Blurred Vision

In Creativity and Inspiration, Pep Talks, Vision Is Better by David93 Comments

So what do you do when you feel your vision has abandoned you? That it’s dried up or gone missing? I talked about this while I was in Kathmandu on a personal level but I’m seeing it all over the internet and in emails from friends. I can’t be the only one.

The downside to believing that our photography is an expression of our vision, and that photographic vision is connected to our personal vision, is that what’s going on in our personal life can affect our work, in some ways it must affect our work. Personally I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t want my art to be anything less than honest. I’ve seen several people post comments on Twitter lately that their vision is nowhere to be found. I’m in a funk now too, it’s just part of the cycle of being human and being creative. We have ups and we have downs. Some of us use those downs to create honest and powerful work, some just take the downs as what they are and wait it out. All of us, at some point, feel the hollowness that comes when we pick up our cameras and realize we’ve got nothing to say.

To be honest, I’m almost at the point where I’ve heard the word “vision” come out of my mouth one too many times. It’s a good word but it gets invoked like an incantation and if there’s one thing I know it’s that there’s nothing magic about vision. It’s not some guiding force that pushes us forward, protects us from the funk, or makes our images magically better. God knows other artists have no such thing protecting them from periods of malaise or indecisiveness. Vision doesn’t replace the need for struggle or hard work or simply making a choice and moving forward. It’s absence doesn’t mean we’ve got a reason to stop pushing forward, nor does it’s presence guarantee us amazing images. If I’ve ever given the impression that finding your vision is easy or that once found it’ll remain the same, then the error is mine.

One guy tweeted, “Screw Vision”. It made me laugh in agreement but I’m not sure that’s the answer either, though I know the feeling.  It might be healthy to go out and make some photographs without overthinking things for a while. Taking a break is healthy. Here’s what I know. We need to de-sacralize vision. It’s nothing magic. And we need to lighten up. We put so much pressure on ourselves. Can you imagine a songwriter doing a 365 Project where she has to crank out one song a day for a year? The thought of it exhausts me and I don’t even write songs. Or a sculptor heading to the studio with his chisels for a couple hours with the expectation of cranking out a dozen keepers? And then when he hits the wall he says, ah screw it, this vision stuff is over-rated? It might be time to slow down.

So what do you do when you can’t find your vision? The ebook I’m working on now talks about exactly this thing. But your vision is there, it just might be that it needs coaxing out. Push too hard and it just retreats. So ease up and give it some breathing room. Go live life for a while without the camera. Or go make some photographs with nothing in mind but play and experimentation, stop freaking out about making something great. Sometimes the muse needs a break, she doesn’t always respond well when pushed too hard. Go make something beautiful all the same.

So what do you do when you can’t find your vision, when the muse eludes you? Comments are open, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m off to Bosnia on Thursday, and I’ll be back on the 14th or thereabouts. Thanks for your patience over the last little while. I’ve needed a break from things and knowing that everyone here is cool if I don’t show up everyday makes it easier.


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  2. You just have to please yourself instead of trying to please others for a while and in doing this your inner vision will flourish. After all it is what makes you “You” The rest will follow…’s the cycle of life.

  3. Quite simply, I think it happens because I don’t believe anyone is infinitely and constantly creative. Whether you’re tired, bored, lacking vision, lacking inspiration, whatever, I don’t think anyone can be “on” all the time. So, I’m not sure why people are surprised that their creative brain shuts down every once in a while. Just give it a rest and wait for it to wake up. 🙂

  4. This has been a very interesting thread, but one thing beats me. Once someone – like David here – we so eagerly give our advice and almost forget to listen to what he really has to say. For me what he has to say here is: Why does this happen?
    When I share my deeper feelings, I don’t want people to give me solutions, I want them to share my thoughts, and maybe help me find out why these things happen, not how to get out of them. That I will find out myself, because I’ve got my own path to walk, not your path.

  5. Craig Ferguson said it best above. “Don’t think too much”. A few other people echoed this same thought. There are a lot of people in this post who are being waaaaaaaaay too hard on themselves and putting far too much pressure on themselves. If the shots don’t come, open a bottle of wine, kick back in front of the fireplace with some music, and relax. You’ll feel more inspired another day… Photography is supposed to be fun, not a pressure-cooker.

