Last week was pretty frustrating for me. I'd love to spend all of my time out with the camera but sadly real life gets in the way. And when it does and I feel like my progress has been halted I get pretty impatient, frustrated, and downright grumpy!
I had to spend 2 days down in London on work. Whizzing down the West Coast mainline on Tuesday morning, I saw the sun rise over the mist covered Cheshire Plain. It was an awesome sight and I was gutted I wasn't out taking pictures. I didn't have any opportunity to take photos while I was there, and before I go and when I came back I spent time with my wife and daughter who I miss dearly when I'm away.
I was also shooting my 2nd wedding (the 1st being a couple of years ago) on Saturday, and so when I wasn't at work or with my family the rest of my time was preparing for (and worrying about!) that.
In short, it was a pretty quiet week for landscape photographs and also for this blog - it's amazing how quickly writing here has become so integral to me.
So I spent the week pretty frustrated that I couldn't get out, especially as I was anticipating autumn to be in full swing. This happens to me on a annoyingly regular basis. My wife says that I put too much pressure on myself. In many ways she's right. I set high expectations for myself and I get down when I don't meet them, which isn't good for me or for her.
I think one of my main problems is that when I'm not active I'm doubting myself. In the War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about "Resistance". Resistance is that essentially internal force that works against you, subverting and preventing you from meeting your goals.
Having experienced some significant personal challenges in my life I totally understand what he means. It's the barriers that we erect in our head that are the most difficult to hurdle. And so when I feel like I'm not progressing, not doing what I love and not achieving what I want, I become very frustrated. I doubt myself, maybe I don't have what it takes, or that I don't love it enough, that I'm just pretending to be an artist, that others somehow make the impossible possible, that others don't feel the same pain from being held back from their goals. And I want to get out there and re-prove myself to myself all over again to make that fear and frustration go away. It's like I'm actively looking for resistance and when I find it, I feel I'm at fault rather than accepting that sometimes resistance happens in real life and not just in my head.
Of course the reality is that it's just not possible to do what you want all of the time and you have to just get on with it. That goes for professional photographers as much as anyone else, if not more-so (touched on in this post). So I need to bury those "if only I was a professional..." grass is greener thoughts. We all have our set of constraints and we all have to live within them.
What I'd be better off doing would be acknowledging the source of my frustrations (as my wife says "suck it up princess!") and channeling that energy more positively. So as much as I often can't do what I'd ideally like there are still things to get on with. I still managed to write last week's blog post on Live View. The prep for the wedding, although not landscape based, helps me improve and there are definite crossovers between photographic genres. I took time to reflect on what was frustrating me, what I felt I was missing out on, and so am planning on getting more of that in over the coming weeks.
I also decided to take Friday off work - yay for holidays! My main intention was to prep for the wedding, get all my gear charged and ready, review the itinerary and shot lists, get a haircut, etc. But I also took the chance to relieve some of that frustration with an early morning trip to Higger Tor and then Padley Gorge.
Sitting in the dark of the car park below Higger Tor at 6.15am, the car rocking from side to side with the wind and unable to see out due to the rain, well, it did little to lift my spirits. I waited for it to abate a little, put on my waterproofs, hat and gloves, and made a shivering start up the path asking myself why I bother...
And of course there was no sunrise. And the conditions made it difficult to get anything of great interest. I took the time to experiment with some intentional camera movement (ICM) shots. I'm sort of happy with them though I may be alone there. I think they reflect the grey, cold and blustery feeling of being there. Something I'll experiment further with I think. Images aside, for whatever reason I still had an enjoyable time up on the Tor. There's something about weather beaten adversity that makes you feel like an adventurer.
I then descended into the gorge. Burbage Brook which runs through Padley Gorge was something of a torrent from the overnight rain. It turns out that autumn hasn't quite kicked in so my frustrations were unfounded, talk about a waste of mental energy! I still spent 2 hours exploring the river making images. Padley is such a beautiful spot with so much to explore, you could lose yourself in there forever. And I still want to spend more time in neighbouring Bolehill Quarry. See, my frustrations are already building considering all of these places I want to visit! Life truly is too short.
Thankfully by the time I got back to the car I had that feeling of calm and tranquility that I find is the greatest perk of landscape photography. The week's challenges had gone and I was ready to take on my next challenge - the Wedding.
Fortunately it went well (and huge congrats to Basia and Ken!). I was rather pleased with the results and hopefully the newlyweds share my view. Shooting a wedding is a strange mix of excitement, planning, nerves and a lot of hard work but it was rather good fun all in (ignoring the fact that I dropped and broke my 35mm lens... :(). I've got a post in the works about my experiences that some of you may find interesting.
In the end angst and frustration are self-generated. It's where life falls short of our expectations and desires, and we have an urge to do more that simply can't be satisfied. But it's not helpful. We need to find ways to overcome it and see past the immediate challenges. Otherwise we're likely to lead a pretty miserable life chasing something that's always just out of reach. Better not to worry about it and look forward to the time I do get to spend out there. I must keep telling myself that!
My friend Mike Holley recently wrote a series of articles on the War of Art. As an up-and-coming author he describes its virtues much better than I am able: http://michaeljholley.com/2012/09/11/the-war-of-art-resistance-is-the-enemy