If you’ve been a photographer for long, then you’ve certainly run into this problem. There are those times when you’re out in the field with a photograph in mind — or sometimes you’re just wandering around looking for a photo. Whatever the case may be, nothing is working out. Just one of those days when the creative ideas aren’t flowing or the images aren’t pulling together the way you imagined. Maybe the lighting isn’t quite what you’d hoped for. Sometimes, I have destinations or specific ideas in mind, but when I get there, I just can’t see a photograph that I’d like to take.
It happens to the best of us, these unproductive days. And as long as it doesn’t happen too often, that’s fine. We can’t expect that every expedition will result in something worthy of a gallery’s walls. But still, to my mind, it can be a little bit aggravating, and that’s largely because our time is limited. When we do get a chance to go out on a photographic foray, we want to be able to come home with something that has potential.
So the question becomes, how can we accomplish this on those days when the art just isn’t happening?
Perhaps it all comes down to a matter of perspective. Times like this are the perfect opportunity to drag out something like a macro lens and really dig deep into your surroundings. No matter where you are — in a city, in the countryside, indoors — there is always an entire world of miniscule things waiting to be discovered. Think about textures, or insects, little plants and tiny flowers. Even something simple like the surface of a table can look entirely alien if you magnify far enough. No matter what, there is always something interesting awaiting when you’re working at high magnifications.
And if you can generally find something unusual by zooming in, then is it possible that the reverse is true? What happens if you go with the widest lens in your kit? Maybe during these lulls where we can’t seem to find photographs, the solution isn’t to narrow the scope, but to broaden it. It’s worth a shot to go as wide as you can, wider even than you can see with your own eyes. This new perspective may change something about the relationships between the objects within your frame. Who knows, maybe that new perspective will create a photograph that you just wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
At the end of the day, that’s really what photography is all about. Experimentation. Finding new perspectives, being willing to explore your surroundings in new ways. To always be seeking something new, whether it’s new vistas to photograph from, new techniques to try, or new ways of looking at things. If you can do that, then those times when you come back from the field empty-handed will be incredibly rare!