There is a belief that creativity and greatness are inherited as if your parents and lineage dictate whether you will be a successful photographer or not. Yes, it is true, there are some folks who pick up a camera and begin snapping very cool images. This, however, was not my experience, and my father and grandfather were both landscape photographers!
So why has it been difficult for me to create interesting images? I believe It all comes down to the amount of time you devote to your interests. For me, time spent clearing my mind became helpful to make way for creativity. This was definitely not inherited and I only realized it in hindsight.
I believe downtime is necessary. Time when there are few distractions, time when your mind can dump the baggage of the day and catch a rhythm of creativity, time when your basic needs become forgotten and you find yourself hopefully at rest. This time is what gives us the ability to refuel, store away what is not important and get to what is.
Making this time can be difficult, though. I certainly don’t find it every day. I have discovered that running, biking, walking, or even driving can become my downtime, at least time to clear the busy thoughts from my mind and let my mind begin to wonder. It is during these times that I can focus on nothing and by doing so allow the creative juice to flow.
Occasionally I’ll even go on an early morning run, not for the exercise, but to reach that state of meditation. If I have the choice between driving or flying, I will drive. Countless hours behind the wheel on the open highway has become one of my treasured pastimes: down time! The smell of diesel, mixed with some sage and the wet pavement becomes the icing on the cake.
Back before autofocus, I set out to photograph skiing. When I added the fact I would try it with a 4×5, everyone said, “Good luck!” Thankfully I had a long drive to Salt Lake City from Santa Barbara and I had a lot of time to ponder exactly what I could concoct during my first attempt. Using a large-format camera is always tricky but in the cold while on skis in the backcountry: that is extra special! I knew I could never expect to stop the action so I wanted an additional element to create some action and excitement.
The peak of a skier’s day can be the drop-in. I figured this would be a great way to create some anticipation, then adding the sun star to become that little extra element adding some action in an otherwise stagnant scene. The image I produced was the only ski image I took with a large format camera, and maybe the first sun star! I look back on this image and have learned in hindsight how valuable the time to contemplate my problem was. In such a busy world don’t forget about good downtime.
Life is so very short. Take pictures of it!