When you get the photographer’s blahs, remember the basics to find your inspiration!
After a particularly long driving day and a difficult morning, I found myself turning into Point Lobos State Park on the California coast near Carmel. I needed to pick up my camera and do something creative to get back in tune. I definitely had a bad case of the photographer’s “blahs!”
This part of the California coast is particularly spectacular. In the Point Lobos State Park, there is the small bay where divers go into the water and sea otters are frequently seen. Then there is The Pine standing alone against the sea and the rookeries for gulls and other sea creatures. I knew I was in trouble when I drove by all of these wonderful sights with a shrug of my shoulders and a “so what’s the big deal” attitude. It was well past time for a serious attitude adjustment!
I found a parking spot near Sand Hill Cove and pulled in. Forcing myself to pick up my camera, I began to climb down the rocks to the edge of the cliffs. It was all right, but I just couldn’t get worked up into taking more than a “I was here” photo. This was not good!
Just before I was ready to give up and return to the car, I saw an older gentleman with a tripod and Hasselblad. I wandered over wondering what could be so fascinating. With his back to the sea, he was a study in absolute mental involvement.
Since I am not too proud to admit that I have a problem, I wandered over and said, “What are you seeing? I am having terrible time with creative block and need some inspiration.” He invited me to look through his camera. I did … and didn’t get it. It looked ho-hum to me. So I said, “I don’t see what you are seeing. Help me do that.” He patiently said to me that I needed to look at the simple part of the scene … the line, the shades of color, the shapes. He reminded me that good photography is made by paying attention to the basics and not trying to capture it all in one picture. The whole picture overwhelms us and blinds us in its enormity. By settling down to the little pieces we can work our way back.
So, he left me sitting on the rocks, pondering the edge, the line, and the shape. It took me a while before I was ready to pick up the camera. It seemed like hours before I looked up and noticed that my world had been transformed. I saw the subtleties and the graphics of the scene. I began to shoot and to study and to restore myself.
So, to my friend Mr. Anonymous, a visitor from the East Coast to Point Lobos for the last 10 years, thank you. You took the time to share your vision and your thoughts with a stranger who needed inspiration. It worked and, in just a few words, you reminded me of some lessons I learned long ago … but that needed remembering again. It was really, really appreciated.
Author’s note: This article was written just before the terrible tragedy on September 11, 2001. For many of us, the next months will bring many distractions, great distress and difficulties. From my own personal experience with a tragedy a number of years ago, I found that bringing beauty back into my life in small pieces helped me cope with life’s every day problems.
We are so very fortunate to be photographers and live in the world of visual expression. Do more than look for the beauty in your own world. Plan to share that beauty with others. Visit homes for the elderly or young and take some of your images. Talk with them about a flower or a sunrise and share your images and your thoughts. Let them share theirs with you. It will help them and it will help you.
ext and Photography by Noella Ballenger
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