Creative Breakthroughs

Maybe you know what it’s like.  Something clicks.  You see what you want to create, you know you can do it, the light is just right, and you are there with the camera and lens to make it happen.  And the image turns out to be just what you wanted, and more.  You feel like you’ve gotten past something, some creative hurdle.

What is it that got you to that point? Can you define the steps, or the process that got you to that place where you knew you could do it?  That is what Kat is asking us to explain in this assignment for her photo course, The Journey of Fascination.  After some careful thought, here is what I believe has had great impact on my creative journey in photography.

butterfly ready to soar

I have used my 70-300mm zoom lens many times and been disappointed in the results. Now I know that it was the person behind the camera not understanding the limits and capabilities of that lens.  Then last September, on a bright sunny day, I stepped into the front yard with that lens on my DSLR and was able to get this image of a butterfly.  

Ash Cave, Hocking Hills

Just a few weeks later I spent a weekend with my friends at Hocking Hills State Park, specifically to take photos of the fall foliage.  It was the perfect weekend for this.  We all used tripods to get clear images in low light settings, and I used the kit lens for my camera so I could get a wide angle on this fabulous view.  This one is my very favorite, and that is my friend Becky in the corner.  Sometimes it helps just to hang out with other creative types and let their goodness and skill rub off on you!

By this point I had begun my first 365 Project, making a promise to myself to take photos each day for a year.  That’s important.

In December I set out one evening at dusk with the specific purpose of taking low light images.  What I started out taking images of did not produce the results I wanted, so I decided to cruise around downtown before heading back home.  Using only my 50mm lens that evening, I found this little restaurant full of lovely, warm light.  I parked the car, stepped outside, and snapped just a few images. Hand held. No tripod.  

Red Berries

Last month on a cold winter morning with lots of snow on the ground, I set out to my favorite park to take winter beauty photos.  Red berries in winter just do something to me, I so love the color of them.  I used the 70-300mm lens again for this.  It’s not perfect. But you know…it doesn’t have to be.  I like it.

What made it all click for me?  Several things.

First, the camera.  There is a real change in my photography once I had a DSLR in my hands.  Learning what it can do, day by day, makes it even better.

Second, the lens.  The kit lens that came with it is great and I do use it quite a bit.  Next in line, and fast becoming my lens of choice, is the 50mm lens.  The light in it is just wonderful.  And that 70-300mm lens is becoming more useful to me as I continue to play with it.

Third, but probably first as well… taking some online photo courses.  My absolute favorites have been Kat’s.  And no, this is not a paid endorsement.  She just makes me think, asks tough questions, but somehow gets to the heart of the matter of photography.  I credit her lessons with helping me See creatively through whatever lens I use.

Fourth, and gaining importance as I continue…is committing to a 365 Project.  I know.  It doesn’t work for everyone.  But it sure is helping me.  It has become a part of my daily practice, my ritual, my way of looking at the world and finding the beauty.  As I practice this daily habit there are days when the *click* happens, and many when it does not.  

It’s all worth it.  I’m sure there will be other factors that come into play as I continue this journey.  Meanwhile, knowing my camera and lens, learning more from courses and from spending time with other photography friends, and just making the commitment to practice daily, all of it contributes to those creative breakthroughs…at least for me.



12 Replies to “Creative Breakthroughs”

  1. This is a wonderful, wonderful post! First – I love red berries in winter too! There's just something about finding little traces/hints of red in this season that makes me smile! I'm loving my 365 project too…and little by little I'm learning as I go as well. Thanks for sharing your journey!! (and all your wonderful photos!)

  2. It' good to look back and think through what got us to this point, isn't it? To recognize what has worked as we travel this path and to honor the growth that has occurred in both our technical and creative skills.

  3. This is a thoughtful post that shows wonderful insight into your creative process and breakthroughs. I have had the same experience with many of your points, especially the 50 mm lens and Kat's courses! I don't do a 365 since it is not focused enough for me but I am doing my own version of regular practices and challenges, which in the end probably make the most difference to me.

  4. I think you might have just spelled out a recipe for creative breakthroughs for almost all of us! Community, the challenge of learning something new, and regular practice. This was lovely to read. Thank you so much for your lovely words about my courses, I get chills when I read something like that and know that I've had an impact on someone else's creative life in a positive way. I am honored to be able to share this journey together with you!

  5. I like how you work with Kat's questions, Deb.
    When I started out with photography in a more serious manner 32 years ago, it was mainly my passion for it that kept me going. I had a very basic SLR that I kept for 25 years. It travelled with me around the world and sometimes was heavily abused. However, it was my tool to try and improve – there was a lot of trial and error, but this was the way I learned. I also took some in-class photography courses which helped me a lot. I often wonder how I would view photography if I had not have had this kind of "photography" school. It took me a long time to give up film and move on to digital. And although I love digital, I sometimes miss those "early" days. And I still "think" film – I am very careful what I photograph, how many images etc. – as if there was still a film in my camera with limited exposures, and expesive as well.!
    I love your post! I can see how very much you love this class and your own journey in photography.

    1. I once read that it's a good exercise to limit yourself to X number of images on a digital camera and really think about composition, etc. I tried that a couple times…only to abandon that idea later. But in the last few months I am more careful about the number of images I do take. Unless it's a very special subject, I don't take the tons of images I once did. Trying to be more deliberate about camera settings and thinking about what I want to accomplish first…

  6. The photo examples you selected are wonderful. I love that foliage shot with your friend in it. Fabulous!! I agree about the 365-I mentioned not feeling the breakthrus, but they are there on this gradual basis with the daily practice. I think sometimes we learn more on the days that don't "click" than the ones that do. Rescuing shots? Are you with me?
    I've only have borrowed a 70-300 and used it for a couple months. I remember thinking I would miss it greatly, but didn't. I had a cheap nifty fifty until it broke, but plan to get myself a mid-level one when tax money comes in. I miss that 50mm, especially that task of making my body do the work.
    Great examples and great thinking.

    1. Rescuing shots…yes! When I least expect it, on a day when photography doesn't seem to be going well, and then, bam!, there it is and wow does that help the morale!

      Thanks, Susan, for your comments.

  7. I love the quiet nature of your breakthroughs, and love the photos you chose to illustrate them. There's a serenity about each image that seems very "you." A beautiful post, Deborah.

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