Inspiration When You Need It Most

Local photographer Maris Ehlers talks about finding inspiration when it doesn't want to find you. Post 1 of 2 in this series.

Recently, your friendly St. Michael Patch editor Mike Schoemer gave me a hard time for not blogging on The St. Michael Patch since the end of the 30 Pictures in 30 Days Photo Challenge.  

I certainly deserved it, as the number one rule in blogging is to be consistent in posting.  After all, how can people follow and engage with you if you don't post anything? 

I felt like I inundated you with so many posts during the 30 days that perhaps it was time to give us all a little breather from the whirlwind that is me. After all, I really didn't think I had any other ideas at the moment that the various groups would be interested in, so why not just take a few days off until inspiration strikes and I have a fresh batch of tips and tricks to share? 

As excuses go, I think it was a pretty good one. But here's the thing: Inspiration is a very fickle friend. When you don't need it, inspiration seems to be everywhere. Ideas flourish, new ideas get developed, interesting pictures get taken, and great stories get written. When you want it the most, however, it can be like looking for "Where's Waldo?" with your eyes closed and the book shut.  And yet, so many of us do just that. We sit in the dark with our eyes shut, waiting for inspiration to appear. We keep our cameras in the bag because we don't think there is anything interesting to take a picture of because we can't see it RIGHT NOW. And while we're waiting, doubt creeps in, and because we can't think of the perfect idea, the perfect picture to take, the perfect thing to write, we do nothing. 

Am I alone here? I'm guessing not.

The sad thing is that I know better than this.  I know from personal and professional experience that without a doubt, the best way to find inspiration is to look for it.  So what if you don't have something fabulous to take a photo of today?  Then get up, grab your camera and take a fabulous picture of something very ordinary.  Write about the most mundane part of your day.  Sit down for five minutes and make a list of every idea that runs through your mind, no matter how silly or unrealistic, and see where that leads. 

Some of my best pictures and projects started out as really bad or mediocre ideas, but they were springboards for new and better ones that inspired me further. First, however, I had to learn to let go of being super critical of what I could dream up and do. It was a hard lesson, but one worth learning. The need for perfection can talk most of us out of finding ways to stretch our creative skills because no one wants to dream dreams or create things that are "average". Once you can do that, you can find your creative genius. 

Part II of this post will include five ways to find inspiration when you need it most. Stay tuned.  



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Mark A. Schaffer April 12, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I know how you feel Maris! It is hard to get inspired to blog, or keep one up. I have been trying to do a travel/photo blog on the Maple Grove patch… thus far having only 2 posts…though I have a bit more on blogspot.com. In photography, I more often than not find my inspiration in others. The 30-day challenge you hosted really got to me look at some things in new ways. Having owned a DSLR (and an older Nikon D80 at that) for only about a year now I have been exploring the possibilities provided to us through different lenses. I recently ran across an article on 50mm lenses here: http://photo.tutsplus.com/articles/hardware/introducing-the-wonderful-world-of-50mm-prime-lenses/ I have been simply mesmerized by many of these images, especially those shot at F1.4. So much so…I took the plunge a couple weeks back and purchased the Nikon AF 50mm F1.4D lens. While this is the “older design” lens originally intended for film cameras I simply LOVE how the images are rendered from it and other older design lenses. I am not always about contrasty, saturated, razor sharp “modern” images. So thanks to inspiration from you and others…I am now looking forward to “Exploring life at 50…50mm that is!” I have posted a few of my early shots with the lovely 50mm F1.4 for a recent trip to Pella, IA.
Maris Ehlers April 14, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Hey, Mark: Great to hear from you! I'm glad you enjoyed the challenge. We'll do another one this summer, although I may simplify it a bit just for ease of execution. :) Have you ever played with Lens Baby lenses? They are very strange, but quite fun. They have a look and feel unique to them that is VERY different than typical DSLR lenses. I'll check out both of your blogs!
Maris Ehlers April 14, 2012 at 12:35 AM
P.S. Mark - my favorite image here is the flowering tree.
Mark A. Schaffer April 14, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Thanks Maris, that is probably my favorite as well and really got to where I was "inspired" to go. That is the kind of image that drove to purchase an F1.4 lens. I have not tried the Lens Baby yet. I have also been intrigued by the Dreamy Diana and Holga plastic lenses. I may take the plunge and try one some day. :-) There is a time and place for the razor sharp, highly saturated, super contrasty 21st century image but I do grow tired of seeing so many things that are "sharper" than they are in real life. If interested, you can find me on blogspot at: http://mas-photo-blog.blogspot.com/ It is just a start. You may recognize a few of the images from the 30-day challenge. :-) My next post on both will be on Casco Viejo, Panama. I really look forward to your next one! It was great fun and I learned a lot.


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