There is a time in every photographer’s experience where we run out of ideas or creative concepts. It can be frustrating because, by nature, we want to have a continuous flow of eye-catching images. I have spoken to many artists in different genres and to a person; they speak of these periods of creative vacuums. Writers talk of “writer’s block” and other artists try to avoid clichés or imitating the work of others.
To work through this issue personally, I go back to a childhood experience, “blowing bubbles”. During the summers when I was a kid, we often had those kits consisting of a wand with a rounded portion on the end and a bucket of sudsy water. One kid would dip the wand into the bucket and come up with a large bubble, and blow it through the wand, and it would float through the air. In fact, other kids would often have smaller wands, which would enable the creation of many bubbles simultaneously. Now, the rest of the kids would go chasing the bubbles and try to break them. Breaking the bubbles presented a challenge especially if there was a breeze. In addition, the bubbles would rise out of reach. So, you ended up with a bunch of yelling kids chasing bubbles with most of the bubbles escaping. During one of these games, I noticed that if I waited, I could determine which way the bubbles were moving. Then, I positioned myself in the area where the bubbles went and easily broke a greater share of the bubbles. In other words, I let the bubbles come to me to get an upper hand.
This can apply to artists. When we are seeking ideas, we are figuratively chasing bubbles. During these slack periods, I try to leave the camera at home or at least in the truck. Then I go walking and looking with nothing particularly in mind. This could be days or even weeks. I try to maintain an open mind and let the ideas come in. In photography, lighting is everything. I often go out fishing in the evenings. While doing that, I watch as the lighting changes as the sun falls in the sky. Long shadows, reflections on the water, sunrays and clouds patterns emerge. It is amazing how observing these phenomena with “an open mind’s eye” reveals the building blocks for creative ideas. At those times, the bubbles are coming to me.
Social media sites such as 500px, FStoppers, Flickr, Instagram etc..., provides another means for creative tune-ups. I take at least one day per week and look at the images of other photographers. Most of these sites provide the opportunity to rate and comment on images, which I do. Doing this makes me more attuned to the creativity of other artists. I do not go out and copy the things that I observed and liked. Instead, I try to understand the photographer’s vision and intent in the images that they made. This causes more bubbles to come my way.