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How do you get out there when there is "nothing to shoot"
Old 10-30-2018   #1
karateisland
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How do you get out there when there is "nothing to shoot"

I live in Maine, where summer and autumn are gorgeous, but the winters and often the springs are dull and flat. Street photography is often right out because, well, there are so few people that it makes the fishing for an interesting shot nearly interminable. I want to keep shooting, but keep having the feeling that there is "nothing to shoot."

I also recognize that this is a matter of perspective, or a matter of routine. That is--the people who keep shooting during times like this are the ones that get themselves out there to shoot no matter how they're feeling, or whether the world is inspiring them to shoot.

So I wanted to ask the forum, Do any of you have tips/tricks for getting yourself out there when you're feeling unmotivated? Other than taking a special photo "vacation," what do you do to fight a case of the photographic blahs?
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Old 10-30-2018   #2
Phil_F_NM
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Look for the irony. Look for Americana. The culture.
But do so without shooting images of people.
Chris Crawford here on RFF produces amazing work that shows his hometown and nearby areas. Many of those images don't feature people but strongly show how and where they live.
There are quite a few photographers that work this way but still operate in a kind of sphere of street photography.

Phil Forrest
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Old 10-30-2018   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karateisland View Post
I live in Maine, where summer and autumn are gorgeous, but the winters and often the springs are dull and flat. Street photography is often right out because, well, there are so few people that it makes the fishing for an interesting shot nearly interminable. I want to keep shooting, but keep having the feeling that there is "nothing to shoot."

I also recognize that this is a matter of perspective, or a matter of routine. That is--the people who keep shooting during times like this are the ones that get themselves out there to shoot no matter how they're feeling, or whether the world is inspiring them to shoot.

So I wanted to ask the forum, Do any of you have tips/tricks for getting yourself out there when you're feeling unmotivated? Other than taking a special photo "vacation," what do you do to fight a case of the photographic blahs?
There is always something happening. Local public events, from public library book signings to square dancing to church-sponsored social events, competitions, and so on.

Here in Michigan, I use websites like Pure Michigan to find local or nearby events. I'm sure there are similar things in your area. Often town halls and others have event calendars.

Look for volunteer opportunities - it is not at all unusual that local events need someone who would not mind tagging along and taking photos - from picking up roadside trash to cataloging local wildlife and so on. Share your photos in exchange for access.

If you like portraiture, one of the things I like to do is to visit with the elderly (I'm kind of getting there myself) and other shut-ins. Take time to visit and listen to their stories and in exchange, take some photos and give them some prints nicely framed to give to their relatives and loved ones. Many elderly in our society have few visitors and life can be lonely; I have seldom found an older person who did not like to have a visit, even from a stranger who is willing to spend some time listening to them.

Consider indoor events, portraiture, still life and other types of table-top photography if the outdoor situation becomes really dire. Do a study of dominoes or your stemware or a child's old toys. Stop by a local thrift store and find cheap stuff that could be photographed in interesting ways. Take photos of cameras, I presume you have a few laying around.

It's also a good time to get your inventory in order, from your camera gear to your negatives and prints and digital storage. Check out your backup situation, work on a website to show your photos. All kinds of photography-related stuff that needs doing that being forced indoors gives you the time to do. If you do film development, printing, or scanning, get caught up on the backlog, explore a new emulsion or paper or developer.

The fact is, there is so much going on photographically speaking that it's almost impossible to not find something to shoot. The limit is your imagination and willingness to go out of your comfort zone.

Break some barriers, find some new frontiers. Good luck!
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Old 10-30-2018   #4
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Phil has a good idea, your surroundings may look familiar to you but to most other people they are different. What is unique to your area?

I tell myself to get closer and closer to a subject. Look for light. Practice composition. And sometimes an idea or relationship can be revealed.