  6. Some random disconnected thoughts:
    (1) My idol Anthony Trollope got up virtually EVERY morning at 5am of his adult life and wrote 2,000 words. Whether inspiration came or not, the man wrote wrote wrote. Lesson: You can’t wait for inspiration. Get to work.
    (2) Having shot 300,000 frames in the past two years alone I can tell you there have been many days I’d set out for work completely uninspired. And yet on many of these days I did my finest work. Nothing gives you more confidence than delivering the goods under adverse conditions or when you’re feeling tapped out. Anyone can shine when the stars align. Lesson: Get down to work.
    (3) Have other things in your life beside photography. Don’t spend too much time talking with other photographers. The richer your interior life, the richer your work will be. Lesson: Get a life.

  7. Amazing. I have gone through this just recently, and feel like I am just coming out of the blurred-ness. Wow. I had to step back and allow myself to be inspired again, but most importantly- allow God to inspire me, and help me realize why it is that I am doing what I’m doing. Keep up the honesty. I love it!

  8. Amazing. I have gone through this just recently, and feel like I am just coming out of the blurred-ness. Wow. I had to step back and allow myself to be inspired again, but most importantly- allow God to inspire me, and help me realize why it is that I am doing what I’m doing. Keep up the honesty. I love it!

  9. Lets make a mental construct to discourse about the muse/vision/craft triad. Imagine it as an octopus with tendrils reaching out to areas such as designs, balance, color, emotions, experience, technical camera skills, lighting, hopes, dreams…….like an actual octopus these tendrils can search around for something that will end up as an inspiration without the main octopus brain being aware much less our own consciousness. This construct works mainly in the visual domain of our brain were thoughts are presented all at once as opposed to the verbal side that is sequence/step by step oriented. So inspirations may seem to pop out of nowhere all at once, when actually a longer process has occurred to join all the different parts the octopus tendrils are connected with into what ends up as an inspiration. We do not perceive the octopus doing its work, just the final inspiration. I suppose we need to feed the thing with increasing our technical, artistic, and personal sides. Stimulating these areas with more knowledge, practice, experiments and experiences will increase the pool of items that can result in an inspiration. Once inspired there is the work to bring the inspiration into being which will aslo make use of the octopus construct to combine the many skills, ideas and feelings into our final work. During this visual oriented activity we may loos track of time and feel differently than when we are operating in our verbal oriented side. We can begin to understand the loss of our muse by using this construct, for example lack of new stimulus, skills and feelings to stimulate the octopus to form an inspiration and then as we understand, devise a way to get more inspiration.

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  12. Zach Arias put together this short film for Scott Kelby and it talks about this very subject:

    We all go through creative droughts. We all have those doubts about our abilities and have those days where we want to put our gear on E-bay and walk away from the whole thing. The thing I got from the video is that if we fail to create great images its not the end of the world. There are far more important things in life to stress about.

    I guess the key is perspective and patience.

  13. My “vision” does not come and go. I paint, photograph, draw, print what is not there. What is inner; what is intuitive; what can connect us. My “vision” is partly from my “right brain” where words do not wander. I am never more animated and alive than when doing art and never more flustared when I am asked to explain why I do art.
    So, David, the muse has not flown away, it is you, in you, part of you intermixed with your craft, shoes, cameras, lenses, fatigue, joy……..

  14. i find doing something really nice for yourself, spoiling yourself with that book (fiction, not about photography) you have wanted to read for a long time, listening to a beautiful piece of music, doing nothing and relaxing underneath a beautiful tree, having some lovely wine and food with good friends, getting away from the pressure for a while and being kind to yourself – things which work for me to get back to being inspired and uplifted by one of my big passions in life. and know that you will get back to that wonderful and empowering vision.

  15. in my humble opinion “vision” is that gut feeling on “how IT has to be”. and i think you can’t ever loose this. never ever.

    it’s like the housekeeper who goes to tighten up a messy room – she has that image in her head on “how it has to be”. she might get tired of putting her vision into reality, but that feeling doesn’t go away.

    and i guess when you pick up the camera you have that feeling of “how it has to be”. or when you look at a picture there comes that “oh no no no … thats all wrong” instinct and that first impulse of “i have to fix that”. i think you can get tired of fixing or you have done it so often that you just need a rest. but loosing that vision … i guess thats like loosing everything you know or think about the world.

    i think that the vision can come so disguised that its hard to realize that its there. and maybe one wouldn’t call it that, but its still at work. as vision is how you see the world you can’t loose it. if you figure out that you see the world in a specific way and that way is unique to you – then you get to a more advanced level of vision. you can be more specific in your work etc.

