Get Your Creative Mojo Back… It’s In The Cards!
By Christine Pentecost—
I don’t think I have to explain why I’ve had a hard time feeling creative over the past 11 months. As a photographer, I would usually carry the camera with me in my car wherever I went. Once things started closing down and when, one by one, all my art shows got cancelled, my cameras started collecting dust. I lost all inspiration to photograph anything.
With the start of the new year, I knew I needed to get out of my rut. But what should I photograph? One of my favorite subjects is flowers, but it’s January…in Montana, so my options were limited without spending a lot of money at the floral shops.
It was then that I remembered Red River Paper carried “Lightbox Photography Cards”, which claims to be “Inspiration in a Box!” I quickly ordered the card set (the actual cards, also available as a digital set for phone photography as well). For just $9.95, I figured what could I lose?
There are 52 different cards in the box, each with a different subject to photograph. The card briefly discusses why that particular subject makes for a good photo, along with a few tips and a sample photo of the subject with the camera settings that were used. On the right side of the card are orange and gray boxes, with the recommended camera gear. If the box is orange, it’s recommended to use that item in your photography and if it’s gray, the item isn’t needed.
The first box is the card number, and the remaining boxes are tripod, flash, remote release, and filter icons. And, on the front of the cards is are inspirational quotes about photography by well known photographers. The box also contains a white balance and an instructional card explaining the rule of thirds, aperture, and white balance settings for the camera.
The variety of ideas and subjects are quite varied in the card set, from photographing reflections to motion to texture and beyond. Some of the subjects in the card set were things I’d never considered photographing– such as shooting something spooky, or hands at work. The card set is definitely made me “think outside the box” of things I normally photograph. But, being in the midst of a Pandemic, I’ve been quite content staying close to home, which, now also required me to think inside the box. By that, I mean photographing something in my own backyard that I see most every day. I needed to find creativity with what I had available to me, and, as it turns out, it was a lot!
I chose to go through the card set and pull out every card that had a subject I knew I could find on our mountain property. Some of the subjects I chose to photograph were textures, the color red, lines, a fence, and macro. As I was about to head outdoors, a heavy wet snow squall came through, coating everything white. I took my Nikon D850 and Nikon 17-55 lens, and wandered all over our property. I chose not to take the tripod, as walking through a foot of snow carrying a camera was hard enough. I spent about an hour and a half trudging around and taking lots of photos.
Knowing what subjects I wanted to photograph made me look a lot harder at what was in front of me. It also made me look for different perspectives of the same subject, as well as playing around with different camera settings to achieve a different look. I started to stop paying attention to what the correct exposure or histogram was telling me and, instead, paid attention to what my creative eye was telling me. Halfway through my photographic excursion, I was feeling my mood lifted and my creative juices starting to flow again. Despite the cold deep snow, I was really having fun! I ended up taking more photos in an hour and a half than I have in the past six months.
After downloading all the photos and sorting through them, I realized I had captured a lot more than I had set out to do. For example, in photographing the color red, I also captured bokeh, which is another subject matter in the card set.
When photographing lines, I also captured texture. I was also able to capture close ups of texture, the green moss and bark on a tree, and the fresh snow. When photographing snow covered trees, I increased my exposure compensation, which seemed to create more contrast between the trees and the snow. In fact, I was so happy with a photo of snow and moss covered trees, I’ve already printed it t on one of my favorite Red River papers– Ultra Pro Satin.
Getting out of my creative rut took some effort, but the Lightbox Photograph cards from Red River really gave me the boost I needed. I have also been listening to David duChemin’s podcasts at A Beautiful Anarchy (www.abeautifulanarchy.com), on the advice of an artistic friend. Mr. duChemin describes his podcasts as a “heart-felt, kick-in-the-pants for everyday creators,” to help us all become more creative individuals. I highly recommend listening to them.
While every photo I took today isn’t going to hang on my wall or be shown at a (hopefully) 2021 summer art show, it did get me to dust off the camera gear and get back to taking photos. And, to quote Jay Maisel, whose quote is on the back of one of the Lightbox Photography cards, “Bring your camera, cause it’s tough to take a picture without it”.
Go out with your camera, and explore what is around you. Take photos. Take lots of photos. Look for new ideas. The more photos you take, the better you become. The more photos you take, the more you will see creativity in your surroundings. The more photos you take, the more beautiful your images will be. And, when you take a photo that you like, print it, frame it, and hang it on your wall.
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