Saturday, December 19, 2015

Passion Reignited

Clouds reflected in a mirrored building captured on the Highline.
A continuation of my last blog post: Why Bother?

Day 2 of my August New York trip and up onto the Highline. Close to my home base, the Highline is a regularly visited site for me. So up the Highline steps I went and I was instantly "in the zone." The blue sky and fluffy clouds reflected in a nearby building’s mirrored windows was the first scene that greeted me upon my arrival. And not only were the reflections beautiful, but the sun was in the perfect position to add a sunburst to the scene. F22 and magic happens, joy! And from time to time those "Why Bother" thoughts crept into my head during the day. But while taking that first photo, I noticed that nobody else seemed to be interested in that building with the clouds reflected in its windows. Many people had cameras, and some were taking photos, but not of that building. Not to say somebody else at some other time on another day didn’t shoot something similar, but the fact that nobody else seemed to care about it at that busy moment encouraged me to pursue my own vision and got me off with a good start to my photographic day. After months of a ho-hum attitude towards my photography, could this be the spark of passion reignited finally? I thought it could be, and so I was off…

Typically most people that visit New York City are going to be attracted to the "big scene subjects" like skyscrapers and wide angle views of the city streets. But as a former New Yorker, I seek to capture the scenes and subjects that are more meaningful to me. And that means capturing what I call the "smalls" of the city. I love Chelsea and The Village because they are sections of the city that feature smaller buildings, courtyards, an array of flowers, interesting store displays, small parks and gardens, reflections, and many other photogenic subjects that often go unnoticed by most passersby. The smalls of the city are easy to miss while looking for the grander view. But I like to capture these more intimate scenes, most of which mean more to me personally than photos of Times Square.

Shooting in the middle of the day can be a challenge. But when on vacation we can’t always choose to skip taking photographs during the mid day hours when the natural light is typically at its harshest. It may be a challenge, but it’s a doable one. And that’s when my passion for the "smalls" comes into play. Intimate scenes are often more easily photographed during the midday hours than shooting wider angle of views where the harsh contrast in lighting can be distracting. See my old blog post "All Pros Shoot Only During The Magic Hours"
for some of the tips I use to photograph during the midday hours.
Above: A beautiful Mandevilla flower captured at the Chelsea Piers at midday.

An attractive boat and fluffy white clouds captured at the Chelsea Piers.
With that middle of the day harsh light and an optimistic attitude, I went off on my way along the familiar path of The Highline. After a few uninspired shots on the Highline, I decided to get off and head towards the Chelsea piers. I love being by the water while photographing the boats and flowers that I find there. Although this was during peak tourist season, for whatever reason the piers were not crowded and most of the activity was inside the restaurants and sports center. That worked out wonderfully for me as I pursued regaining my passion for photography by doing the best thing to cure photographic burnout: taking photos! After shooting a bunch of images that I liked, I felt inspired and so I continued walking from the piers to The West Village.

Break time!
Once again feeling a bit over-challenged by the harsh lighting conditions and August heat, I decided to take a much needed break. After a having couple of very refreshing Blue Point Blueberry Ales, I felt recharged and motivated once again to photographically explore the city. I headed to the East Village and then decided to venture east towards the river and see what I could find there to photograph. And what I found was the Williamsburg Bridge! I had never photographed Williamsburg Bridge before, and the sky was very dramatic with dark clouds rolling in. Those were the final photos of my trip, and my favorite ones.

Williamsburg Bridge and dramatic clouds..

And while I had originally thought that yes, passion for my art was reignited on that trip – it was only a spark at that point and not back to it’s full raging inferno. It is now December and I have fully regained my passion for my art. I have been experimenting with new techniques as well as continuing on with my usual favorite techniques and building on my favorite photographic themes. I have also regained my sense of optimism, and have started pursing my photo marketing efforts once again. I have also recently reopened my Fine Art America store which I am populating with images, and have several projects planned for 2016 including a book on Digital Flower Photography. And there is just something about an artist with passion for their art that attracts success. While I was down, and feeling passionless – I had no photo sales. Now with my rejuvenated attitude, I just sold something after only 1 week of reopening my online store. Without passion, there is nothing. If you are having a passionless moment for your art – don’t sell your gear just yet! It took me almost a full year to get my passion back, sometimes you just need to ride it out.

