Tag Archives: creativity

Wax and Wane

Moonrise Under Tangled Branches. Fort Collins, Colorado, 2015.

I haven’t been terribly active with photography over the last few months, but I don’t think I’m too worried about it. I think there’s a natural wax and wane that comes part and parcel with creative endeavors.

I’m comforted in part by my experience as a musician.  I’ve been active in music for a long time, much longer in fact than I’ve been active in photography.  Over the many years that I’ve played music, there have been many stretches lasting months or even years where I was not very active with music at all.  During those times, I never once doubted that playing music remained a strong part of me, and indeed all of those stretches came around full circle back to being active in music, including being so even today.

I’m pretty sure photography is in my bones now.  I don’t think I could not be a photographer even if I wanted to.  The wax and wane just is part of living a creative life.

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Feels Like EDM

On the Low Road to Taos, No. 2 Near Taos, New Mexico, 2016

On the Low Road to Taos, No. 2
Near Taos, New Mexico, 2016

I’ve been listening to a lot of EDM lately (that’s Electronic Dance Music – check out Deadmau5!).  It fascinated me to realize how much that kind of music makes me think of photography.  The way the music works there feels to me like the way light works in photographs.  The steady beats feel like the visual rhythms in the composition of an image, like the earthy, shadowy areas in a landscape.  The rises and falls of the crescendos and drops feel like the way light spills from one corner of the frame to another, like a dramatic backlit sky on a stormy day.  The way the bass kicks after a quiet break feels like the abrupt transition of a dark tree rising above the bright line of a distant horizon.

Maybe it seems like an odd connection to make, but to me it’s perfectly logical.  I think creativity is something that resides within you.  You bring it to bear on all of the things you do in your life.  Creativity doesn’t seep into you from the outside, it’s something from within that colors the way you perceive the world.  It’s an internal logic all of its own, personal to you, that allows you to see connections where others don’t.  That’s one thing about it that makes it so wonderful.

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The Expectations Game

White Tree No. 4 (Know Your Heart)I don’t know about you, but every time I begin to work on a new image – or write a new blog post, or post something on social media, or generally do anything that requires a degree of effort and creativity – I play the expectations game.  The image in this post, “Know Your Heart (White Tree No. 4),” was no exception.  What is the expectations game?  It’s having an expectation for an end result, and being intimidated by that expectation as you begin to work on the task.

The expectations game can take many forms.  Sometimes it’s internal:  my last image was good, will this one be?  The capture was perfect, are my editing skills sufficient to realize that potential?  Sometimes it’s external:  my last image was well received, will this one be?  I usually work in this kind of subject matter, will people abandon me if I try something new?

The intimidation created by the expectations game can be a real problem.  Sometimes it hinders creativity, such as wherein you use the same, safe methods and practices over and over again, because they’ve worked for you in the past.  Other times it closes you off to potential avenues for growth and learning, such as wherein you don’t share your work with other people for fear of rejection.  In its worst form, it can stop you from working at all.

How do you win the expectations game?  Don’t play.

Easier said than done!  In fact, I doubt that I personally ever will be able to eliminate the expectations game entirely.  But, expectations can be managed.  One way I manage expectations is to realize that not every image I make will be the best image I’ve ever made.  Not every new image needs to be better than the previous one.  If you pause to consider for a moment, hopefully you will conclude (as I have) it’s unlikely this could ever be the case for anyone, and it’s unreasonable to expect it to be so.  Instead, if an image I make meets a minimum threshold of quality – a threshold set by me, designed to reflect both my own objective and subjective considerations of what satisfies me – then I consider it a success.  I find this approach has worked well for me, allowing me both to keep my expectations in check for any individual image I’m working on, and to produce a body of work that, if it pleases no one else, at least has pleased me.

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