Hello everyone. My name is Marc McCann, and I am a member of NPN and an amateur landscape photographer. I am hoping the NPN community can help me with a rather frustrating and disappointing issue. It seems that after a decade of shooting at local parks in this area, I am losing enthusiasm. Why? Because my great familiarity has led to boredom (familiarity that started as a teenager.) While I undoubtedly still love nature, I find myself taking the same shots over and over. I am no longer strongly motivated, say, to wake up at 2:30 AM to catch a sunrise at a lake 1 1/2 hours away that I’ve been to 20 times before. Compounding this problem is an inability to shoot far from home not from Covid or money, but from the demands of career and family. To be sure I am not the only photographer, amateur or professional, who has experienced this, so any advice is appreciated. Thank you.
I think we all go through this, Marc. In fact, it has happened multiple times to me. My solution is to try a different genre for awhile or a different take on landscape. Look for miniature landscapes, shoot flora or macro subjects. Look for the less obvious beauties in the landscape.
Nothing very profound here, but I hope it helps.
Marc, I think to some degree we all struggle with this issue from time to time. In the real world, not everyone is able to travel to the national parks and other exotic locations for landscape photography. How do we find ways to continue to see familiar places in new and and exciting ways? It is not always easy to do, but at least you recognize the issue, and have determined that you need to find some new creative avenues for your photography.
From your prior posts, I think you live in Pennsylvania. I went to your website and spent some time viewing your portfolio images, and it looks like they are from PA, or other nearby northeast states. I also live in the northeast (Massachusetts), so I know the challenges of shooting in the northeast, relative to say the national parks out west.
I think your portfolio offers some potential ideas of how to address the concern that you asked for advice about. Here are my observations, after reviewing your portfolio.
A very high percentage of your images involve water, streams, lakes, ponds, etc. That is fine, but try more shooting in some different environments, such as forest and meadows. You have some tree pictures, but not many that I would call forest interiors. You must have access to forests in PA.
And while water plays a big role in your portfolio, surprisingly you have no waterfall shots. So think outside the box with environments and subject matter. Then experiment.
I found shooting the same familiar locations in different seasons to be a great way to expand the creative possibilities open to me, and add variety to my portfolio. You have a surprisingly small number of autumn images for someone who lives in the northeast. And you have some winter images in your portfolio, but not many that emphasize snow and ice. Ice abstracts can make for some beautiful images. Your “About” page on your website even says spring and summer are your favorites. Push beyond that to explore those same places in autumn and winter. Some places can look completely different in another season. Winter in particular simplifies the landscape and adds a certain starkness that can create high impact images. If you don’t like the cold, force yourself to give it a try, you’ll likely be glad that you did.
Many of your portfolio images look to be shot with a wide angle lens. Leave the wide angle lens at home and try exclusively using a telephoto lens for a few days where you do nothing but look for subjects that require a longer focal length. This could open your open your eye to new possibilities.
I experienced something similar with Yellowstone (and wrote about it). The main issue for me was that family became more of a priority, coupled with sort of… an ambivalence, I could say. I would never say I got bored, but familiarity with a place and countless experiences led me to feel less urgency when I visited. I no longer stressed about missing great opportunities in what was still limited time in a place I’ve loved for two decades. Many people I know from the area misconstrued the point of the article… they looked at it as a criticism of the place and the constant increase in crowds and tourism. In reality, my own priorities had changed.
Recently, I have found that tackling the park from a new perspective (touched on in my recent Black and White article shared here on NPN) has reinvigorated me a little. There’s a bit more excitement getting out there, and it’s nice to have tangible goals hovering in the background to add extra motivation.
If you are confined to the same areas, then “finding a different take,” as the others have mentioned, may help. Branching out either artistically or technically—I’m not much of a gear head, but I feel like I should work more toward mastering macro, flash, and camera trapping for wildlife—may open up new avenues that could be surprisingly inspirational and intriguing.
And of course, it’s important to make sure this exploration remains personal initially. The important thing right now is finding new areas, subjects and styles that turn you on. You shouldn’t be worried about what a wider audience might think.
I fully understand the challenge of balancing family with shooting. I have cut back on my photography and travel noticeably to make family a priority, and sometimes even have to “force” myself to get out and take a picture (ahemNEOWISE). I sometimes have to convince myself that I must set aside time to get out and shoot, not just for the advancement of my art and business, but also for my own mental health.
It sounds like you’ve been approaching those locations the same way for too long if you’re not motivated to keep going at 2:30 am. Go during mid day, mid-morning or in the evening then. Or try to shoot it a completely different way. William Neill is a great example of someone who shoots relatively few locations in his area for 40+ years but keep re-inventing himself. You should check out his work.
Apparently you’re from southeastern PA. Don’t know if you realize it, but PA has over 3,000,000 aces of state forests, game lands and parks and then there are the NJ Pine Barrens nearby as well, all full of subjects. PA has some spectacular waterfalls, many/most of which are on public lands. As others have said, try forest photos, flowers and other plants (mosses, lichens, etc.) that are seldom photographed. I’m now in the middle of my third on-line photo essay of one nature photograph from each day of the year – https://forestandfield.blogspot.com/2020/07/a-naturalists-year-2nd-quarter.html.
While I have the advantage of living on the side of a hill adjacent to thousands of acres of woodland, it’s something almost anyone can do – there’s a lot of nature in more urban areas too. Try leaving a light on outside at night and catching the moths that visit – there are 1,500 species shown in the field guide I use, many of them spectacularly beautiful and easy to photograph if they’re chilled in the refrigerator for a while. Try photographing one tree every day for a year or various parts of the tree from buds to the insects it plays host to, to the sunset through its branches, to the leaves and their defects (holes, fungi, etc.), to the bark of each species of tree in PA (the Morris Arboretum must be close to you). How about a photo collection of nature in the city (I’m working on that, but you’re welcome to share the idea). There are enough interesting things in the natural world that I could have taken a photo a day my entire life and not have come anywhere near close to exhausting the potential.
A very understandable situation for any photographer to experience. Sometimes. You need to take a break to get out of a rut. One suggestion that I have is to look at things in your area through a magnifying glass. Small or micro landscapes can be just as rewarding as the big vistas. …Jim
I agree. There’s no better way to get turned off from photography than forcing yourself. It will come when it will come.