In the end it is a chance to get out and move around.
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Old 10-30-2018   #5
lynnb
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An alternative suggestion is to spend some time trawling your archives to find any overlooked images that might benefit from a fresh perspective and fresh processing; also you might find some project themes that suggest themselves in the process...
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Old 10-30-2018   #6
Peter Wijninga
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Quote:
How do you get out there when there is "nothing to shoot"
I used to live in a number of countries with brutal winters. An alternative is to shoot inside your house.
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Old 10-30-2018   #7
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I don't get out there once I have become bored with the local subject matter. I shoot more on trips, especially to Colorado. Exceptions are the botanical gardens and the Museum of Transportation, both in St. Louis. I keep a membership in both and visit occasionally. This entails re-shooting stuff I have already shot; but then there is always the possibility of a different film, a different light. Or else, noticing a shot not previously seen. Lately I'm in the back yard photographing my rose garden. There is not much in bloom, but I'm striving for an "summer is over, now it's fall, the garden is resting peacefully" look. I make some changes to the garden to get a different look to photograph. It feels a little like Monet building Giverny in order to have something to paint.

I don't go down to the city or the waterfront any more, with or without cameras. St. Louis has become too dangerous. Too bad.
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Old 10-30-2018   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveoo View Post

Look for light.
This.........
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Old 10-30-2018   #9
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There is always a shot - everywhere.
That is my slogan that gets me out.

The skill to improve here is to leave personal limitations in the way you see and the
range of targets of your attraction.

First step may be to carry a camera everytime or get out for a walk that is not primary
aimed to take a photo.
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Old 10-30-2018   #10
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I like to take pictures of people, and there are always people out there. Trouble is that I am hesitant to go up to people and take their picture, so taking pictures is a challenge. I find my best candid picture shooting is done in crowded events, but events are not found every day, so then the challenge is to find events near me and get up and go to them.
Always a challenge, nothing simple is ever easy.
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Old 10-30-2018   #11
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you don't need to go outside. I'd suggest doing what Josef Sudek did and photograph your home and what you see from within. http://www.artnet.com/artists/josef-sudek/
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Old 10-30-2018   #12
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When there is nothing to shoot -- find something



Rust
by Mike, on Flickr
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Old 10-30-2018   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karateisland View Post
I live in Maine, where summer and autumn are gorgeous, but the winters and often the springs are dull and flat.
I feel that Maine is most beautiful for landscapes in the winters. Very light and beautifully stark landscapes that are extremely striking and very unique things like frozen streams and rivers, wind-blown snowscapes, etc., and you have depth because you can see through the trees. Fall colors have been so done to death that I personally don't want to shoot any of that, except maybe in black and white. Spring, with the endless rains (and this year's super dreary fall), I agree with you, there is nothing to do.

Street photography in low population areas - you can sometimes do evocative images of figures in a landscape. Suburbia and smaller towns are difficult for street photography because you really aren't very safe - at least I feel people can be aggressive, and in Maine there are many rednecks who have guns. Maybe do day trips to a city or a college town, which is what I do, or fairs.
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Old 10-30-2018   #14
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You might get something out of these videos of Henry Wessel talking about his process, someone who I believe is supremely underrated.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Myf0IJ7YCRU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7SXO91sR8g

Particularly love this one of his:

Quote:
Part of photography has to do with the discipline of being actively receptive. At the core of this receptivity is a process that might be called soft eyes. It is a physical sensation. You are not looking for something. You are open, receptive. At some point you are in front of something that you cannot ignore.
I grew up in the midwest, in the middle of nowhere, always thinking 'why bother going out here to photograph, surely there is nothing of interest'. These days I get just as much out of taking a walk through the woods photographing, in all kinds of light, as I do shooting on 5th avenue in NYC. I think it's all about increasing your sensitivity to the world. Even if "nothing" is around, when the light breaks through the clouds and hits a tree or the leaves a certain way, you have to be just as ready to make the photo as you would on the street.

