It’s OK to not take a picture

Have you had one of those frustrating mornings when the conditions weren’t what you expected? Maybe it was raining or maybe what you wanted to photograph just wasn’t presenting itself? At the scene you may have tried your best but nothing really came out the way you wanted it to. Or perhaps you came away with an image that eventually came to life with post processing but because of how you felt at the scene, you lack a certain emotional connection with it?

Mount Rundle on a grey morning. Many photographers have liked this image of ours and it was my best performing image in a recent competition. I admit though that my emotional connection with it is almost absent. I took the shots on a cold raining morning having just landed in Banff while the family was sleeping and I was wide awake from jetlag. I may have produced something others like, but for me , my link to an image is one of the main reasons I produce images, not necessarily the result nor the admiration from peers.

Stop! Time out! Seriously , why were you out there taking photos? I’ve definitely had many of those mornings locally but not so much when I’m overseas.  One of the trendy things to talk about these days is how one develops as a photographer. I’m not someone who likes to buck the trend. I’m a white collar professional with an average number of kids living in suburbia who basically lives a life that many would say is part of the gravy train of society. So I’m going to say something ‘untrendy’. Just don’t take a photo. I’m serious. Do something you enjoy and don’t waste the morning feeling angry and frustrated when you’re supposed to be having fun. Let me explain further.

I find I still enjoy taking pictures of jetties and cannot subscribe to the thinking of ‘I don’t do X’ type of landscape. It works for others but I like to keep a completely open mind. This was my first visit to Wool Bay on Yorke Peninsula

I recall a specific morning a couple of years ago when I drove down to Victor Harbor (a local seaside spot one hour’s drive from home). The forecast was for high cloud but when I got there, it was pretty much a grey out with constant rain. I was tired from the work week and I was struggling to keep awake during the drive. I tried to take a couple of shots. I tried long lens photography to focus on details but couldn’t find anything meaningful. I tried long exposures which ended up getting ruined with droplets. I tried intentional camera movement by panning during a long exposure. I even switched lenses and tried to make reference images for Marianne’s art by taking pictures of seagulls in flight but they just weren’t doing the right things ! At the end of the shoot I literally spat the dummy and stormed away , pissed off that MY morning of solitude and relaxation had been WASTED.

This wasn’t the most vibrant or mornings but instead of being disappointed. I thought I’d use a new remote my KK from Christmas had given me . Also thought I’d have some fun trying to climb that rock!

More recently, I’ve kept some spare sneakers and shorts in the back of the car. If things are not looking promising, I’ll go for a jog instead. I know that’s going to do me good and I know I’m going to get the endorphin rush. I even love running in the rain. This back up plan basically means that no matter the conditions, I’ll come away with something from the morning out ; just not necessarily in the form of treasured RAW files to make a masterpiece from. The drive is never wasted.

I’ve learned over the years that my local trips out have really been about destressing from the week of work, especially since I’ve photographed many of the locations locally. And when I’m not visiting a ‘usual’  spot to shoot, then part of the journey becomes one of exploration and images from a new spot are taken really as part of a scouting mission. I feel that perhaps that’s why when I’m overseas, these types of mornings don’t tend to affect me as much. Many of the spots I’m visiting are new, many of them requiring a long hike in the dark to arrive at dawn which in itself is an endorphin rush. Because of my situation in life , photography is a bonus to me, not a necessity. I’m sure many of you who don’t do it for a living are in the same boat.

On this morning, I knew that there was going to be volumes of water flowing at Mannum Falls. My usual spot was a foam bath! So instead of being disappointed, I explored upstream and what do you know, a rainbow put some icing on my exploration cake!

So my final message is this. Explore what it is that drives you leave home at 4am when you could be sleeping in. If there are non photographic elements partially fuelling that seemingly masochistic drive, be prepared to fulfil them if the photographic mission turns out to be a failure. If it is purely photographic, then by all means, try all those things I tried on that grey morning down at Victor Harbor. Find ways to feel you’ve accomplished something and don’t stress about having no golden images from the morning ; that’s only part of the picture.

For this local shoot at Brown Hill, I came prepared to fulfil my secondary agenda : sleep! While a time lapse was shooting, I brought a sleeping mat and snuck in an hour of sleep 😉


Posted on March 2, 2018, in Australia, How we..., Random Musings, South Australia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. louisefairfax

    Another great post Dylan – interesting thoughts, and glorious images, as usual. As a kind of counter thought, I offer a recent morning at Coffs Harbour, when I was dog tired, and really didn’t want to get up before dawn … but I did. As soon as I was out the door, I heard the magpies and other birds singing; I felt the cool breeze touching my skin; I saw the beginnings of light out to sea, and heard and saw the kangaroos who were going to watch the dawn with me on the headland. I’m not sure if I got a good shot that morning, but I certainly enjoyed being part of it, and was glad that some odd inner drive galvanised me into action despite my more immediate reluctance.

    • sounds like a great morning and I’m sure that experience would have been great even without the camera 🙂 The camera takes us places but the place itself offers much without needing to use the camera !

  2. Lesley Blevins

    Excellent advice Dylan..

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