    i guess my point is: vision can’t be “screwed” – thats just denying who you are (or not knowing who you are and don’t care to get to know). it’s like sending your gear to a phototrip around the world and yourself staying at home. screw whatever you like, but screwing vision is just screwing yourself.

    torsten 🙂

  16. I Go out without the camera. Just look, smell, feel, absorb what’s around me without looking for the great shot. It awakens the senses again

  17. Well, don’t cut off your ear or anything….

    Have you ever read “Lust for Life” , Irving Stone’s edited ‘novel’ of Vincent van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo? Or, better yet, there is a three volume set that is un-edited. I can’t quote him at this moment, but I seem to recall that what you/we are calling ‘vision’ Vincent pretty much considered as “Life”. Or, to mention Stone again, the story of Michelangelo has the greatest title that an artist can expect….The Agony and the Ecstasy

    Breathe and consider the mystery

  18. I’ve found taking pictures with my iPhone to be refreshing. There’s no getting hung up about technicalities. I take the picture. Apply some effects. And ask “do I like it?” If the answer is yes, I keep it. None of this over analyzing the image and spending hours in front of the computer trying to decide what final result I like… Though, sometimes I enjoy doing that as well : ) Changing it up when you can gets me back in the game I find.

  19. No matter what happens, you move forward. It’s not always simple to do, but it’s something we’re good at. Check out the book Darkness Visible, it’s a short read, but it helps you to understand you’re not alone. Thanks for the honesty David.

  20. When vision is not there or hard to be found my answer is to head to the mountains. A camp fire, running water, wildlife, the stars at night, no camera … just peace.

  21. David,

    You must be totally encouraged from all of the heart-felt advice being offered. I feel I would be.

    Have you ever tried to look at something intently by squinting your eyes to see better? Somehow the blurriness caused by squinting helps us to see better. I truly hope that the wine causes that level of better seeing.

    Curious, when you were young and had just started taking photos, do you recall a similar period or was it all just too much fun?

    Safe travels!

  22. David,

    I am following your posting for some time. I enjoyed your rants , inspiration and the none commercial push like many other blogs. I used few of your posting as a teaching moment with my son.
    Reading your posting this morning, wake-up the tennis coach and player that I am in afternoon. When my players or my self hit the wall and struggle with their game or strokes and start to lament that they are over with tennis I told them “Go back to the basic and work on new skills.” also I change environment by making then to play with different players even different gender.
    In photography last few week I had no inspiration and read the eBook “Close To Home” this remind me is where I started when I choose to do photography. After reading it, I look outside and saw the heavy dew and the fall color, I spend two hours photographing in my backyard and came back home with a good number of photos to work with.
    Change your environment, travel to different location like you did with Iceland. Ireland and Scotland are place I dream to go and if you choose to go to France and need a guide/driver contact me… 😉

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I am learning a lot with your blog.


  23. Suffering from a vision-breakdown is a miserable place to be for any creative person .. But maybe we just need to accept our minds need time to refresh, to realign … To refocus if you will!

  24. Perspectives are subjective; but vision on the other hand is measurable (eg blurred, pinhole, near sighted, etc). So, the assessment is that a simple misplaced focus is causing your ‘blurred vision’. This is why taking time to reflect helps us see the world more clearly. When all else fails, consider exploring vision correction options.

  25. Blurred Vision works! I’ve been doing lots of abstract, bokeh and water reflections this autumn. Happy Chillin’!

  26. “Can you imagine a songwriter doing a 365 Project where she has to crank out one song a day for a year?”

    Check out Ari Hest – Songs from 52, not quite 365, but pretty close, and pretty awesome.

  27. Would never suggest creative work is “easy.”
    Just the opposite, I know full well that one’s creativity must grow and mature over time, that one must put all of oneself into improving one’s craft/art. That you can never make excuses for shoddy work and although “perfection” is humanly impossible, one must still work towards it.

    I believe in a work ethic that demands that I continually learn, yet still, any block I have ever encountered just faded away when I go back to work, doing what I love to do. Creating is like “manna” to me, whether I’m up or I’m down.

    I’m not saying it works for everyone, but I do know it works for me. I’m also not saying if I’m down and I work that it makes everything all-right, but the quality of the work does not suffer….

  28. To Tom Kostes:

    You make creative work sound easy… without struggle life is less compelling… embrace the “gap” next time rather than “just go back to work.” Or attempt something bigger. Risk more… you will find your “block.”

