Stuck in a Photographic Rut and Losing Momentum

Brian

Top Veteran
Jul 7, 2010
My own personal escape from a "rut"...

I started converting lenses to Leica mount (and others), experiment with optics, and there effects on the image. Combine collecting, amateur repair, and photography. The subject can remain constant, the image comes out differently. In terms of expenditure, it became self-sustaining. Nikki can do her homework, I can convert a lens. Weekend outing, try it out.
 
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Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Andrew,

I have mini-ruts all the time and I just don't worry about them, ride them out, and figure they'll pass. So far, they all have - someday maybe one won't and I'll move on to something else.

But life has different stages and only you can figure out your priorities. I was heavily into photography in my teens and early 20s and also felt like photography taught me to "see" and appreciate a visual life in a way I hadn't previously. But when my career really started up and my wife and I had kids, my priorities changed and my photography morphed from a serious avocation to shooting family snapshots with whatever SMALL camera we had at the time. I sold all of my SLR gear because I never carried it. I never carried any camera most of the time, but my wife often kept a little point and shoot in her purse and I'd use that when the occasion called for it. I basically still took photographs and I don't think I ever really lost my eye for composition - I took some lovely snapshots in those days - but I basically stopped thinking of myself as a photographer and stopped spending any time on anything other than family and vacation shots. If I'd thought about it before it happened, it probably would have bummed me out, but it just happened organically and it never felt like a crisis or a rut as much as a change in priorities. Couldn't really carry an SLR AND a baby and I chose the babies! That's all I did for about 25 years until I decided to get a slightly nicer camera in the Spring of 2010 for a big trip, discovered digital processing, and have been hooked again ever since. In fact, hooked more than ever before because NOW I have the time to dedicate to keeping the flame burning.

Bottom line, if you really want or need to keep shooting, you'll find a way. But if other things in your life take precedence, whether for a month or a year or a decade or maybe forever, its not the worst thing that can happen. I'm not suggesting that's where you are, but you mentioned kids, so I thought it worth relating the story. I gave up a lot of things that had been passions when my career and family were getting going. And I've gone back to some of them and found other new ones since. So, trust your instincts. If you really feel the need and desire to keep it going, you'll find a way and the rut will end. But if you don't, if priorities change, don't be afraid to trust that also. If nothing else, be thankful for the tools we have now that I'd have practically KILLED for at a similar time in my life. If I could have carried the equivalent of an S90 or GRD3 in those days, and had a great video camera included in the same little device, I'd have been ECSTATIC! You can do that! So, enjoy it on whatever level makes sense for you, but sometimes you can't force it.

-Ray
 

Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Nic
I find that if I'm not taking many photos it's because I'm just generally bored and probably not leaving the house much. For me it's usually the symptom of a greater (but reasonably easily solved) problem i.e. get out more.
 
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grebeman

Old Codgers Group
I find that if I'm not taking many photos it's because I'm just generally bored and probably not leaving the house much. For me it's usually the symptom of a greater (but reasonably easily solved) problem i.e. get out more.
That describes my recent lethargy to a tee, hence my getting involved in the SIJ. Probably not a solution for a busy family man, but it's working for me. Although I've no family and took very early early retirement and thus have plenty of time to devote to hobbies, I can still get into a rut, loose interest, have black dog periods and whatever. Some form of motivation becomes the key for me to break out of that situation, be it from within or from some external source, such as the SIJ.