Best of luck.
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Old 10-30-2018   #15
Sumarongi
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Maine Coon cats, moose, forestry and everything in it... there's quite a lot of photogenic life in Maine even during the winter season...
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Old 10-30-2018   #16
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I would also recommend, for inspiration, studying some of the greats; for example Robert Frank's work in The Americans, much of which was photographed in rural America. Stephen Shore's and Joel Meyerowitz's classic work as well. And some of Garry Winogrand's work in rural areas or Western suburbia, taken in mostly deserted places with figures in interesting landscape compositions, sometimes even from the car, as well as his rural events photography (rodeos, stock fairs, etc.).
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Old 10-30-2018   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
I would also recommend, for inspiration, studying some of the greats; for example Robert Frank's work in The Americans, much of which was photographed in rural America. Stephen Shore's and Joel Meyerowitz's classic work as well. And some of Garry Winogrand's work in rural areas or Western suburbia, taken in mostly deserted places with figures in interesting landscape compositions, sometimes even from the car, as well as his rural events photography (rodeos, stock fairs, etc.).
Agree. There's always something to shoot, what is often lacking is inspiration and imagination.
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Old 10-30-2018   #18
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If you're at all interested in that, photograph architecture that's unappealing in all kinds of ways. In a few decades it might be gone, people will develop some sort of nostalgia for it and you will be one of very few people to have recorded it. Same principle can be applied to cars or whatever.
Hire a model, or convince a friend.
Do abstracts.
Or just do other things for a while.
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Old 10-30-2018   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil_F_NM View Post
Look for the irony. Look for Americana. The culture.
But do so without shooting images of people.
Chris Crawford here on RFF produces amazing work that shows his hometown and nearby areas. Many of those images don't feature people but strongly show how and where they live.
There are quite a few photographers that work this way but still operate in a kind of sphere of street photography.

Phil Forrest
Thanks, Phil

To the OP:
First, recognize that there will be times you don't feel like photographing, or the weather or light is bad, or whatever. That's ok. I carry a camera with me at all times, in case I see anything interesting, but even then I will sometimes go days at a time without taking a single photograph.

Second, it is easier to work and be motivated to do so if your work has a purpose that goes beyond "taking pretty pictures." Come up with a project that you want to work on. Something that interests you that you'd like to document and concentrate on that.

Here's my RFF thread with the photos Phil mentioned.
https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...116294&page=59

I have spent twenty years documenting life in northeast Indiana. The city I live in, Fort Wayne, is Indiana's second largest. I've been photographing Fort Wayne, plus Waynedale, the part of Fort Wayne where I grew up (it was a small town until the city annexed it in 1957), as well as the surrounding rural areas and small towns.

I've gotten to meet some very interesting people while doing this. Not famous or powerful people, just ordinary people that most never notice, whose have interesting stories to tell.
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Old 10-30-2018   #20
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If you think there is "nothing to shoot," the problem is with you, not the place. I used to think the same where I used to live, but with much practice and fortitude I started to see better. Just go looking with an open mind.
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Old 10-30-2018   #21
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Originally Posted by newsgrunt View Post
you don't need to go outside. I'd suggest doing what Josef Sudek did and photograph your home and what you see from within. http://www.artnet.com/artists/josef-sudek/
Yes, still life...

I set this up on my desk whilst waiting for a phone call - the light is from my computer screen!

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Old 10-30-2018   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
I would also recommend, for inspiration, studying some of the greats; for example Robert Frank's work in The Americans, much of which was photographed in rural America. Stephen Shore's and Joel Meyerowitz's classic work as well. And some of Garry Winogrand's work in rural areas or Western suburbia, taken in mostly deserted places with figures in interesting landscape compositions, sometimes even from the car, as well as his rural events photography (rodeos, stock fairs, etc.).
Or Eugene Meatyard.
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Old 10-30-2018   #23
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I pick up a camera, load it with battery and card, or film as the case might be, pick a lens if I need to, and go out with it slung around me or in a bag. I go, wherever and however I go, looking at the world around me. Whether I see anything or not, I make an exposure or two every now and then.

I often don't look at the exposures at all for a while, either adding more to the card or filling the roll of film in subsequent sessions until the uninspired time ebbs, or I get the whim to see what's on the camera. Then I look and explore what I caught.

