I remember sitting on the beach chair in Maui last December. I was taking stock, checking in with myself to see if I had the right mindset to photograph. My gear was prepared, I had made sure of that, but where was my vibrational energy? If I enter the water with a fixed mindset or rigid agendas about what I want to capture, it never works. I know this. I need to approach the process with as much openness and joy as possible. It has to feel laissez fair even if I have waited months to capture new work.
It’s a tricky dance. I’ve tried to outsmart it, to pretend I am entering the water with a relaxed mindset even though I am far from it. It doesn’t work. Any attempt to white-knuckle my way through a day of shooting is a waste of time and a waste of space on my SD cards. I capture loads of images I don’t like or need. They weigh me down.
I’m learning though.
On this particular day the clouds looked good, the light on the water was lovely, my favorite lens was attached and ready, but was I ready? Was I meant to photograph on this day, or rest in my chair a bit longer? There are times when I spend two to three days just looking at the water and reading my vibration. It used to feel silly, but I have come to know it as the most important part of my practice.
I shoot so much less than I once did, but when I do shoot I try to do so from a centered place. Fully prepared, but totally at ease. Ready for everything, expecting nothing in particular. I’ve done it long enough that the feeling is familiar, even though I still find the dance steps a little tricky. When I do finally enter the water, when the elements of the sky, the light, the people, my mindset, my gear are all in sync, I often capture things I could never have planned. Things that surprise and delight me and lead me in new directions. It’s like entering a river and being carried.
I still stumble. I rush my process or go through the motions. When this happens, I extend grace to myself. I’m not looking for one more opportunity for self-flagellation, nor am I striving for perfectionism. I am trying to recognize what it feels like when I am shooting from a centered place — let’s call that my “green light” experience — versus when I am forcing the process, trying to please others with my images, generally feeling uptight — let’s call that my “red light” experience. Red Light/Green Light, just like the childhood game. As often as possible shoot from your own personal “green light”, avoid your “red light”, and forgive yourself if it takes time to get this all down or if you occasionally screw up. That’s the algorithm I strive for during my creative process.
I didn’t shoot that particular day in December on the beach in Maui. I lugged my hefty gear to the water’s edge, but I never got in. I can’t articulate why. It just wasn’t meant to be. No green light. But there were other days on that trip when I felt aligned, and I love the direction the work took. There were a few new pictures that made my heart sing, a few that piqued my curiosity, and plenty that will never see the light of day. The ones that do have the potential to go forward, will contain a bit of stardust in the pixels, an anointing if you will, whether the viewer knows it or not.
This is so insightful. I’ve been on a rut lately creatively thinking that the too many “red light” is a sign that I’m not meant to do anything creative at all. Yet I feel a nagging inside me and it always come suddenly that I’m supposed to do something else. I like what you say here of approaching something with a mindset of being centered, prepared to be bewildered and excited.
I’m happy it resonated with you. I feel like there is a whole other post that could address creative ruts. I’ve had so many myself. This post didn’t touch on that, but I hope some of the words helped you anyway.
Sometimes when I am in a rut, I push myself to pick up the camera to see if something sparks my curiosity even just a tiny bit. I consider it a success if I have conquered my resistance, versus creating a masterpiece. I really love what Steven Pressfield’s had to say on the topic during his interview with Oprah. https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/steven-pressfield-unlock-your-creative-genius/id1264843400?i=1000427290930
These photographs are simply incredible, Deb! I really appreciate your thoughts on preparing to shoot. I like the mindset of not forcing anything, or feeling pressure to have to do something. I think this comes with knowing and listening to yourself. What a joy it is when all the elements align, and you’re being carried along as you say. Thanks again!
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