Barrie
 
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sparth

Regular
Oct 28, 2011
seattle WA
being a father of three, (11, 8, and 3 years old), i can definitely understand what you're going through. of course, you don't need kids to understand, as creative slowdowns can happen to anyone. but it's a fact that kids can drain your energy in a way nothing else can. and when you are down and exhausted at the end of the day, it's not always easy to see things through the lens.
despite also having a full time job in concept art, and a crazy schedule, i still managed to finish my second artbook three months ago. what i can see from my own experience here is that when you have a lot of contraints or obligations in your schedule, you tend to also organize things in the best way for your interest. for example i squeeze a lot more things in my time left, compared to friends and fellow artists and photographers who are unable to create the way they want, despite their insane amount of free time as well as younger age. it depends a lot on creative personalities, but if i have an empty schedule, lots of free time, and a bottle of cognac in the living room, i will have not much done. procrastination to the max! i turned 40 a few months back, so i am definitely not able to align 5 hours of work during night time or something, but i am still pushed and inspired to create, as i am always reminding myself the fact we've only got one life. not two. not three, just one. and clock is ticking.
with time, i learned to maximize the single hour i'll sometimes have at the end of the day, between 10:30 and 11:30 for example, or whatever time i have in front of me. and since you only have one, or two hours, you tend to NOT lose time!
another advice i would have is to be strict at when you want to have time off, and clearly inform your wife or family that at a very specific time, you will NOT change diapers, you will NOT do the dishes or whatever. you will have an hour for yourself. and if it's not shooting time, it can be anything else. but it's time to THINK. i think the advantage of this, at least for me, was that i was not only keeping the creative flow going on, but i was also more dedicated to the kids and family when i had just spent time for myself. it's like better dividing tasks. as artists, we all need this.

good luck Andrew,
i'll add more blurb and thoughts in they pop in my brain. :)

nic
 

Andrewteee

All-Pro
Jul 8, 2010
Ray, It could be that photography simply is slipping away and I'm just denying it. I used to be a so called audiophile, and when the kids came along that went away. Now I have a simple system (that sounds good) and I'm just appreciative of the time to listen. I used to be a fanatic about certain aspects of it and now it's just about the music and that's perfectly fine (oh, but those tubes are starting their siren call again...).

I've had a few interesting conversations today about this topic and it's helped me think through it. I also came to realize that as much as I love to take pictures I also love to hike and be outdoors. My favorite subject matter is the forest in a local (large) park. It may be that part of what I miss is the being outdoors part as well. We often do walk or hike as a family and get outdoors, but not often enough. I'd hike everyday if I could. In a similar vein, my favorite photography season is winter. The light, the cold, the rain, the color, the richness of soil and tree and foliage... But we've had the second driest December in recorded history. The Sierras are virtually bone dry too.

A few other points of realization that I'll share if it helps others...
  • Broaden my subject matter (beyond the forests and trees and shrubs)
  • Focus less on subject matter and more on the picture of any (available) subject matter
  • Take more snapshots

On that last point, I don't mean to denigrate snapshots. I love them and some of my most interesting or memorable pictures are snapshots. The lesson here is to be less serious; we've heard of the Lesser Photographer - perhaps there should be a Less Serious Photographer too.
 
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Jul 7, 2010
When you have little time available, but you really want to photograph certain subjects it can give a whole lot of pressure. I used to do landscapes and I tried to do a lot of street photography, but all these subjects already need time to travel to certain places. Now I use my rare time to stroll and photograph what I ever I think is interesting. As a result I really enjoy the creative process of taking photographs instead of trying to get excited about my subjects. Just the thought that I don't necessarily need to be a street or landscape photographer gives me a huge relief. For this process I gave it the name "stroll photography". I often only need 30 minutes at max for my stroll photography.
 
Jul 7, 2010
Ray, It could be that photography simply is slipping away and I'm just denying it. I used to be a so called audiophile, and when the kids came along that went away. Now I have a simple system (that sounds good) and I'm just appreciative of the time to listen. I used to be a fanatic about certain aspects of it and now it's just about the music and that's perfectly fine (oh, but those tubes are starting their siren call again...).

On that last point, I don't mean to denigrate snapshots. I love them and some of my most interesting or memorable pictures are snapshots. The lesson here is to be less serious; we've heard of the Lesser Photographer - perhaps there should be a Less Serious Photographer too.
We are of the same kind Andrew. I used to enjoy listening to music all the time. Now the kids watch Disney XD or Nickelodeon all the time and I am grateful that I can enjoy listening to music on my cell phone.

And a Lesser Photographer doesn't necessarily need to be seen as a Less Serious Photographer. You just simplify the process for yourself to appreciate even the smallest details.
 