Most of the time, most exposures are just junk, but every so often there are a couple that catch my interest. I then think about them: what was interesting? Should I take more like that? Should I go back there and shoot more of the same? Was there something else that I remember about that subject that I might go back to with some different equipment, a tripod, a different time of day, different weather or sun? Et cetera.

Finding inspiration is the much harder part of photography than the acquisition of technical skill, and certainly a lot harder than buying pretty toys/new equipment.

G
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Old 10-30-2018   #24
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Originally Posted by RichC View Post
Yes, still life...

I set this up on my desk whilst waiting for a phone call - the light is from my computer screen!

Nice still life. Too bad about that ugly cigarette.
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Old 10-30-2018   #25
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Nice still life. Too bad about that ugly cigarette.
Just a prop - gave up smoking years ago!

One of the things I like doing - and might be something for the OP to consider - is taking (or setting up in this case) photographs that have a narrative. Here, the battered camera and the cigarette have a story to tell - what and from when, who knows...
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Old 10-30-2018   #26
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I have been struggling for several weeks to fill even one roll, mainly because of dreary weather, but also on the two or three sunny days we've had in the last three months I also couldn't find any inspiration in my surroundings. I try to make the lost time count by studying the work of good photographers. I got hold of some great books on Winogrand, Frank, Meyerowitz, that I really enjoy.

However, the more I learn about what is really interesting, the less I am inclined to press the shutter on uninteresting subject matter, so I find myself doing less photography overall. Hopefully, though, the end result will be better photos. But yes, I really don't see myself doing much street photography here; I think for plentiful people photography you really have to travel to where there are plenty of people.
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Old 10-30-2018   #27
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A lot of good advice here... But another alternative is this book...

https://aperture.org/shop/the-photog...playbook-books

A lot will seem silly, but even if one idea works... You are good to go.
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Old 10-30-2018   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
Yes, still life...

I set this up on my desk whilst waiting for a phone call - the light is from my computer screen!

Beautiful actually...

I'm saving still life for when I can't get out in the streets as much... 😉
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Old 10-30-2018   #29
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Growing up in a place that had 18% gray skies over 50% of the year, I've come to the realization that it's lighting.

I'd pick a day with some (more is better) sun shine and start walking. Different directions every so often, different times of the day. Drive to a new part of town and walk.

The key to me is the lighting, don't go out to shoot on an 18% gray sky day. Go out and scout. Look and think about what time of day might that spot be better.

B2 (;->
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Old 10-30-2018   #30
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This woman shot 'her area' during the summer with a 4x5 and a TLR (120). She found something to shoot using to me difficult cameras to use:

Christine Osinski:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi8W93aJG_U
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Old 10-30-2018   #31
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Growing up in a place that had 18% gray skies over 50% of the year, I've come to the realization that it's lighting.

I'd pick a day with some (more is better) sun shine and start walking. Different directions every so often, different times of the day. Drive to a new part of town and walk.

The key to me is the lighting, don't go out to shoot on an 18% gray sky day. Go out and scout. Look and think about what time of day might that spot be better.

B2 (;->
Or try the opposite and shoot on dull, grey days! Really, it's all about imagination and visualising the possibilities whatever the lighting (I'm not a great fan of photographing when it's really hot or really cold, though!)

I've spent the last few years photographing London's lost River Fleet only on overcast days with no sun, mostly in autumn and winter.

Days with no sun make the sky act like a giant softbox, lowering contrast and allowing subtle tones to be caught.

Regent's Canal, London, built over the former course of the River Fleet:

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Old 10-30-2018   #32
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Or try the opposite and shoot on dull, grey days! Really, it's all about imagination and visualising the possibilities whatever the lighting (I'm not a great fan of photographing when it's really hot or really cold, though!)

I've spent the last few years photographing London's lost River Fleet only on overcast days with no sun, mostly in autumn and winter.

Days with no sun make the sky act like a giant softbox, lowering contrast and allowing subtle tones to be caught.
Beautiful image. Good advice for landscapes, yes, but this doesn't work too well for street photography of moving subjects with slower color film.

