Finding Inspiration – Six Months of 0630

Monkman_0630_Portsmouth_NH_078

Ascension, South Street Cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

There comes a point in a photographer’s career when he or she understands enough of the technical aspects of the craft, that making pictures changes. It is no longer about understanding the concepts of things like depth of field or exposure, but instead it becomes about finding the inspiration that allows one to make interesting, important, and/or beautiful photos. Sure, there is always a new technique to learn or new gear to master, but those challenges pale in comparison to the challenge of deciding what to photograph and how to make images that look new and fresh.

And old life-saving station at the mouth of the Pisctaqua River as seen from New Castle, New Hampshire.

An old life-saving station at the mouth of the Piscataqua River as seen from New Castle, New Hampshire.

I am always trying to improve my photographic vision and style, and it’s hard. I’ll do exercises like only allowing myself to use one focal length for a day or shooting subject matter I usually ignore, and I try to visit new places to see things in new ways. Those of you who have been following my Tumblr blog or Facebook page know that for the last six months I’ve been working on a personal 365 project called 0630, where I take a picture every morning at 6:30, no matter where I am. Most of the photos have been taken close to home, and one thing it has taught me is that the more I shoot, the more good pictures I take, and the more consistently I see photo ops I like and the more I come up with new ideas I hadn’t really explored before.

Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, in Durham, New Hampshire.

Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, in Durham, New Hampshire.

For me this project has driven home the point that the best way to become a better photographer is to just shoot as much as possible, and then shoot some more. I don’t know if it takes 10,000 hours of shooting to become an expert photographer, but it definitely takes a lot of time of being in the field learning your camera, and then learning how you see. Photographers don’t start out understanding how they see the world through a camera, and I don’t think you can learn that from someone else – it only comes from spending time taking pictures, finding what subject matter, light, and process is your passion, and then just working on that passion all the time.

Winter abstract, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Winter abstract, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

My 0630 project has now lasted 183 days. I’m pretty sure that on at least 100 of those days, I probably would not have gotten out of bed to shoot without the project giving me some motivation. Do I feel like I shot an important photo all of those 183 days? No, but there are probably 50 or 60 I really like, and I know I’ve come up with at least that many new ideas for my photography, which probably has never happened to me in that short of a time frame before.

Chicago, Illinois at dawn, as seen from Oak Brook.

Chicago, Illinois at dawn, as seen from Oak Brook.

I guess my main point with this post is that when you are finding motivation lacking or you are having trouble finding inspiration for your photography, the solution may be as simple as getting out and shooting for a morning, a day, or a week. The world has an unlimited capacity to inspire, but you can’t find that inspiration in front of the TV or your computer (or even in Lightroom!) Go out and look, and you’ll find photos everywhere.

Market Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Market Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

An American flag at the Victory Garden at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

An American flag at the Victory Garden at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

What do you do to break through creative blocks in your photography? Let me know in the comments below.

Cheers!
-Jerry

 

2 Responses to “Finding Inspiration – Six Months of 0630”

  1. Jerry, as hokey as it sounds I put on a John Denver cassette (yes, I still have a cassette player in my SUV!)and drive into the mountains and forests close to Colorado Springs. Trying to capture in pictures what he conveyed in words and song has always been one of my goals – and challenges!

    Jim

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