On Not Forcing Your Muse To Come Out And Play

By | 2012-04-21T09:38:30+00:00 Apr 21st, 2012|

Last week, my two friends, +Doug Landreth and +David Volkamer, came down to visit the onOne HQ for a day. Doug is simply a mad genius with compositing photography. The things he can do with texture overlays is nothing short of breathtaking (go check out his work for yourself, you’ll see). In any case, I met up with both of them for some dinner, a few flights of bourbon, and then a nightcap of shooting.

We were near Burnside in downtown Portland and decided to make use of the ornate glowing neon signs that sprinkle this wonderful city. Unfortunately for me, nothing was jiving. Not one shot sang out and it was clear at the time that my muse was taking the evening off.

This is a pivotal point for a photographer, or really for any creative. If you’re experiencing any sort of bloc, do you choose to force something – create a contrived shot – or do you simply let it all go and chalk it up to a cold hand being dealt?

I go with the latter. Forcing creativity just seems wrong. There is nothing gained here and it is very much a zero sum game. Sure, you may walk away with images in hand, but do they have soul in them? Did you just point your camera in a direction and click the shutter?

So, I chalked this evening up to a loss of any photographic merit and turned my focus to spending the time chitchatting with my visiting friends as they rifled off their own shots. And you know what? It was really great!

I absolved myself of any burden or onus to get new shots. It was really OK to just enjoy the evening even if my camera was not cooperating. And the best part? It was only after I relieved myself of this burden that my muse did show up, if only for three fleeting shots. Something about this streetlamp caught my eye and I ran with it.

Having my Canon 14mm prime lens on meant that I was looking for linear distortion and this fit the bill. So, I craned the ballhead up, composed, and fired. When I got home, I knew that this shot would be my favorite and I’m sure that it never would have even happened if I was forcing myself to shoot when my heart just wasn’t in it.

In terms of processing
The star of the show here was actually FocalPoint 2 by +onOne Software. The stylization was done in Perfect Effects 3, using a combination of Blue Dawn, Frumpy, and Tonal Contrast effects. However, I really wanted the sign to literally pop off the screen. To that end, I applied a 0% opacity FocusBug on the whole image. This rendered the image in blur. Next, I scaled down the amount of blur to a mere 4% and used the Focus Brush to paint the focus back onto the sign.

Final touches were achieved in Lightroom 4.1RC.

In album Pic Picks Over The Years (1 photo)

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7 Comments

  1. Alen Pasalic April 21, 2012 at 9:02 am - Reply

    nice read and great shot.
    in the end it is all about that little thing in that brief moment that you capture a great photo, not the 5D MARK XX or Phase one but you and that thing that speak to you its story…for me that is the right photo.

  2. Carl Pettypiece April 21, 2012 at 9:10 am - Reply

    I think you are correct in this circumstance, but what if you're shooting an event, or you're travelling and the muse just isn't with you? I have to shoot and hope for the best. Maybe the muse will appear in post! :-)

  3. Nathan Langley April 21, 2012 at 9:10 am - Reply

    This is definitely something that I am learning to recognize right now. Any time I have tried to force a shot, I have always come away disappointed. I think it is better to just accept that some days aren't in your favour and maybe reflect on what was going wrong.

    And like you said, it can all come rushing back in a flash of a second when you least expect it. Such is the flow of things.

  4. Bob Lussier April 21, 2012 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Great shot and a great lesson. I agree 100%. If it's not happening, it's best not to force it. The results are almost reflect that strained feeling. Also, Great to see +Doug Landreth on G+. I'm a big fan.

  5. Doug Landreth April 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    Nice Brian! I remember seeing you take this… and after discussing wide angle with you that evening I sort of went crazy with my 17-35mm on our trip down to southern Oregon… Had lots of fun..I'll share some when I finish with them. Really fun to hang out with you and looking forward to doing the same in Seattle sometime soon!

  6. Chris Maskell April 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    I’ve had plenty of those moments myself, sometimes I switch to my phone sometimes I just let it slide.
    Great picture Brian

  7. Simos Xenakis April 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm - Reply

    Very cool urban shot. Burnside & 11th?

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