5 January 2010

Fear and the New Year

I’ve had quite a long break from photography (compared with many of the people I know and taking into account that it’s somewhat of an obsession of mine) and our plan to go out on New Years day was my way of ‘breaking in’ my new dedication to the cause. However, I must admit to a certain trepidation – a fear if you will. You see it doesn’t take me long to start doubting I can take a good picture. Given a couple of weeks away from photography and I’m uncertain whether the pictures I’ve previously taken were flukes (or were even that good in the first place) and then I look at other people’s work and the prodigious volume of work that my colleagues produce and I get distinctly concerned. I know it’s said that fear is a part of photography but it doesn’t help knowing that.

What I have to remind myself of is that fear is what drives us onward; it’s the fuel for our desire to progress. I also fear whether I’m going to enjoy being out and about, I’m a bit of a hermit at the best of times, working from home doesn’t help, and the motivation to get out and about sometimes evaporates.

It often doesn’t get better when you get to a location, where the light is doing the most amazing things and I’m stuck with a visual case of writers block. Those first moments (hours?) of wandering around almost aimlessly, mumbling under your breath – “No.. no that won’t do .. bugger .. nope .. aha, er, nope.. ” – are strikingly polar. Such amazing things going on around you and you’re wandering around like an intoxicated llama. However! At some point you start to see some shapes; lines forming as you move the camera; curves aligning; shapes meshing. Even if the picture isn’t there, you can feel your brain starting to get a grasp of your surroundings; the tetris puzzle that is nature, in lockstep with your movements. After a few ‘nearly’s you find a picture that you think might just work and it’s time to get down to business.

At this point in time you don’t have chance to worry as it’s mind in overtime – “How do I pull this together in the best possible way? Will the light work to my advantage?” – and once these compositional puzzles come together, the craft of photography takes over and it’s waiting, waiting for the right moment to trip the shutter – one more, just one more – and then we’re all done. And then the worry comes back – “well it wasn’t that great, it will do though” – and as you walk away, you look over your shoulder and see another variation and the light changes again and your conflicted again. But I find some other opportunities, repeat the pattern – occasionally I get a picture where you know it’s going to be good but then I worry so much about whether I’ve done it justice.

And then I’m home and, if you’re using digital as a main camera or a snapshot camera, you can check what you’ve got – and for me it never looks quite as I’d wanted – I might get a couple of pictures that look ok but I typically look at them and I’m a little deflated. The pictures then have to grow on me again. I’ll quickly use lightroom to pull things together a little bit and pick out a few that at least show some of the ideas I’ve had and then I’ll put them away. At some point I’ll dig them out again, a few days later possibly, and it’s only then I start to look at them and go – “You know what, a couple of them are OK! Not great but they show promise..” – and possibly I’ll have a single image where I go – “Wow! I nailed that one!” – not often, but then I do get one it makes everything worthwhile. Those few images (I think I might have for six or seven this year – see here for my top 12 of the year) are the icing on the cake though. The search for those pictures, despite the stress, is the buzz – the excitment, the stress is part of the fun – a challenge to find, to construct, to express ideas, art, beauty, whatever. It’s the pleasure of solving a puzzle, of creating art, of enjoying the landscape. However, once you have those six or seven images, you’ve just set yourself a new standard and the worry has new references.

But for New Year, I got out to take some pictures, and with my wife Charlotte too! Despite having ‘seeing’ problems, I took some pictures and I’m quite happy with a couple. As part of an upcoming project, I’m trying to use the camera to record my ‘potential’ compositions and to get more ‘representative’ photos of the environment. To this extent, I’ve posted my favourite three pictures of the day and also uploaded a small gallery to picasaweb. I got a couple of these as large format pictures, the one posted on the right is one, can you guess which is the other one? Which would you have chosen?

My Brimham Rocks, New Year Photoset

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12 Responses to “Fear and the New Year”

  1. On January 5, 2010 at 11:10 pm