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Alf

Top Veteran
Oct 11, 2010
Northeastern Tuscany
There is a lot in this thread, I finally read it all and it's good. This is a residual period for me (work, time, dark, blah blah blah), but I am lucky as I can play with my camera when I'm out the door, and even when the results are not great because if the careless shooting, I still learn some more composition. Last week one of the kids we were visiting (many friends are in their offspring-producing phase) just took my camera and started mocking me. Her resulting pics are, of course, better than mine. Proud parents!
 
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Amin

Hall of Famer
Jul 3, 2010
Just the thought that I don't necessarily need to be a street or landscape photographer gives me a huge relief. For this process I gave it the name "stroll photography". I often only need 30 minutes at max for my stroll photography.
I love the process you describe, and "stroll photography" is a perfect term for it.

When I look back at 2011 photos, I realize it was a weak year for my photography. I tend to think about my personal photography in terms of how much time and energy I can/will devote to it. If I had a lot of time and energy, I would preconceive projects and set out to accomplish them. This would involve planning and travel. At the other far end of the spectrum is taking a small camera along while I'm out with the kids and taking snapshots of the kids. That has pretty much been all that I could do for most of this year as my job became much more demanding.

It seems like "stroll photography" as you described it lies between those extremes. It's thoughtful photography but without the need for going to a destination with a plan. When I can walk alone for 30 minutes, I really treasure that time. Recently those times have become few and far between for me. More often, I'm out with the family and try to take a minute here and there for a "mini stroll", if that makes any sense. In 2011, I hardly did that either. I hope to do more stroll photography in 2012.
 
Jul 7, 2010
Exactly Amin. I started my photo a day project last year to conquer my doldrums and what I learned was to appreciate the process of taking a photograph, seeing a moment, even if the time available is minimal. Still serious and thoughtful, like you say, but unplanned. Just strolling around and enjoying my rare free time.
 

Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Nic
The term "stroll photography" is just about perfect. You shoot whatever catches your eye regardless of what genre each image might fall under. You don't have to be a street photographer, or a landscape photographer, or a nature photographer...you just have to be a photographer.
 
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Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Nic
In the 8 or so years since I started doing photography as a hobby, I can find a couple of periods where I did very little for periods of up to a year.During these times I can only assume that I genuinely lost interest in photography, or rather found other pursuits more interesting for a time. It wasn't that I was stuck at home itching to take a camera outside, it just stopped being a priority. If I'd pushed myself to stick with it, who knows, maybe I might have eventually lost interest completely. Each time I came back to photography it was new and fun again so I don't regret taking these "breaks".

Sometime earlier last year I think I was at a point where I wasn't sure if I was enjoying photography any more, although that time was different because I still wanted to do photography, I'd just become unhappy trying to find a particular style of photography that I liked most. My answer was basically the same as Wouter described; just photograph...whatever! Don't try to be a particular style of photographer, just be your own style of photographer. Be selfish; make sure your images please you before worrying about whether anyone else will like them.
 

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
betwixt and between
BB
That's OK - a stroll can be a few seconds, really. I don't know if Wouter would say that, but I believe our daily lives give us many opportunities, Andrew. The simplest everyday occurrences can be seen differently or in a very personal way that one can translate photographically. I'm sure you know this already. In reading one of your previous posts, I think you may have hit on one of the stumbling blocks..that you're experiencing. The desire to be doing something else, somewhere else can really be frustrating...and more. Since you can't (and I can say the same thing for myself because I'd rather be living in a rural area and am not), it makes you feel confined..or it makes me feel that way. Now that you've recognized this, I bet things will loosen up.

P.S. I don't mean to put "words in your mouth", Andrew. I'm really meaning that from what I've read, I think that even though we're at different times in our lives, that I can relate.
 

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
betwixt and between
BB
I think that your "Not Strictly Dog Walks" is an excellent example.

Even though you're the one who has started this thread, I can tell you that a great many people are probably finding it very helpful
 

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