Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Why can't you buy it? would sell a bomb if someone could bottle it...I mean you can buy all the kit in the world, spend your pocket money on the latest gadgetry or wizard wheeze, but what you really need, isn't available to buy. It's that allusive inspiration. I do so wish they sold jars of it at Sainsbury's so that I could buy a whole load and gorge myself on it regardless of calorie content. It seems to be very difficult to pin down, it escapes unannounced and reappears, when?

I truly love living in the Lake District for all manner of reasons. But to photograph it or 'the landscape' in general, is actually not very inspiring or exciting at all. I know this is a reflection of me rather than what is around me.  My husband kindly offers some sympathetic advice, which I rudely shun with a childish 'tried that, doesn't work' retort. His suggestion actually makes a lot of sense and I have heard it suggested in the past on the OCA and flickr fora. I should take more heed, he suggests I get myself out, camera in hand, enjoy the day, and something along the way will inspire me enough to photograph it...spring is happening all around, go and find it. He continues, 'you can't find inspiration sitting in front of this', pointing at my large, but undeniably attractive, screen. Yep, true.  But my negative mindset affords no window for inspiration.

So to test this well intentioned advice I head out to Cogra Moss taking two cameras and a tripod. The heat and direct sunlight have already made it a write-off in terms of taking any decent photographs.  But anyway I didn't want that to stop me. I get there, sit down and wonder whether the environment can shift my mindset.  The fishermen are knee deep in the water...I can hear the echoes of them singing happily to themselves as the fish jump freely all around them...the birds are sweeping past, tweeting joyously, the reflections in the still water of the vivid greens from the surrounding hills and crowds of midges dancing just there, right in front of my bloody was quite poetic to sit quietly amongst it all...I felt privileged to be there. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it for the ten minutes I allowed myself to do it (not good at sitting still for long). But it wasn't enough to inspire me to find anything I wanted to photograph. I tried half-heartedly, but really with no joy.

I returned home, a rucksack full of unused gear and a few new bites...happy to have gone, but disappointed to have not got anywhere with the camera...a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I get a bit fed up, because if I don't get my inspiration from this awe-inspiring environment around me, how do I summon it up and from where do I find it? Once you've shut down, how do you let the possibilities open up, how can you start to see things like a child again? I know I have had similar niggles in the past, so I'll find a way through I'm sure. But right now, whilst I have a bit of time to commit, I'd like to purchase some of that gold-plated inspiration...


  1. I was watching a video about Chris Ofili a while ago, and he said something like "it would be great if there were signs that said 'interesting thing here'." There isn't, but there's no denying it would help...

  2. I think there's an element of that in every aspect of life. I'm always looking for the next thing to inspire me, and it usually appears when I least expect it. My blog has been really quiet lately for the same reasons, haven't come across anything new for a while,and I don;t want to do the same as everybody else... then out of the blue I had an e-mail from a distant relative in Jersey who has discovered about 35 glass plate negs in the archives, all of motorcyclists on the Island in the 1900s... just the thing to start a brand new train of thought. Just keep looking Penny, even though it didn't happen today, if you keep looking it will appear... BTW, we just keep missing each other. I cycled through Cogra Moss today on my way back from Ennerdale

  3. Try Siloth, I love it there but I never know why.

  4. Yep signs would be good. Silloth? Really? And Adey, good to hear from you. No better place to be when the weather is like it is. And how exciting about the negs...perhaps I'll stop looking and try not to expect anything and a great aunt might contact me too.

    Feel like I've lost the specs...can't see for looking at the moment...all seems too normal.

  5. Yesterday when I was on the bus into Oxford to photograph some buildings I was reminded of your travels with LF. On the Woodstock road (city end) on the pavement was a photographer with a very large LF camera, black cloth ready to bury himself under. I looked, I wondered at what it was he could possibly be photographing - a very busy city street, just after 9 in the morning - when intuity suggest that LF best conveys the peace in our world or at least the need for peace when composing etc. I guess he had found some inspiration that required ALL pedestrians to detour around him, so centred was he in his work. What has happened to the DS series, or are you concerned about exercises and the capture of cliche again? Take the pictures.
    To provide cold comfort I took 4 cameras and a tripod into Oxford yesterday; my MF stopped working which threw most of my planned shots and I ended up shooting with two cameras only (and one mainly). When I got back to have a quick "look-see" I began to wonder why I went.

