When Things Aren’t Clicking (Literally)

Posted by on Feb 4, 2012

I hadn’t shot anything notable in the last couple weeks, at least not for myself. Even if I am uninspired to create at a given time, I figure the best way to incite a breakthrough is through discourse with a fellow artist. Even if that doesn’t work, the commiseration is therapeutic.

I cannot go more than two days without discussing art in some form. Visual, musical, physical, modern, classical, traditional…it doesn’t matter. Last week, I went to Austin Java for coffee and great conversation with my friend Kristopher. He is another creative mind, and we seem to speak the same language. After catching up (it had been a few months), I felt the pull again.

As I departed, right there in the front of the shop, I noticed a beat up old truck—perhaps a Chevy from no later than the 1950s—sitting immobile in a small garden. Very “Austin” in its use as a decorative item. I’m sure it had been in that exact spot since my very first visit years ago, but I simply never noticed. The truck looks like it’s been painted at least four times, with each new coat laid on top of the previous one. The way each of these colors cracked and revealed itself was like a mechanical reptile, molting many vivid scales at once.

I recently bought a 100mm ƒ-2.8 macro lens, and decided this was a perfectly deserving subject. The textures and lighting were ideal. I went home, grabbed my camera and immediately began to shoot. I spent at least 40 minutes going to town on this thing. Roughly 150 snaps later, the sun had passed behind some trees, and I’d already decided to return the next day.

The following day, I shot for another 20 minutes, and also noticed a couple cool knots in the wood that formed a bench outside the front door. I’m sure the patrons/spectators must’ve thought I was OCD, but yes, I spent another 20 minutes shooting two six-square-inch patches. It’s amazing how much depth of field you lose in such a relatively narrow plane. So much, in fact, that I had to come back the next morning with a tripod to accommodate for the longer shutter speeds.

I can’t explain why these gaps of inspiration come, and why they end, but I think it’s absolutely critical for a photographer to appreciate both periods. Knowing how to endure the drought (artistic or financial) when it comes with positive mental health is a challenge, but we must also know that the situation could swing the other direction in a split second. Be ready to act upon it before it again darts away like a school of fish. Besides, the magic held in that miniscule unit of time is the source of our joy, and it’s where we earn our redemption as creators.

*Note: The images as you see in the lightbox are roughly 4-5 times larger than their actual size.


  1. ka
    February 5, 2012

    I think that the “gaps of inspiration” are as much a part of the creative process as the act of creation itself. I think of the gaps as incubation periods – I used to get impatient waiting and waiting for something to hatch, but now I see the waiting as an opportunity to let whatever is swirling and firing and consolidating in my brain become something more complex and inspired than it would have been had I rushed the process. It’s also a good time to vacuum and clean the windows.

  2. Lance
    July 20, 2012

    Well said (both you and ka). As a music composer, I have the exact same ‘gaps’ and so I know exactly what y’all are talking about.


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