This picture is a reminder of what it is all about… the joy of the moment, not the size of the fish!

What do you do when your creative tank is empty? How do you recharge? Most of us tend to try to be fiercely independent and when we can’t seem to find the motivation, we think working harder and isolating ourselves is the answer. I think the opposite is true… getting around other folks and taking a moment to breathe is often the best way to get past the hump or mountain of stagnation. Let me show you what I mean.

My job is to be creative and the good news is that I am a pretty creative guy. However, each day that I sit down in front of my computer I struggle to be creative… again. It is the again part that is tough. I can come up with something wild and wacky at the drop of a hat… but what do I do when there is another hat waiting to fall each and every day?  You have the same problem… no matter what your job is, it is hard to keep things fresh and alive each day. So we tend to find ruts and habits that keep us going and work fairly well and may even turn into a style which other folks think is great. But, the danger is that our hearts and our passions get sacrificed for the sake of production. Most days I just want to do a good enough job to make other folks happy and I don’t try to think about whether my heart is fully engaged.

The Affliction:

To stick with the fishing metaphor…I have learned to fish, but I have gotten more focused on how many fish and how big rather than the joy of fishing. We as a people tend start out with a cane pole and a piece of Wonderbread and we giggle with excitement even if we just get a nibble and don’t catch a thing. Then as we get older and wiser we move our way up to a hand-crafted bamboo/graphite/titanium thunder-rod and bionic super lures that costs more than our car and we get mad when we only catch 12 fish for the day.

Photography is the same way… Think about the excitement we had when we got our first camera! Yet, in no time at all we start looking for the next lens or the next body and we get bored and complacent with our shooting. We become stressed out about the very activity that we started because it brought us such joy. Why? We have this internal (and external) push to get better… to do it faster… to achieve more each day, and then do it again tomorrow.

The Antidote:

The best antidote for this affliction is to get around someone who has still got the original passion and hang out with them. That is why I love workshops and I feel I need to include them in my yearly schedule. I need to get around folks that are vibrating with joy as they start to learn so that their enthusiasm wakes me up and stirs my soul once again for Photography. I get to relive the first love I had for the art and my routine gets interrupted and I have new thoughts and feelings and I am running around shooting just like the new photographer.

Bill Fortney and His Light Workshop crew Nashville 2014

I was fortunate enough to be invited by Bill Fortney to come take part in his workshop in Nashville. If you don’t know who Bill is you should, because he is one of the best folks you will ever meet… and he can handle a camera pretty well too. The timing was perfect since I had met another gentleman who was getting infected with the photography bug named Scotty Smith. Now selfishly I introduced these two guys to each other because I wanted to see if rainbows would spontaneously erupt since both of them are about the two nicest guys you can know. Now add to this mix a plethora of sweaters of other folks that all love photography and you can forget about being luke-warm or bored about taking pictures. Just getting to spend time with these folks was wonderful… even spending time with Snake! Yep… that was for you! :D

Scotty working the tripod looking for heavenly light

You see passion is contagious, just like laughter and yawning. I dare you to watch that video with the Quintuplets laughing and not at least smile! The same thing applies to your heart and creativity. If you are in a rut, get around folks who aren’t. The people who are passionate are usually the ones learning, so learn something new… try a new technique, try a new setting… become a student again. Shameless plug coming… go watch a new class over at KelbyOne.com and then don’t just sit there, go try to replicate it and really learn it. Sign up for a workshop and go experience something new and learn from folks who love to teach and inspire. I went to Bill’s workshop to help teach about Photoshop and hang out… but I ended up getting infected by the passion of folks who are hungry to learn. So I started shooting more and being less critical… I started having fun with my camera instead of shooting to produce. I started playing again and it felt good.

Ricky giving me Rawr! and then Blue Steel

Speaking of playing… part of the workshop was spending time with Ricky Skaggs and getting to shoot his concert. Now I must confess, I know of Ricky, but I couldn’t tell you a lot about the man… as a matter of fact as I walked into the room, I couldn’t have pointed him out with a high degree of certainty. (Sorry Ricky! :D) But, getting to spend time with him was a great treat, not because of his fame, but because of his heart. The man is humble, funny, caring and passionate about shooting. There is a joy that just seems to leak out of him. And then, we got to watch him play… and that man can make some sweet music. It hit me while we were watching him perform, that his joy had infected his music and made it better and richer, and that I should let that be the goal of my photography. Joy/passion should trigger my shutter.

"American Pickers" Nashville store was a blast

Now by this time in case you couldn’t tell, I was getting philosophical and I thought about how it was the people at the workshop that made it so good. It was the relationships even more than the opportunities to shoot some neat locales that made the biggest impression on me. You may not believe this if you know me, but I can be pretty introverted, especially when I get stressed and under deadline. But, I think I have figured out that the more stressed I get, or the more in a rut I get, the more I need to be around people that stir my heart. My family first and then like minded folks who are hungry to learn.

hitting the bottles with Bill

Obligatory guitar for Scott :D

"Mr. Telephone man" or "Operator" or "You can ring my Bell"

Proud Mary

So then after being inspired by the wonderful workshop I flew immediately out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to suffer vacation. Now my usual routine for vacation is to do as little as possible, and make my kids bring me food and do my bidding while I lay on the couch telling them that I am fixin’ to go shoot some pictures. :D Only slightly kidding. This time I actually went out the very first night because of the excitement that had been stirred up back in Nashville. While out at the Mormon Row area I ran into a herd of buffalo and a couple of neat fellow photographers. One guy in particular was Chris Fritsche who is a KelbyOne member who got excited to meet one of the Photoshop guys. I mean who wouldn’t? He started talking to me about all the classes he had watched and how he came out to work on his shooting. His enthusiasm was infectious.

Lightpainting with Chris and the gang

So a couple of nights later I called him up and met him back at the barns to do some light painting ala Dave Black’s class. He brought one of his daughters to help and I brought the twins who helped and nearly killed me, and we had a great time playing in the moonlight where the buffalo roam.

And you know what… I didn’t really care about how my pictures turned out… I was just like the kid with a cane pole and some Wonderbread… just excited to get a nibble.

These guys stir my heart daily... (Ladies insert aaaawwwww! here. :D)

ps. Most of the images were processed playing around with Macphun’s new Tonality Pro… good stuff.