Friday, April 15, 2011

Pressure and Productivity

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

There is nothing like facing a deadline to stimulate the creative juices. Of course, sometimes this works in reverse. Pressure also has the potential to shut me down. The alternative, then, to shut down mode is struggling with the other demon. The demon of unleashed possibilities. Suddenly, ideas come from anywhere and nowhere. The closer the time comes to "deliver the goods" the more possibilities pop into my head—all of them demanding attention—immediate attention, naturally.

I understand that this is mostly an escape mechanism. If I become immersed in a new project, how can I be expected to stay focused on meeting an approaching deadline? What a convenient excuse to postpone the less satisfying aspects of completing a job!

Most often I am able to maintain enough discipline to meet the requirements of a commitment, but it is often difficult to avoid the distractions. The deadline for the coming art show was no exception. I squeezed in work periods to finish the pieces for the show, but my heart was already in the next project.

What was demanding attention? Some things that I am not at all certain about. I don't have any fancy explanations for this exploration. Mostly, it boils down to the fact that there was a strong impulse, and I followed it. Obviously, it is quite different from what I have been doing for a very long time. Goodness, I rarely even experiment with monotones, color addict that I am. Furthermore, all my photography heroes (both famous and not so famous) inspire me with somewhat classic photography entailing a minimum of digital manipulation. Yes, I have made prodigious use of digital tricks to obscure distracting and downright ugly backgrounds in the case of equine photography. That large order completed recently included many examples of digitally altered backgrounds. Still, I have regarded those efforts, to some extent at least, as compromises.

Recently, I began looking at some old images in a completely different way. What I found myself wanting to explore was the full potential of using Photoshop techniques to strip out distractions and put the focus on what the image is about for me.  The image posted March 29 was the first piece that came out of this experiment. The resulting images are so different from my norm that I am not quite sure how I feel about them.

I enjoy honing my Photoshop skills, but I want even more to become a better photographer. In many ways, this feels like a detour. Yes, it is fed by some recurring back pain, nasty weather, and far too many health concerns at our house—all of which complicate photo shoots. Nevertheless, the real story is that the drive is there and I am going with the flow. I just get a bit nervous about being swept over the falls!

Oh, well, this is where I am and whether or not I am completely puzzled by the effort that went into all this work and end up tossing it out in a few months is beside the point. For now, this experiment pleases me, distracts me from all the nasty, nagging questions, and almost takes the place of my long hikes along the trail. It is another example of art as therapy. Besides, who knows where this exploration might be leading?


  1. First, let me say I very much like your latest creative explorations and particularly this image. It's simplicity carries energy, emotion and a story. I believe you'll these very well received at the art show.

    I respect photographers who try something new and are brave enough to share their experience and results. My personal philosophy is it's as much about the journey as the destination, so why not make a few detours to view the "sights" along the way.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Anita.

  2. Earl - Thank you for all the encouragement. I appreciate your thoughts on this. The irony is that this is not in the show. I did not get into this until my entry form had been submitted. Perhaps at another showing.

    Because I am not brave, showing anything outside the norm is always tricky for me. Thanks for "egging me on". You are so right that we have to allow ourselves the detours, because we never know what we may stumble upon along the way.

    I will have a great weekend, Earl. I hope you do the same.

  3. Deadlines are to be employed as they focus the mind, they make you draw a line under things and then move on.

    I'm sure that you haven't used "digital tricks", rather "digital skills". There were plenty of "famous photography heroes" that used the maximum in-camera and darkroom manipulation techniques to produce work that purveyed the message they sought to give us; why excuse what you've done? My view is that you should revel in the excitement of having explored something and achieving a successful outcome.

    There's nothing wrong with just feeling proud about what you've achieved and you should make the most of it. You used the words "tossing it out" and my experience is that this is how we work and progress. It's a way of moving on, staying motivated and finding out where we are trying to go. I really respect you for putting a body of work in the public arena and I love the image you've posted.

  4. Colin - I very much appreciate your taking the time to say all these things. I suppose I could excuse my "whininess" with all that is going on here. But, the truth is, it is just my true nature being pushed to the surface by the pressure of the real-life worries of the moment.

    In the future, I vow to substitute digital "skills" for "tricks". I know you are absolutely right about the myriad of skills that contribute to so much of the photography we admire.

    I feel as though I just got cold water thrown in my face. Or, maybe this was one of those moments we see in the movies, where one character slaps the other, says "Snap out of it!" and the character who was confused comes to his (or her) senses.

    At any rate, I am glad you commented, Colin, and thank you for your thoughts about the image.

  5. Interesting experiment. It's always good to try new things, to expand on what you've done before. I think this one worked really well.

    I know what you mean about deadlines. I try to avoid them as much as possible...;-)

  6. PJ - Welcome! Thanks for dropping in. I appreciate your comment on the work.

    I can be extraordinarily creative when it comes to avoiding deadlines. :)

  7. Well done, Anita. This rendering shows a lot of thought and skill on your part. I would hesitate to use the word "tricks" though. I prefer "tools" because that's what they are. They can help us realize our vision and help us communicate with the audience.
    As for the pressure you face - take a moment for yourself. A deep breath. Clear your mind. Focus. And just do it.

  8. Anita: What a beautiful experiment. I love it. The action is boiled down to its simplest elements.

    I understand your feelings about Photoshop and manipulations. I like to experiment, from time to time, but for the most part, just like the 'naked' pictures and am always looking at how I can improve the shot, in camera, rather than having to do it after the fact.

    Mind you, manipulation after the fact is certainly not a bad thing. It just is. There is no right way to express yourself. As Earl said, take a detour along the way and enjoy the discoveries.

  9. Ken - I appreciate the affirmation. I have found that staying busy is helping with the stress and the worst of this will be over in a few more weeks. It's the stuff you can't do anything about that gets to you. Also, I am working on those deep breaths, believe me.

  10. Paul - I am delighted to get your comment on the experiment. Thanks.

    That desire to tell the story with the camera is strong in me, but I am discovering that I also have this powerful urge to tell stories in other ways. It appears that I have to honor both.

  11. And, I enjoy the fruits of that drive within you.

  12. Monte - What a lovely thing to say. Thank you!


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