Let the Bubbles Come to you

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.

A New Venture

After years of using social media sites like FStoppers, Flickr and 500px to share my images, I have finally taken the time (more like becoming patient enough) to implement this website. Whether anyone reads this is beside the point. I get to write whatever i want, whenever I want and as politically incorrect as I want, all under my censorship. The site enables me to showcase my images on my own terms and in my own way. Photography has been an obsession for nearly 40 years. For me, it was always about the print. Digital technology has changed that kind of thinking in the photographic “community” (today, it seems that everything has to have a community). Because of the speed of modern communications, we are able to capture images and, through our mobile phones, transport them to potentially millions of people worldwide. With the advent of social media, we become our own publishing houses where we display our pictures to thousands of people in a blink of an eye. Conversely, very few people make prints anymore. I have mixed emotions about that. On the one hand, this technology enables everyone to be a photographic communicator by taking advantage of the myriad of digital outlets. On the other hand, high quality, serious photography is diluted with thousands of poor images passed off as competent craftsmanship. This is reminiscent of the development of electronic music in the 1970s and 80s which enabled individuals with no inherent musical talent or training to become prolific composers and performers. The work was substandard when compared to the skilled musicians of the past. Before the advent of digital, one had to be serious about photography to enter the field and develop the skills to make good images. Now anyone who has a mobile phone can potentially produce acceptable quality work as a photographer or even as a videographer without a lot of skill. Overall, this is a good thing, but it has reduced the quality of what was formerly professional or advanced amateur work. As an example, I had a colleague from 30, years ago who was an outstanding wedding photographer who was booked most weekends from June through September and charged high prices for his stunning work. He put many hours into making his products the best possible. Now brides get Uncle Joe who has a digital point and shoot camera to perform the service for little or no cost, and the output is “good enough”. And, the results are posted on social media, and few families even care about a wedding album which, in the past, was a treasured piece of family history. What does all of this mean? Right!!!! things change, and I have no right to arrogantly complain about it. Nevertheless, when “want to be photographers” ask me how I am able to make my images so sharp and colorful, their eyes glaze over in boredom when I discuss raw files, post processing and color management…. Go Figure!