So you may have noticed (or most likely not) that my corner of the Internet has been a bit quiet lately. As in almost total radio silence. There's a bit of a reason for that, and I'll attempt to explain it in this blog. However, first a bit of house-keeping. In case you don't follow me on social media, my wife and I are expecting a boy in August!
Also, we are expecting his brother to be born at nearly the exact same time. That's right...twins! Nathan and Ethan will hopefully arrive safe and sound sometime around mid-August. We don't know yet if they will be identical or not; we have to wait until they're born to find that out (which I thought was weird in this day and age).
We also just returned from Disney World, the busiest...I mean happiest...place on Earth. We went during spring break and it appears several other people had the same idea. It really was a fun trip though, getting to see Addison react to all of her favorites from the movies. I blocked off a day for photography, attempting to do my best Clyde Butcher impersonation. Instead, I discovered that Orlando is really not like the Everglades. At all. I also found out that Florida likes toll roads. Like, a lot. While driving to a natural preserve, I ran across 4 in a span of 20 miles, eventually running out of change and having to beg for mercy from the toll attendants. (Side note: Why in 2015 are you NOT accepting a card?! Who has cash on hand anymore?!?) I didn't get a shot; Clyde's spot as Florida's preeminent large format photographer will remain intact for a while longer...
In addition to trips and twins, spring is prime climbing season in East Tennessee. Next to photography, trad climbing on southern sandstone is my absolute favorite thing to do. I love every bit of it: being outside, placing gear, getting scared above the gear, the mental conversations that take place...all of it! Unfortunately, I let myself get horribly out of climbing shape so I've had to regain that before feeling safe above gear. I've been hitting my basement climbing room pretty hard in an attempt to regain what being lazy cost me.
So I've been bit busy, and that's at least partly responsible for why I haven't put out any content in the last three weeks. However, there is something a bit more. Tomorrow I'm delivering a 24x30 framed print of "Heaven's View" to be put on 6 month display at Knoxville's McGhee Tyson Airport. It's definitely an honor, only 5 photographs were selected for the mixed media exhibit out of more than 500 entries, and it's a goal I specifically set for myself earlier this year. It's also a big deal to me because I was responsible for every part of the image: capture, developing, and printing (Inkjet, not darkroom. I'm still not a real photographer yet :). At no point was any of the image out of my control. Theoretically I should be over the moon about photography right now.
But I'm not. I'm going to let you in to the circle of trust here, so no judgments...
I'm bummed about photography. Really bummed out about it right now if I'm being honest. This is not your typical creative block that almost every artist goes through at some point. I've had those before; they come and go I think, but right now I've actually got tons of ideas to shoot. Instead, I'm really frustrated about where I am as a photographer. As in literally, WHERE I am. Absolutely everything that I'm inspired to shoot is about 2000 miles west of where I sit typing this blog.
Now I know most people will say I've just got to look harder for things to shoot here. My response would be why should I try to artificially generate interest in something that doesn't inspire me? Not to get too artsy here, but that lack of motivation/inspiration will most DEFINITELY show through in my work.
Take the Smokies for example. It's the closest National Park to me. Many photographers produce stunning work from this place, work that I truly admire. But it does not make me want to go shoot it the way that an image from Zion or Yosemite does. I'm certainly not trying to insult those who find the Smoky Mountains beautiful; they just don't speak to me in that way no matter how hard I try to like them.
It's not even like they are that close either. From my house it takes just under two hours to get there. That's actually quite a long drive if your heart really isn't into it. Furthermore, it's not like I can look out the window, see good light, and be there in a split second to set up a composition (the way Ansel could with Yosemite and the Sierras). Instead, I have to make trips there and work with whatever light I'm dealt in the best way that I can. Tonight was a perfect example. As I was driving home, the sky was spectacular. A storm had just cleared and there was drama to spare in the sky. And I wasn't even remotely close to a compelling composition.
My trip to Zion last year taught me something. Now, this is going to sound arrogant, but stick with me for a bit. My fall trip taught me that I'm a really good photographer. (The Peter Lik book I bought on humility is really paying off I believe...) Not necessarily that the images I produced are good. That of course is up to the individual viewer to decide. What I mean by "good photographer" is that I'm at a point where, if I'm familiar with an area and the light, I can produce compelling images that match my vision. Months before that trip there were several images that I composed mentally, and without exception I was able to create them in camera. I feel that this was a major turning point for me as an artist.
So I've taken all that momentum I had from my big mental breakthrough...and done absolutely nothing since. And it's frustrating me to no end! I love following fellow landscape photographers on social media, but whenever I'm unable to produce any work, I kind of pull back away from all of that stuff. Don't know what that says about me, but it's the truth. (Remember, circle of trust here so no judging!) It's not that I'm envious of their work; I'm envious of the fact that they are out there producing work. I think that's an important distinction to make. I have a real sense that I'm missing out.
So my question is, for those who aren't full time landscape photographers, how do you combat this? In the grand scheme of things, this of course does not matter. Whether or not I get to produce images in the American Southwest might be the most first world problem ever. However, as trivial as it may sound, this is an important part of my life. I've planned my next few trips, and I do get excited thinking about them...but they're awfully far away. I'm currently in serious negotiations with my wife for a SECOND week away per year to shoot, but those talks may have to be tabled for a bit. Something about twins coming soon... :) So what say you Internet; how do I get past this? Leave a comment below and let me know!