  29. In my experience, creativity is a constant but the way it is expressed is not. I may experience a period where I express my creativity in photography, but this period can end suddenly. What I have seen that stops is not creativity itself, but only how I express it in photography. So when the creative river doesn’t flow through photography, I search for where it does flow at that time. For me, this can be writing, language study, reading or cooking. Usually, when my photography is down, I come up with the most delicious dishes or make great advances in studying Spanish – and vice versa. The most important is to recognize that creativity isn’t necessarily flowing where you want it and don’t get hung up on it! Putting aside the camera has always been a valuable alternative for me, because I know that the time comes back that I will pick it up again, and when I do so, it will always “flow stronger” then before.

  30. Sometimes The Muses speak quietly or from unexpected places.

    I will think harmonious and inspiring thoughts for you.

    Travel safely.

  31. I can honestly say that in many years of artistic life, in several mediums, I have never had a creative block.

    When feeling down or empty, I simply go back to work and soon I’ve forgotten whatever malady that was bothering me.

    Work has always been a great healer for me, personally, so while I can sympathize, I can’t really relate to the suffering caused by the creative gap.

    Having talked to others over the years, their seems to be others like me, as well.

    Now, I hope I haven’t jinxed myself! 😉

  32. It’s when I try the hardest that I am the least successful. When I relax my mind the images and feeling begin to show themselves and I feel invigorated once more.

  33. I don’t know if this has got anything to do with it, but a wise person said (maybe it even was you) that one should stop looking at other people’s pictures and just concentrate on your own. Why I say this? We see so many pictures every day from pros and amateurs alike that it becomes difficult to see the value in what one does. I sometimes ask myself treatcherously why I should take a certain picture: There are better people out there who’ve shot the same image before me, in the same spot, so why should I? I also look at all the great images in my own Aperture 3.1 photo bank and ask myself why I should take new pictures before I do anything with the ones I’ve already got. These kinds of thoughts zap the creativity and vision out of my own picture taking, and it bugs me. May I be on to something?

  34. Finding vision? More like, remove the things that I use to capture/define it. Until I have seen a few things that have grabbed me and pulled at my guts with a desire to tell the story, not “make a pretty/nice/compelling photograph”. It has to start coming from the non-visual Id (thank you uncle Sigmund) and flow out from there. If not, I am simply making sure I am in a good location with a nice background and have the ability to know what a nice expensive piece of glass will do for my image at the right time, or if I’m unsure, spray at 8fps and do a lot of deleting…

  35. There are many parallels between photography and writing, and one of the strongest is the impact of inspiration on creativity. It is easy to write (photograph) well when we are inspired and very hard to when we are not. The thing about creativity is that it is like a muscle. If we don’t exercise it regularly it atrophies and weakens and when we need it it won’t be there.

    So, my response to creative dry spells is two-fold. First, I’ll write (photograph) even if I don’t feel particularly inspired. This means I create a lot of less than great stuff(which stay safely on my computer), but when the muse comes back I am ready! Secondly, to take some of the pressure to create away I’ll do something else I enjoy like read, exercise, go to a movie or ride my motorcycle.

    Great blog, looking forward to the next e-book.

  36. What to do when vision takes a walk? I always have boring humdrum stuff that needs to get done – stuff like adding more keywords to my photos, other maintenance stuff that gets me looking at the photos but not necessarily developing them, like organizing them to create a slide show. I often find that when I look at the photos and i’m not it creative overdrive I will see a spot here or there, or a color that bothers me that I can go back and fix, and then, voila, I’m in the driver’s seat again.

  37. The Chinese say that one should practice for 9 days and read for one. Most Westerners read for 9 and practice for one. When I’ve lost my way, I go out for a long walk or hike without my camera and “practice” seeing. I almost always find numerous images I want to go back to!

  38. David: Glad you got a break. I think it’s healthy. We all have those “down” times and then, when we least expect it, something or someone sparks the flame again. Hang in there and take care in Bosnia. – C.J.

  39. David
    A photographer I have great respect for in his photography and his written word said: “After all, using the term vision as metaphor for visual perception is not terribly clever. Perhaps we should go straight to it and call it what it is – opinion, thought, viewpoint (oops, another visual reference.) Ok, hang it all, I’m going back to the obvious stuff, heck I’m just going to restate it in different words. Don’t show me what you see. Show me how you see it.”

    Vision is an integral part of ones craft.

    Have a safe and successful trip.

  40. i agree with some of the above posts, reading can be very helpful, even if it just relaxes your brain or puts it into a different gear to open up the flow of inspiration.

