Summer is usually a slow period for me. You might say that I am “creatively inactive.”
I tend to stay close to home in Vermont during the summer. And when I try to shoot here, I generally don’t produce much that I like.
While Vermont is a very scenic state, I am not a landscape photographer. I am a street shooter, and there are very few streets in this small state that attract me.
So instead, summer is my time to think, to reflect, and to invent projects.
Staying in Practice
For instance, I knew that among the thousands of photographs on my hard drive, there were some undiscovered gems to be found. So I recently scoured my files and began salvaging one image per day to post on my blog.
It’s interesting to reflect on photographs that I originally passed over, but that have become more interesting on second inspection — like homemade spaghetti that tastes better the second day.
I don’t abandon my camera entirely during the summer. I stay in practice by shooting simple mini-projects that I know will not produce great pictures, but may instead lead to an “aha” moment.
And I do mean simple. Over the years my subjects for such mini-projects have included:
- objects around the house
- table tops
- building facades
- the ceiling
- my cats
None of these subjects have much creative interest for me, but they often serve to lead me to my next real project. Even in shooting the dullest subjects, I find that every now and then an idea “clicks” — literally.
The Rewards of Discipline
Take building facades, for instance.
I always shoot them straight on, as countless photographers have done before. I do it as a discipline. Through endless repetition, I hope to eventually see the same things in different ways.
I recently spent a few days in Chicago, wandering the streets with my camera. Even though I had left Vermont to visit the big city, I was still feeling totally uninspired.
The light was wrong. My feet hurt. I just wasn’t into it.
So I settled into shooting building facades until my creative juices kicked in.
Finally, I looked at a building across the street from me, and a connection was made. The building was directly in front of the elevated train that goes through the city.
The girders were casting interesting shadows on the building. I looked up and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to look down on this building from the train platform above the street.
I walked up the stairs, paid the fare and for the next few hours I rode the train, getting off and on at various stops — photographing people as they sat in the train, and photographing the streets from the higher elevation of the platform.
I was now onto a new “City” project.
All it took was a summer day, staying busy, and an open mind.