Look to the Past to find Encouragement for the Future

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From time to time, every photographer experiences a bit of discouragement. Perhaps we’ve had an “off” day in which we just couldn’t capture the shots we wanted. Maybe what we find ourselves having to photograph is a far cry from what we really wish to be photographing. Or it could be that we’ve hit a photographic rut in which everything we see through the viewfinder seems very “been there, done that”.

I’m in something of a rut myself, which I hope to break out of in the near future with some planned travel. In the meantime, I find inspiration where I can get it. One such source was a recent article that I read on a photography-oriented blog. I am unable to put my finger on it right at the moment, so if this sounds familiar to one of you and you think you know where the source is, please let me know. Basically, the writer/photographer was sharing a handful of pictures that they never, ever wanted to forget photographing. To them, the experience of taking the photograph almost outweighed the appearance of the photograph itself. They held in their hands the physical memory of an experience that created profound joy, inspiration, and motivation to continue on in their passion for photography.

With this article in the forefront of my mind, I perused my own photographic archive, searching for those examples that generated within me a profound recollection of the place and the space (physical and headspace) in which the photograph was created. The photographs which accompany this article provided me with the inspiration for writing to you today. You may think, at first, that there is nothing special about these photographs. What is special to me is recalling the feelings I had while I was taking them. Which is sometimes more important, and more profound, than the photograph itself.

Perhaps we can take away a lesson in this. Try shooting for a feeling, rather than for a picture. In doing so we can look back upon our work and not only appreciate our technical skill, but also revel in the remembrance of how the application of that skill made us feel in that moment. Triumphant. Joyous. Confident. Fortunate.

Here are my sources of inspiration:

Buffalo in Grand Teton National Park

“Buffalo in Grand Teton National Park” was taken while my husband and I were on vacation in Wyoming. At one point we were heading back toward our hotel just north of Jackson Hole. All of a sudden, my husband and I spotted a small herd of buffalo grazing peacefully in the late afternoon sunshine. We pulled into the turn-off, and I got my camera and telephoto lens ready. I walked up to the fence and was happily snapping away, when I heard my husband call, “Hey, Tiff! Take a look at this!” I turned and looked where he was pointing, and saw a single lonesome buffalo moo-ing fit to be tied, on the other side of the road. Since we were standing between him and his friends, he would have to cross very close to us indeed to rejoin his herd. He was tentative at first, but then finally started walking towards us. He came so close to us I could see the shine of his eye as he considered us. The muffled clop-clop of his hooves as he crossed the pavement and into the field, combined with the overall silence of the scene, the wind in the tall grass, and the spectacular mountains surrounding us are permanently etched in my memory.

First Friday

“First Friday” was taken in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona. The entire town adopts a festival atmosphere on the first Friday of each month, and during this particular Friday a large crowd gathered to dance to the beat of an all-drum band. We could hear the beat, and the cheering, from blocks away. The sheer energy of the crowd is what drew us along to discover what was going on. The entire square was filled with happy people, dancing to the beat and celebrating nothing in particular. I stood on the steps of a fire escape to get above the crowd, watching the patterns among the people emerge and disburse and re-appear. There was no way I could NOT take photos of this crowd with their infectious joy. Now, each time I look at it, I remember the chill night air, the skill of the drummers, the beat felt in my solar plexus, and I feel happy.

Home Field

“Home Field” is a photograph of where I grew up in rural Maine. This is the view from the window of my childhood bedroom. I used to sit at this window and daydream, watch the snow fall or the stars appear in the night sky, holler down to my friends arriving to pick me up for a teenage adventure… to have a photograph of this exact view is to have a window back into my childhood, and for that, and the feelings it generates within me, I cherish it. I took this shot on warm July morning, the last day of our vacation last summer. The feeling of trying to capture a last moment of pure, unequivocal contentment lingers in my mind.

Where are you finding your inspiration lately? Feel free to share with us in the comment!

Photos (all) copyright Tiffany Joyce.

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  • Scott

    This one, taken in Krakow, Poland in 2009, is one of the ones I always go back to.
    No idea why, it just inspires me.


  • http://www.devitofrench.com Sam

    The title of this post caught my attention. It’s funny isn’t it that a medium that was once so inaccessible yet financially viable as a profession has become so accessible these days and yet so unviable as a profession. I stumbled across this the other day. Potentially a way for some of us hobbying photographers to grab a slice of the financial pie!! http://www.citizenofphotography.com

  • http://www.a1-webmarks.com/bm_info-6743851.html Tallinnan Risteilyt

    You are right.. sometimes it’s just hard to find that inspiration..