I gave a few tips to regain passion in my blog post "Loss Of Passion."

I wrote that while I was still in my passionless "funk" and was still playing around with ways to regain my passion. But now that the passion has been reignited and here are a few more things that helped me get excited about my art once again:

Get Out There And Shoot

Sometimes, you don’t feel like making art. If you are going through one of those phases, the first thing you need to do is simply to just do it! So maybe you’re feeling passionless, and your photos are reflecting that. Just keep trying. At worst, you’ll have wasted some time and shutter rotations. At best, you may find yourself absorbed in your shooting and capturing some pretty cool images. Perhaps they won’t be your best attempts, but at least you’re out there trying.
I did not take a lot of photos this year, but it's less about quantity than quality.

Stylistic Shift

Try shooting in a different style. I have been doing that a lot this year and as a result I have noticed a distinct stylistic shift in my work. I often prefer shallow depth of field and dreamy bokeh for my nature photography. This year I have found myself shooting more deeper focus imagery. As a result, while shooting photos this Autumn I found myself instinctively framing deeper focus images without as much effort on my part to do so. I actually found it difficult to do my soft and dreamy style for this autumn’s captures. Have I permanently shifted my style? No. I most definitely will be building on my collections of soft dreamy nature imagery on a subject to subject basis. But you can expect to see more of those deeper focus images amongst my newer captures.

Stop action moment at Chikara Pro Wrestling's Top Banana season finale, flash free.

New Techniques

A variation of above. Simply trying new techniques can help to spark your interest in photography again. It’s great using the same old techniques that are tried and true, when you do it that way you are sure to capture high quality images. But it can lead to boredom. Sometimes it’s good to break out of your usual safety zone and experiment. For example, I love to use flash for my wrestling photography. Having done it that way for 17 years, I know just exactly how to strike the balance I like between ambient light and flash to capture sharp stop action photographs. But every once in awhile I like to experiment. Sometimes I will use a long shutter speed with flash for creative blur images with some sharpness. And lately, now I have been experimenting with shooting with just ambient light when shooting in a brightly lit venue. I especially enjoyed shooting without the flash at a recent event. It was wonderful to not worry about the TTL exposure messing up or waiting for the flash to recharge. It made shooting the show a little different for me, and it was a lot of fun. And I was 100% happy with the results (as were my subjects.) While I don’t necessarily recommend shooting an important event in a new way, I do recommend trying new techniques when shooting your personal work.
 DamNation Machine concert image processed as an experimental black & white during the RAW editing process.

Spend Some Time Viewing Your Old Images

This is what I have been doing for the past few days. Every year in winter, sometime between December and February, I go through the past year’s work decide what images I am going to add to my web site and market. Last year I skipped my year end review because I was too busy with my weight loss program. So this year I am going through 2 years worth of work. I do most of my critiquing while editing the photos, see my old blog post "Editing As Part Of The Learning Process"
for more on that. But at the year end review stage I make my final picks for what images I am going to promote. I also give myself a year end critique during that period, and I think about what types of images I want to create the following year. This year I’m taking this step a little further by also going through some of my much older works as I try to populate my online store with a most diverse range of images rather than just concentrating on my current work. I have been enjoying the process so much that I have decided to write a blog post about the process and how I do it. It has been a most valuable tool to me and I am sure many other photographers will also benefit from taking the time to review their own work. Doing so has helped to fan the fire of photographic passion which I am happy to say is now burning quite brightly.
A favorite image from Mexico City captured in 2002.

Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you will continue to do so as I have many more interesting posts planned or 2016. Enjoy your photography and Happy Holidays!



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