  41. I’m lucky. I’m an amateur. I don’t have deadlines and clients and schedules. When I’ve lost my vision I can just step away from photography. It’s unsually not long until something sparks the fire again. Usually it comes from looking at someone else’s work. I see an intriguing photo that moves me in some way. I enjoy the photo for what it is, beautiful, moving, provacative, art, and then the photographer in me kicks in. “How was this done?” “How can I recreate this?” “What can I learn from this?” Before long I’m off to recreate, learn, refine and adapt.

  42. funny, I was following a thread on Twitter from someone who’d heard the word vision one too many times. To him “vision” is mystical, ethereal, and quasi-religious. I understood his point and laughed when he wrote that it’s presumptuous to have vision. But my favorite contribution to the thread was this:
    “Would it have had the same impact had M.L. King said I have an OBJECTIVE. I don’t think so.”

    Perhaps vision is the wrong word, but there has to be some way of describing the deep understanding of Steve Jobs when envisioned the computer being personal and Fred Smith when he created FedEx and changed the way packages move around the world.

    the muse seems mystical, mythical, …until it shows up for you.

    Creativity isn’t realistic or practical. Creating requires faith. Not faith as in religion, faith as in confidence that something good will come of it.

    David, you wrote awhile back about the importance of working with raw materials.

    Scott Belsky wrote a great article about the importance of “sacred space.” It’s worth a read –

    Maybe we need to step away from the noise and the naysayers and spend time working with raw materials in a sacred space.

  43. I’m glad to hear you say “lighten up” – it’s exactly what I think is called for. Be present, be aware, be open, and then just let things happen. You may be surprised at the results. Be a human being rather than a human doing.

  44. I think everyone, if they can be honest, lose sight of their vision from time to time – I was in that funk too. It’s hard to maintain your vision at all times, when you are living life- there are so many external factors. There are things that disappoint you, and with that, makes it harder to have the self confidence and courage to always hold onto your vision. And there are things that happen in your life that kick you back into gear. I agree with a previous post though – when I lose some of my vision, I pick up some books and start reading. Or I take my camera out (that sometimes doesn’t get used enough for my own personal use) and shoot something I normally don’t shoot – I discover a different technique, like the Harris Effect on Flickr, and start experimenting, just for fun. Even when what I’m shooting may be out of my normal comfort zone. Then I find myself, and my vision once again…vision, she can be an elusive muse…

  45. “So what do you do when you can’t find your vision”?

    I’ll do something else thats creative. Basically, that means switching mediums but I’m still creating. To me it feels like It forces me to look differently at what I do. If I just lull and do nothing, I feel hollow.

  46. I often dig (and read) through books I, otherwise would not normally read. I always learn something new and usually the AH HA moment kicks in. As a private pilot, I also take short flights to change perspectives or for a vision re-fill 🙂

    Good post David.

  47. When I was having trouble convincing myself to get out and shoot, let alone find compelling compositions in the field, I set up a new project. I chose an area that was important to me from a natural perspective and decided to begin capturing it through my camera. Now when I feel like I really dont want to just get up and shoot a sunrise in the mountains, I know I can go back to my project and just work on the little things there. It seems to have worked (a bit anyways 😉 )

  48. For me, the photography represents my feelings and it’s just one way of expressing myself as art usually is. Vision is just an expression of this process turning feelings into something you are proud of and that you got that out of your system. As feelings are always more than words, vision is the way you express them better. So I think it’s good to highlight the vision, just not forgetting what is about. It presents the way of expressing oneself.

  49. David,

    It’s good to see that you are not holding fast to your previous words and that you can constantly change in order to improve yourself and the community.

    As far as re-finding one’s vision goes, in your ebooks “The Inspired Eye” Vol. 1 and 2, you mention that one constantly has to have input in order to have an output that is desirable. So, that’s exactly what I do. When I’m struggling with my vision, I go and find some input, some inspiration. Whether it is a movie, a painting, a symphony, or a ballet, it’s always insightful and inspiring to see someone express themselves through the arts.

  50. I’ve read your posts when my vision is astray.

    I also find Chris Orwig a very inspirational guy and Visual Poetry is a great book. A bunch of great assignments to help an individual find their vision.

    But many times I just shoot. I take the camera and shoot whatever I can. Sometimes I come home with nothing, other times I capture some great shots…ones that make me say “Wow, I’m glad I had my camera with me.”

    I wonder how many of those photographs I’ve missed with the camera at home?

