Viewpoint Motivation, Inspiration, Chasing the Aesthetic, posted 2012-07-30

Gourd – This photo of a gourd has only limited relationship to the title of this post other than it is something I wouldn’t normally shoot.  I found it, and several others on the same vines, interesting because of the double bulb shape.  To me this was unusual because most of the gourds I had seen in the past had were shaped more like a dipper with a long handle and single large bulb.  So I was motivated or perhaps inspired to take this photo not because I was looking for gourds but because of the uniqueness, at least to me.

This summer I have been limited to photography within a short distance of my home because of family health issues.  At first I thought I would have very few photo opportunities and the camera would spend more time in the bag than on the tripod.  What I’ve found instead is that I’ve taken, and kept, more photos this year than any year in the past whether shooting film or digital.  Instead of searching for motivation to take photos, I’ve used my photography as motivation for getting out of the house on weekends (and some evenings).  That’s not to say that I spend every waking hour taking photos, or even every day when I’m not working.  It also doesn’t mean that I’m always motivated to go out.  Even when I go out, most photo excursions are complete in two or three hours at the most leaving the remainder of the day for other pursuits.  Another tool that I have used for self-motivation is committing to posting an image of the day – not necessarily a new photo but a reasonably high quality photo.  I’m up to about 150 days now and need to keep shooting to provide plenty of photos to choose from.

One of the problems I have with limiting myself to short excursions is locating subjects that will maintain a high interest level. What is it that inspires us to take photos?  I watch a web broadcast weekly on Kelby TV (the NAPP Photoshop Guys) called the Grid.  A few weeks ago they were doing photo critiques and one of their comments was that if you wanted “great photos” for your portfolio, you had to be willing to travel – to go to places like Yosemite or the Tetons or northern Arizona – that you weren’t going to find “great photos” in Orlando or St. Louis or other cities away from these well known landscape destinations.  I’m not sure I agree with this idea even though I have some photos I really like from some of these locations.  So my goal is to find inspiration locally and then try to execute photos to the best of my ability.  After all, photography is a way for me to relax.  I have a different full-time job and career.  So where do I look for inspiration.  Because I like to shoot nature and outdoor subjects, I look to local magazines as one source on inspiration – publications from the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Conservation.  I also look at the work of other photographers I respect. And, this year especially, as those who have followed my posts might already know, I have been inspired by a summer-long set of displays at the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Lantern Festival.  While I’m not always successful, I try to show the beauty of the many local subjects in a way that will be appreciated by those who are unable to visit themselves.

So, if I’m motivated and inspired how do I decide what to shoot?  I’ll admit that sometimes I take the easy way out.  We have a local park with free ranging deer, elk, bison, and wild turkeys.  Even shooting from the truck, these are fairly easy subjects although they aren’t always where you can find them. Similarly, the Botanical Garden tends to have beautiful flora throughout the spring and summer.  The Lantern Festival this summer was an added bonus, particularly for daytime photography.  But I’ve noticed a change in my photography as the number of shots has increased and the year has progressed.  Now I tend to look for the more unusual or unique, like this gourd.  I’ve also been trying to concentrate on things that I haven’t photographed in the past like whitetail deer fawns and elk calves still young enough to retain their white spots.  I also got some shots this year of a red fox which I had not seen in the wild before much less photographed.  And I haven’t given up on the flora but have looked for ways to make shots more unique – things like backlighting and concentrating on tiny plants and flowers.   I’ve also found myself looking at the world around me more for photo opportunities – things like old buildings that are being preserved, or not, and unique architectural features;  water droplets on subjects; and even an occasional people shot (as a rule, I don’t do people :-)).

So that sort of summarizes my photography this year – the motivation, the inspiration, and the aesthetic that I chase which is the one thing that is always changing.

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