Nothing Doing

11th March 2013
I haven't made a decent image for more than 2 months now. At the beginning of January I had a good trip with the camera down around Caherdaniel, getting a few images I was happy with, and one in particular that I really love. But things have been very quiet on the photography front since then.

The reason is straightforward; I'm living in suburbia (work commitments are keeping me in Cork at the moment). Natural landscape photography is difficult when you're surrounded by the hard edged skylines of housing estates and far-reaching views are closed in by concrete. I don't have much interest in photographing the city. It just doesn't really inspire me. Urban life has its advantages, but as a base for the kind of photography that I like it's fairly useless. Gone are the spontaneous trips to somewhere scenic on mornings and evenings when the weather looks promising. Having spent most of last year between Mayo and Clare I was spoiled by my proximity to mountains, beaches, lakes and coastline. Now I have to make a journey of an hour or more to get somewhere similar, and since a large share of trips out with a camera prove fruitless (the weather's to blame, not me!) that means a lot of wasted time, money and energy spent driving around. Having little or no new work to play with I've taken to trawling through the files of the past to see if there was anything I've missed...

Though it's been a disheartening few weeks with the camera it's brought some interesting thoughts to mind. I've spent plenty of time in the car wondering what I've been bothering for as unproductive hours build up and the fuel gauge goes down. It seems that the primary idea of heading out is to make photographs. But on days when it hardly seems worth opening up the camera bag is it still not enough to just spend time in a place? Would I make the effort to get to these places if I wasn't going to take photographs? When I lived in the countryside it didn't matter as much if I missed out on a good photography opportunity; the next time wouldn't be too far off. But now I'm wondering what my reason is for getting out of the city; is it because I want to be in these places or is it just because I want a photograph of these places? For me it seems, the two are very closely linked.

Just because an area might not lend itself to a striking photograph at a certain time doesn't mean it lacks its own intrinsic value. Time in the outdoors on a day that isn't suited to photography can still be brilliant. I sometimes feel bad for spending too much time obsessing over the camera and not paying more attention to the scene itself. Living a moment through a lens can bring great satisfaction but ultimately, if I had to chose between the two, just being in a place is better than looking at an image of it on a screen later. Ideally you can do both - experience the moment for what it is and still come away with a decent image. That's always the goal. But after frustrating attempts at escaping the city for photography it's sometimes hard to remember that places are still precious whether you've made an image there or not. I'll have to keep that in the front of my mind. And keep the hope that the weekends will be productive from here on in!

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