Something that’s always paid off for me is to keep ‘working’ the same area time after time, even when I think there’s nothing new left to photograph. The act of going back and looking, again and again, until I start seeing things I never saw before,has been one of my most rewarding experiences as a photographer.
There’s usually some place nearby that draws me to it. When I lived in Canterbury, it was the cathedral; when I lived on the Wirral, it was the Dee Estuary; here, it’s the cemetery and small lakes that lie behind it. Whatever it is, it has to be close enough to where I live to make constant, even daily, visits easy, and there has to be something about it that makes me happy to go there often.
Many times I don’t even want to take my camera with me – it’s grey, flat light, it’s dull, there can’t be anything worthwhile left that I haven’t already photographed, I say to myself. The trick is to take the camera anyway and not care if I come back with nothing – but I rarely come back with nothing.
The images on this post started with one of those days. I went out for the exercise mostly, took my camera but didn’t think I’d use it. It was a grey day, although quite bright, and there was very little wind. I’m always attracted to water reflections but have done the obvious ones; however, when I looked closely at the patterns made by the interaction between the tree reflections and the ripples created by the many water birds, there were wonderful lines and textures and shapes to be seen and investigated.
I’ve been back several times for more, but these kind of images aren’t that easy to achieve. Too much wind destroys the reflections, too little light makes it impossible for me (with my rather archaic camera) to get a fast enough shutter speed, and too much sun creates too much flare and dazzle. It’s rather hit and miss even in perfect conditions – the lines and ripples move and change constantly, and getting any kind of focus isn’t easy. The autofocus hunts around like crazy, taking ages to lock onto anything and my few attempts at using manual focus were a complete disaster – even with an adjusted dioptre, it became obvious that I can’t see well enough to know if it’s in or out of focus. I’ve deleted many more images than I’ve kept, but every so often one of them pops up as a keeper and keeps me going.
“Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity.” Robert Pirsig
I’ve found this to be very true: nearly all my best – or at least most absorbing – work has arisen out of boredom. Something happens when I feel apathetic about what’s in front of me. If I go with it and don’t fight it, and just accept the apparent dullness, some little thing will eventually catch my eye. I’ll feel a flicker of excitement, of possibility, and then suddenly I’m away. I’ve rarely known it to fail.