  6. It's a rotten place to be in Penny. I wonder what would happen if you went out for a walk, without your camera, having made a firm decision not to take photographs of anything at all. It might be s..d's law that you saw something which really captured your eye!

  7. Have you tried photo-a-day? Even for a month? That's why I started - and although I've decided to call it a day at 1000 shots I' glad I did it because it has forced me to look at things for their photo potential - even when I'm not inspired.
    PS I know what you mean about the Lakes - lovely to look at and all that - but someone else has probably done it already. I'm with the other Nigel - I quite like Silloth and the Solway area in general.

  8. The trouble with the Lakes District is that very few people see beyond the sylvan beauty of the lakes and fells. Many forget about it's violent past when the descendants of the Norse Vikings defended the heart of the lakes against the Normans, the industrial heritage from prehistoric flint trading to 19th century mining, during WW2 the flatlands of the west and south were an massive airfield for the RAF, out of range of enemy bombers. Then there's the maritime heritage of the west coast, the unique mixture of volcanic and glacial geography... there's so much more to the Lakes when you dig below the surface. Through history it has been governed (never ruled) by Welsh, Scots, Romans, Normans... and even today it has an identity of its own. There's gotta be something new to inspire you in this beautiful place.

  9. True enough - I've not signed up for the course yet but I'm already working up a few ideas which make use of the industrial heritage. I think my real concern is the temptation to slip into cliche

  10. Sorry, been out of the loop for a few days. Thanks for the comments.

    John, the thought process behind DS is continuing in my head all the time...trying to work out a solution, like a crossword. But without conclusion so far, and still without tutor feedback. So it has ground to a bit of halt in terms of practical results and taking more images in the series...I'm looking at different ways of approaching the concept at the moment...but this does mean I haven't been out much with the camera at all...and so I then think I need to get out to see if I can catch some inspiration for the DS series or indeed with photographing the Lakes in general. Seem to be lacking motivation...too results oriented probably...

    Catherine, on Monday I went to Fleswick Bay near St Bees Head with a friend without camera. We had a lovely day on the beach and then as the tide came in, we could not believe what we were seeing...we saw one, or maybe, two porpoise (I thought it was a dolphin but some expert on the beach verified it for us) very close to shore. So pleased were we wondering if anybody would believe us back home, and then we saw a seal too. Never, never before have I seen anything other than seabirds on the West Cumbrian coast before...sooo exciting....oh yes the camera, "I left it at home!!!"

    Nigel, the photo a day is something I have considered before but haven't acted on as yet...there is a couple of projects I'm working on that requires me to take a photo a day, but whether it/they will see the light of day I'm not sure yet...they are pretty long-term. Silloth and the Solway is indeed unique and beautiful and reflects the diversity of Cumbria...but my own personal 'bugbear' (never written that before) is with the Lakes, as it is the Lakes that are iconic and photographed for surface beauty only. But I'm tying myself in knots and need to simplify things probably.

    Adey, you're absolutely right and I am researching all sorts about the Lakes. Not so much the violent past as yet although may now do so, but the folklore, fables and cultural heritage of the Lakes. But rather than just photographing the geographic areas on which stone circles or quarries once were or are, I was wanting to try to create some of the 'aura' and atmosphere that such places evoke like a storyboard from that particular era. But in practice I haven't a clue how to go about it or if it would work perhaps it isn't the Lakes that isn't inspiring me, but my ineptitude to achieve the results that I want from photographing the Lakes. So, yes, its not the place that lacks inspirational possibilities but how I can harness it to make an interesting picture.

    Thanks all....