamic range and fidelity of larger frame cameras, but in looking at Bob’s work, you’ll no doubt see that that has not hindered Bob one bit. He has embraced the limitations of the format.
Go outside of your comfort zone: As a primarily landscape photographer, I’m current receiving a lot of inspiration (and some anxiety, to be honest) in trying to improve my street photography skills. If you follow this blog, you’ve seen my recent attempts. Frankly, I find it highly challenging… but in that challenge has come true inspiration.
Tell a story: Go on a photo walk or give yourself an assignment to try to capture the full feeling and story of a scene or event. For example, for years I’ve been shooting a local road race. During the first few years, I found it a sufficient challenge to obtain tack sharp photos of the runners as they were crossing the finish line. But now, having perfected that, I try to “tell the story” of the race by capturing bystanders and using motion blur to offset the runners from stationary objects. I’ve taken shots of stopwatches dangling from the hands of race officials, discarded orange peels lying below a refreshment table, and a sea of footwear and legs at the starting line melee.
These are a few of the ways I’ve sought photographic inspiration.
How do you find inspiration during everyday life?