I can’t see the forest for the trees!

Have you ever had one of those days, you know, where you couldn’t come up with a decent photo to save your life?

I have them, more often than I care to admit. It can be a bit annoying.

Sometimes I know exactly what I am looking to do, the ideas just pouring out of my mind. Other times, just the thought of picking up a camera hurts. My mind is tapped with not a creative thought to be had. I get frustrated and upset. The longer I go, the more I try and the less I seem to get done. I can’t seem to see the forest for the trees as the saying goes. The big picture eludes me. What is my soul trying to say?

Yeah, as a photographer, I’m supposed to say that a bad day photographing is better than a good day in the office. And generally speaking, it is. But for me, sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work out that way.

Maybe it’s self imposed expectations that are getting in the way?

Occasionally when I carry my camera, I get the feeling like I have to produce an amazing photograph. It’s almost like a little voice inside my head says, hey, you have all this fancy gear, impress me! This seems to happen when I let self imposed expectations get in the way of what I really want to do and pushes me to make a photograph when there isn’t one.

My friend Wayne Richard Pope, an excellent photographer and educator recently posted a comment to Facebook that talks about this little voice. He titled it “The Seven Deadly Sins of Digital Photography” Sin #1 Talking Yourself out of carrying a Camera. In it, he spoke of that little persuasive voice inside that says, “Don’t take your camera; there won’t be anything to shoot.” and why he doesn’t trust that voice anymore as it can be “a devil” that will get you in trouble. He makes an excellent point, if you don’t have a camera you will come home “picture less”!

While this is very true, and I also don’t trust this voice, I sometime use it to my advantage.

Let me explain.

Last spring my wife and I were on our annual trip to the Great Smoky Mountains national park. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees; I wasn’t making the photos my soul longed to see. I was in one of the most beautiful places on earth and I couldn’t get “the shot”! This lasted most of the week.

One particular day, I had it really bad. The weather got particularly nasty with thunder, hail and rain, rain, rain! I almost didn’t go out.

That is when ignoring the “voice” was good advice. I went out. But while we were out, the voice came back. This time however, I listened to it and left my camera in the truck. Yes I purposefully left it behind.

This time that little voice wasn’t the “devil”, but my soul screaming out from inside to enjoy myself and to not miss the moment. To see the forest for the trees. It was incredibly freeing, and I found myself relaxing, the stress leaving my mind and body. And then it started to happen. I started to feel creative. I started to know what that image in my head was. It started to boil over until I couldn’t contain it. I knew what I came for. It still took 4 hours without a camera to find it. But when I did, this is what I came back with.

Roaring Fork River, G.S.M.N.P.

Roaring Fork River, G.S.M.N.P.

Sometimes when I’m in a slump, I’ll listen to that voice, leave the gear behind and go out and enjoy the nature I love so much. Will I miss some great opportunities, yep! Have I ever regretted it? Nope, not at all.

Sometimes that voice is the devil and leads to trouble, other times it’s an angel that has your best interest in mind.
The secret is in knowing yourself well enough to discern the difference.