This thread inspired me to give up trying to finish my roll of Portra and load some Tri-X that I'm pushing to 1200. Hopefully that will get me out shooting again despite the dreary weather.
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Old 10-30-2018   #33
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Or try the opposite and shoot on dull, grey days! Really, it's all about imagination and visualising the possibilities whatever the lighting (I'm not a great fan of photographing when it's really hot or really cold, though!)

I've spent the last few years photographing London's lost River Fleet only on overcast days with no sun, mostly in autumn and winter.

Days with no sun make the sky act like a giant softbox, lowering contrast and allowing subtle tones to be caught.

Regent's Canal, London, built over the former course of the River Fleet:
Good point, it really doesn't matter, just need to look around and see what your eye is drawn to.

Too many 18% gray sky days of old, here in Central Iowa those sort of days are the exception.

B2 (;->
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Old 10-30-2018   #34
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go shooting with a friend.
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Old 10-30-2018   #35
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I keep a running list of interesting topics on my phone. Never a dull moment with a backlog of things to do, and only a portion that depends on the weather!
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Old 10-30-2018   #36
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If outside is not happening, shoot inside. If inside is not happening, shoot outside. If where you live is not happening, try somewhere else. But there is always something happening somewhere.

Personally, I wouldn't live in Maine during the winter, period. I tried living in Portland, Or and got very depressed during the winter looking at the constant gray skies, lousy light and constant rain. Moved to New Mexico and couldn't be happier. Even in winter the air is crystal clear and we have plenty of sun. It's a known fact that SAD happens in climates like yours.

There's always a shot somewhere if you look.





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Old 10-30-2018   #37
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An alternative suggestion is to spend some time trawling your archives to find any overlooked images that might benefit from a fresh perspective and fresh processing; also you might find some project themes that suggest themselves in the process...
Lynn. Yes I often do your first suggestion. It's amazing how often images turn up which, when looked at with a fresh eye, yield something interesting and useful. In fact I have been doing this over the past few days and found several from a Hong Kong trip and one to Melbourne that I lay unloved on my computer but which came up trumps when I relooked at them and rethought how they might be used.
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Old 10-30-2018   #38
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If outside is not happening, shoot inside. If inside is not happening, shoot outside. If where you live is not happening, try somewhere else. But there is always something happening somewhere.

Personally, I wouldn't live in Maine during the winter, period. I tried living in Portland, Or and got very depressed during the winter looking at the constant gray skies, lousy light and constant rain.
Actually, though I would also rather live in the Southwest, much of Maine is very bright and sunny most of the winter. Very cold, but these bright winters can help prevent SAD. Fall is also normally bright but this year has been an exception. The Pacific Northwest, now that hardcore dark, no offense to those who live there, I lift my hat to anyone who can endure it.
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Old 10-30-2018   #39
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I don’t know much about you.

At my stage of life, I photograph people and places I visit.

I’ve found photography is mostly a single sport. Not a team sport.

I can go visit our extended family, grand children and get lost, try to blend into the background as they live, move about, do things. It’s fun to watch them! And then click the shutter.

I’ve got lots of examples of this.

Think about your own life. What’s going on?

I saw on Facebook the other day, a photo of Al Kaplan. He was an interesting gent living in Florida, taking his camera, just like he would take his arms and legs, the camera became a part of him.

Examine your own life. Maybe find a group or mentor to ignite a spark with you. But then it’s up to you to make the spark turn into something. Burn baby burn and light up the world around you and make photographs!

Smiles!
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I make photographs as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.
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Old 10-30-2018   #40
Mackinaw
Think Different
 
Mackinaw is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: One hour south of the Mackinaw Bridge
Posts: 3,507
I live in northern Michigan, smack dab in the middle of the Lake Michigan lake-effect snowbelt. When the snows starts, normally after Thanksgiving, I often take a break from my photography. I’ve dabble in acrylics and will spend my time painting. I also putz around on the piano. And, if in the mood, I’ll take some pictures. All kind of ways for me to stay artistic and creative.

Jim B.
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My fancy-schmancy gallery:
http://snowcountryphotography.com

My RFF Gallery:
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/phot...user=1453&sl=m
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