  51. We all have times when our enthusiasm wanes. I’m in a bit of a funk lately too. Maybe it’s the season. When I’m in sync with my muse I can get really fired up but inevitably I’ll hit a point when I wonder why I’m doing this. It usually revolves around the reactions of others. Although I enjoy my own images and I tell friends that I regard them like Scrooge McDuck’s money bin, something to wallow and frolic in, there is also a strong urge to share the pleasure with others. If their response is muted, it tends to dampen my own enthusiasm, to make me question whether or how I failed to communicate. That can be a good thing for improving my images but it is also true that the digital photo revolution is a mixed blessing in that the number of photos out there has exploded and I believe the result is that much of the public has become jaded to the point that they no longer recognize quality images.

  52. @Bernie: I think there doesn’t have to be a split at all if you don’t use the word ‘want’. As for number one, we shouldn’t worry about what we might ‘want’ to say, we should simply say what we ‘have’ to say about the subject in front of us. And doing so consistently will automatically take care of number two: in the long run our work will come to reflect how we see the world (i.e. our vision)

    I don’t see vision as a ‘meta’ thing, rather as a ‘be and do’ thing (if that makes sense at all). In my view true artistry is about naive authenticity more than about the careful construction and projection of an image. An artist with a pre-conceived business plan sort of makes me wary…

    Unless we’re talking about commercial photography of course (in the sense of ‘pleasing clients’), then a business plan and an image are probably requisite. But in that case the word ‘art’ doesn’t seem appropriate anymore either…

  53. Turn off the voices of doubt. Shoot without thinking about results. Take out the memory card, and just shoot because it feels right. Don’t look at the histogram. Don’t set the shutter speed. Just fire the shutter.

    Odds are good that a few minutes spent shooting “blanks” will make you see something you want the film or memory card for.

  54. Brilliant post, David! Maybe vision has faded for a while, but your honesty and integrity are unwavering. Love reading your stuff!

  55. I hate for my first comment here to be a negative one as I really like much of what you do and say. I loved the Creative Live thing for instance.

    But…. I think we need to have at least two words to do the work of two words rather than just the one, vision. It’s awfulconfusin.

    One of the words is about what you want to say about the subject in front of you right now. The other is about what you want your work to be about in a certain period of time.

    It seems to me to be very hard to lose the first one and remarkably easy to use the second.

  56. @Duncan: I don’t think vision is an endpoint you can try to reach. It is not something you can ‘find’ or ‘lose’, it is rather a continuous process of discovery, it is ‘the way you search and the stuff you find along the way’.

    And in that sense it’s way overrated by people who turn it into some kind of ‘holy grail’ of artistry, the ultimate ‘proof’ of being a real ‘artist’. Blahblah 😀

  57. The comparison to sculptors and songwriters is spot on I think (and you can expand that to all of the arts). Anyone can buy a chisel and a block of marble, yet chisels and marble are not big business like digital cameras are. Why not? Simple: Anyone can see that once you have your chisel and marble, the real work begins. And chiseling is obviously hard work, and after the hard work is spent, it is far from obvious that the result will be even a bit worthwhile. Nobody is fooled into believing that sculpting is easy – it looks exactly like what it actually is in reality: a lot of hard work with scant returns.

    Digital cameras however give the impression that art is easy – just press the button and you have at least a passable result. Anyone can be a photographer, anyone can be a ‘pro’ (I recently read an article that professed exactly that: that all you need to become a ‘pro’ is a ‘pro’ camera). The advent of affordable DSLRs and the ‘technologizing’ (if that is a word) of the craft has created the impression that art can be attained without the hard labour, without the blood, sweat and tears. The camera and computer do all the hard work, you just have to push a button and click a mouse and you’re done.

    But of course that is not true. Art is hard labour, and it involves a craft that takes not only talent but also years and years (and years and years) of hard work and practice to perfect. It’s a journey of ups and downs, of peaks and ravines, through sunny meadows and impenetrable thicket. It is bound to make you weary, it is difficult and tiresome, it leaves scars and bruises and in the end it will kill you, but along the way it may (‘may’, not ‘will’) surprise you with spurs of burning passion and moments of glorious exaltation and achievement.

    If you embark on a trip, you’d better prepare to do some walking. The real art is to enjoy the lows and the labour, and to embrace the rut you may find yourself in, because it is part of the very road that can take you higher. There’s only one way to get out of a ravine: keep walking 😉

  58. i think you might be mixing some stuff up (?) as far as i understand it vision is some longterm way of seeing things/the world. it’s the way you want to have your world organized … well i have to make my point different … for example – the housekeeper comes into a messy room and has the vision, what the room “has to look like”. and then she goes to work to make it that way. so after neaten up lots of rooms she gets tired and needs some rest. or maybe she needs to find a solution for making things a little different (to keep things neat for longer for example). but she doesnt loose her vision just because she feels tired or everything is the way she feels it has to be.

    i think no one can loose vision*. but one can run out of the stuff to project the vision onto or need some rest from doing so. and sometimes one needs to adjust the vision to make things somehow better (or different).

