In the sea travel days of olde, I imagine great ships caught in a windless mile without power for their sails: caught in the doldrums. There are days, weeks, and even months where the creative inspiration never strikes. This is where I feel blessed to be a photographer and not a painter. All I have to go is force myself out the door with a camera, and the external world will coax me to push the shutter button. Sometimes this is not the easiest thing to do, but as a sea captain of olde, I get out the oars.
There are multiple ways of approaching making images, and luckily for us some ways require very little forethought. Sometimes the idea comes first and I set out on a mission to create what is in my mind. Most of the time I set out to a location that I am fond of in the correct lighting and see what there is to photograph. Sometimes the two are not so clear cut. For example, I know that I want to take double exposures using hands in the woods. But I have no mental image of how that will pan out. So it is partially planned. The opportunity to just set out and see what the external world provides is a blessing to us photographers.
Currently, my doldrums are being caused by lack of appropriate gear. Once you have shot with a certain setup that works well for you, and that setup fails, it is difficult to regress to your previous equipment that you deem inferior for whatever reason. Meaningful images can be made with any camera, so sometimes I view obstacles of this nature as a challenge. In theory gear should never be a limiting factor, but in practice somehow it often seems to be. A shift in perspective, and viewing it as a challenge can help to spark creativity.
Along the same vein, a new bit of gear can inspire a whole project. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. A nylon stocking for example can be used as a softening filter and could generate new ideas. I often use whatever is around me to manipulate images. It’s fun and the images that are made are certainly unique.
While the doldrums are certainly a pain, you have to decide not to die at sea. You have to decide that you are going to make it to the place where your sails will be filled, and you will get there. But don’t kill yourself rowing either. Sometimes waiting out the calm, and doing something else creative or relaxing for just long enough for the wind to come back is the best thing one can do.