Getting Out Of A Creative Rut

I’ve been in a creative rut for longer than I can remember and it’s about time I broke the cycle! Creative ruts are something I think most photographers have experienced at some point in time – maybe even more than once, maybe even on a regular basis!

I hate calling myself a creative, yet when I break things down there’s nothing else I can really call myself. I don’t venture into the landscape to come home with a snap shot.  I’m trying extremely hard to create images that stir an emotion within both myself and others. Something I can print and be proud of! Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. If truth be told, 90% of landscape photography is failure which can be very frustrating.

Full Disclosure

I genuinely thought I was falling out of love with photography. I now realize that there were a number of other things in my life that have had a big impact on my enjoyment of this wonderful hobby. A much bigger impact than I ever imagined they would.

In the last two years, my professional life has gone through huge upheaval. If truth be told, I had been miserable in my previous role for a number of years. There were things starting to negatively impact my mental health in a major way. I hid it well and most people would never have known what was going on internally for me with the exception of my wife. The career change was much tougher than I had ever imagined it would be. This was intensified further due to Covid breaking out shortly after my job move. It has taken several attempts to find a role I am happy in again.  At the same time, a stubborn foot injury left me immobilized and then took over a year to heal. At one point, I could barely walk to the bottom of the garden, never mind walking for miles or standing in the landscape for hours on end. When I tried to push through it, I usually put my recovery back significantly. Unable to exercise, I ate like a pig and piled on more and more weight. I was in a dark place!

Social Media

On the few occasions, I had gotten out with the camera, the images were mediocre at best. I would upload them to social media and get very little interaction. Every time I logged into Facebook or Instagram, I got bombarded full of beautiful images by people who make it all look so easy.

They have gained huge followings & tones of interactions in relatively short periods of time. I know that follower numbers and likes shouldn’t matter, but if we are honest, they do. They are an inner validation that your work is good and that you are on the right path. There is a real feel good factor to it. I also strongly believe that today people view your photography in a more positive light when you have a large following regardless of how good it actually is.    

I’m absolutely terrible on social media. It feels awkward and unnatural. The friendships appear false, transactional and skin deep. It’s probably my own fault as I don’t invest the time in liking, commenting and private messaging. I don’t even fully understand hastags! I’m starting to become a dinosaur. I have tried and pretty much given up trying to build any following on Instagram. I gave up on facebook years ago. Everyone else looks to be having a great time while I’m struggling so hard – it’s not good for the head and certainly deepened the creative rut!

Light at the end of the tunnel

The lack of social media interactions and my inner issues left me feeling like I was losing my touch and that my photography was going backwards. I couldn’t see how I was going to break this creative rut – it was going on too long! As things in my professional life improved and I’ve managed to start exercising again, my outlook has started to improve again. I’m finally in a good place again and ready to break this creative rut!

I’ve had the realization that while social media is always going to be at the forefront of photography for most, it’s not necessarily the right path for me. I’m not trying to build a career from this or even make money. My photography should be for me first. I’ve somehow lost sight if that. I will of course still pop my images up on Instagram now and again but there’s so much more I can positively focus on. Hopefully this will help get me back out and break this creative rut. With focus on the things I enjoy, I might even be able to bring my photography to another level.

My Plan

It’s all about positive energy and action. Summer is always hard due to the early mornings and late evenings. That’s starting to change. Firstly, I’m going to make the time to start getting out regularly again. There are several photography projects I have in mind to keep my focus on. I won’t say much about them for now. It’s too early and I am still not sure how they will develop.

My computer badly needs an overhaul. It’s more of a dinosaur than I am so I plan rebuilding it between now and Christmas which will be a huge learning curve. I’m also going to try and learn some new post processing techniques. Not sure what yet, but there must be tones of things to learn! I’m going to focus on printing more. For me, the final reward is always watching the image print. I’ve never believed enough in my own work to hang one of my own images on the wall. That has to change!  

What about trying something else new? I converted a camera to infrared a few years back and have hardly taken an image with it. It’s time to enjoy exploring this new aspect of photography and see where it takes me. It may be a complete disaster but I’ll never know unless I try.

Camera club season starts back next month. I can’t wait to finally meet up with friends again every Thursday night. I know clubs can get a bad reputation from the egos and politics that sometimes get involved but if you can see past that, they can have a lot to offer.  

I’m going to book some weekends away here in Ireland and further afield to do some photography. I’m hoping some friends will come along!

It’s not very 2021 or even 2010 but I’m going to start blogging more regularly again. Yes I know most people want to consume video content now but I’ve always enjoyed blogging. I’ve just lost my way in recent years. I gave vlogging a go & it’s really not for me.

My Advice

So there it is…. All laid out, bare bones and all for everyone to see – no hiding places left.

I’m sure I’m not alone and that there are many others who have had these feelings resulting in creative ruts. All I can say is accept they will happen from time to time and that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Shoot what makes you happy and not what you think others want to see. If you think there’s something more serious going on then talk to someone – it really does help.

I’m going to sign out with the image below which I think fits in nicely with this blog. It’s a rainbow breaking though some very dark light shot on an infrared camera as a storm finally blew over.  

landscape photography Ireland 

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