    * as vision (in my humble opinion) is the way you see the world and your ideas of how the world “has to be” – you never ever can lose that! you can lose the drive to act opon it or you can lose motivation to pay attention to your vision (like when you brush your teeth you don’t pay attention to the way you brush because its allways the same – but its still there).

    cheers 🙂

  59. To paraphrase Kenny Werner; remove the dream of trying to play what you wish you could play and learn to love what you can play.

    As a musician it took me close to half a lifetime to learn to separate the expression of music from the quest to grow one’s musical ability. All sorts of ugly things happen, emotionally and artistically when the two get mixed up.

    For me creative flow always feels connected to surrender and acceptance and love for things it is within my power to create. Thinking back to that little lake near Tso Moriri, I don’t remember all the decisions I made, but man, was I swapping filters and settings! I was just resigned to everything, from the dirt on my clothes, the pain in my head, or the relentless beauty of the place.

  60. I’m not an artist, but come on. As if it’s only the artist that suffers from a dry spell. However, it seems that the artist needs to “share” about that all the time. Vision? Make nice pictures please.

  61. Sitting here in the wee hours looking at a quote on my office wall. Seems apropos…

    “I am a man of passion; absorbed in color. Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination. Look for light and freedom.

    “Keep something of your original character, for otherwise on has no root in oneself. It is wise to do so, for life is short and time passes quickly. one must never let the fire go out in one’s soul but keep it burning.”

    That seems to affirm shooting eyes closed and heart open, drinking that glass of wine, and relishing all the delirious moments of shutter serendipity.

    And I remind myself, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”


  62. Pingback: David duChemin: Blurred vision « oodles of David's thoughts

  63. It’s amazing how you manage to crank out these ebooks without losing your mind, let alone your vision. Keep up the great work, looking forward to the next ebook.

  64. Move vision to the back end. Go out with nothing in mind, and just shoot what you find interesting, not things that fit into whatever templates you have epoxied to your eyes. Just have fun. When you’re finished, sit on the shots for a few days, then look at them to see what you were feeling. You may be surprised.

  65. Yep, I’m there too.. I had a lot going on in my personal life over the last year and then went back to my demanding non-photography job, so was just getting burnt out on everything.

    In this time I have been reading. Reading – some photography books (.i.e “Vision Mongers” 🙂 , others not, enjoying photography and art websites. I’m not looking for a vision or inspiration, but just enjoying them for the amazing art that they are.

    … Its coming back.. Just last night I was looking for a family photo and went back and started looking at my work… Images I shot over the last few months that I didn’t think were that great when I first shot them, I have started to like again and want to get back into post production asap on these.

    So that was the long version.. the short… ya, me too 🙂

  66. What about putting down the “big” cameras for a while and take an art class? Or a ceramics class? Or learn to blow glass…keep a point-n-shoot with you, but maybe some time away from the viewfinder and an alternate creative expression may help.

  67. If you feel stale or tired… take a break. We all need to re-charge our energy and “vision” from time to time. We just need to know when to take a break or “stir the paint” before frustration gets the better part of us.

  68. I can imagine what you are talking about and I’m glad that you mentioned this. My own problem is to find time to pick up that camera. Most often when I do it’s on the way to kids’ soccer game or a birthday party.

    It’s only this much more frustrating when I do find myself alone, with the camera, and it doesn’t feel like a right time.

    I’m glad you don’t show up here more often. If you did, it could get too boring too soon. There are plenty of daily subscriptions that eventually just become junk mail that no one reads, because it’s a rear stretch for a writer to come up with something interesting to day daily. On the day that their muse doesn’t show up you read their words to wonder why you bother.

    You do this the right way.

  69. There’s a common phrase in Chinese that roughly translates to “Don’t think too much”. The longer I live in Asia, the truer it rings. Vision itself is probably not the problem, it’s the (over)analyzing of vision and trying to fit your vision to someone else’s expectations.

    On one level, you are known as a humanitarian world photographer, and that in itself carries its own baggage. If you were to post photos of, say, hyperreal HDR of Vancouver or a bride tossing a bouquet, some people would more than likely question you about it because it doesn’t fit their (preconceived) vision of what you are. Yet if you wake up one day and feel that you want to go and shoot hyperreal HDR or brides and bouquets, just do it. Don’t think. For that matter, if you wake up one day and decide you want to learn to play the complete works of Jimi Hendrix on a tuba, why not? It’s all creativity.

    I guess that’s all a roundabout way of saying to simply do whatever you want. 🙂

  70. I like Sean’s comment “You have to exercise the craft for the art to come”. As you have written in your book and you elude to it in the article above, other artists toil away, practicing their craft till something catches their heart. The concepts, techniques practiced over time bring these heart murmors together to form a piece of art that the artist then hopes conveys something of the feeling or concept he wishes to express.

  71. In some ways I’m lucky – photography is not my only creative medium. When things hit a wall in one outlet, switching my focus to another often helps the juices start flowing again. But even so, sometimes nothing feels right. Everything is flat and empty. When that happens, it’s a sign that I need to stop and spend time with family and friends and by myself and recharge – no pressure to create anything. Sometimes I only need a few days, but sometimes it takes a few months. But it always comes back. Always. You learn to trust that after a while and not worry about it. And yes, chilling with a glass of wine and nothing on your mind often helps 🙂

  72. Timely post for me David. J ust getting over a lull period and am involved in a project. When I hit the blank times I usually set the camera aside. I’ll recharge by just enjoying my family/kids minus a camera, reading a book for enjoyment (I.e. Not related to photography). Overall, I am trying to learn not to stress about it and to not put undue pressure on myself. To have fun.

    Safe travels.

  73. Go on a badass trip somewhere new.

    Don’t try to find your old vision; find a new one. Completely change what you’re photographing – if you shoot a lot of studio model stuff, change it up and shoot some landscapes. Or do some wildflower macro shots. If you normally photograph world cultures, go shoot some professional sports portraits.

    Find a smoking hot girl and photograph her. That always fills my vision cup 🙂

  74. I like the rule of opposite – whatever is your instinct, do the exact opposite. Or at least start with the opposite and work it from there into something cool. Example: Need a scene setter? Traditionally you’d pull out your wide lens. Instead use the largest telephoto you have and get super far away.

  75. Funny, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, too. Not that I’ve lost mine, but that we put so much empahsis on leading purpose-driven lives (even purpose-driven photography lives). Sometimes, I think, we need to stop worrying about why and get back in touch with simply being. Pick up the camera, just because it’s fun or it’s there and just be with it for awhile — without trying to transcend. When we stop trying so hard, that’s when the magic happens.

  76. Sometimes you see things, sometimes you experience things, sometimes you learn things… and sometimes you see nothing. That’s called rest.

  77. I would tend to agree with the “Screw Vision” guy… When I have trouble finding my ‘vision’, I tend to try to shoot something totally contrary to my last iteration of ‘vision’. Say I just shot a series of lanscapes, I might go overboard on ultra-scientific subjects (with equally scientific logic in setting up my gear), just to see what it does. Sometimes being completely counter to my own vision helps to inspire me in moving forward and possibly altering my vision, rather than clinging to what I know.

    Still, good luck with finding yours, and enjoy Bosnia! It’s a beautiful country 😉

  78. David,

    It is refreshing to read you say “I’m almost at the point where I’ve heard the word ‘vision’ come out of my mouth one too many times.” To be honest, while I enjoy reading your writings, I’ve felt like you’ve focused on the concept of vision to the exclusion of other great ideas that surround photography and art. Perhaps one way to find a new “vision” is to ponder, delve into, and explore other unifying ideas. This would bring a richer repertoire to your discussions and avoid the sense that you have a single message, which sometimes can come across. Sometimes I feel like you are saying the same things over again. You are a deep thinker and I would love to see you branch out more.

    Good luck on your journey.

  79. “So what do you do when you can’t find your vision”?

    Take out a rangefinder (I use a G100, turn off the LCD screen, and shoot blind, never raising the camera up to your eye.

    You’ll be amazed at what you get.

  80. Nothing like getting out there to make it happen.. Bit like in the War of Art where Pressfield talks about Maugham getting up at 9am to find the muse 🙂

    A break in the weather meant that a trip to Connemara netted me 14 new images I really like on Sunday.

    You have to exercise the craft for the art to come.

  81. I’m a bit on the side of the guide with the “Screw Vision” opinion. I’ve alread written a shot blog post recently about The Muse recently.

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