No motivation to photograph
Lately I have been selling off all my Sony gear (1 camera and 8 lenses plus accessories). And I’ve even considered selling my Leica equipment. A few months ago I already sold the one camera that I was never supposed to sell, my black paint Leica MP that I owned for almost five years. I currently have a M10-P with about 300 clicks on the shutter and two lenses: Summicron 35mm ASPH and APO-Summicron 50mm ASPH. But lately I have started considering if I should let them go as well. I already have an offer for the 35mm Summicron, and my APO is listed for sale to check interest (which seems rather low).
In the last months I have had zero motivation to photograph. I invested in a large Sony kit with GM lenses that covered the focal range of 16mm to 400mm, as well as many primes. I also invested in a proper camera backpack (Shimoda Explore 40), a sturdy weatherproof tripod, and quality filters (Breakthrough Photography and Formatt-Hitech). I was ready for some serious landscape photography adventures, and I had all the bits of the kit that I would need. I even have a car that can take me anywhere – A Toyota Land Cruiser with all-weather tires and an aftermarket suspension setup that increases ride height and stability. I live in Norway, and I have landscapes, mountains, forests, hour-long golden hours, the northern lights, dramatically changing seasons and beautiful nature all right outside my doorstep.
I can count the few times that I went out to seriously photograph during the last two years on one hand. The tripod has been properly used only a couple of times. The filters has just been more or less tested. And most of the images I’ve made has been made during the bright mid-day sun, as I absolutely hate getting up early enough to witness the sunrise, and I don’t like hiking around in the darkness to be able to catch the sunset. I guess I’m not much of a landscape photographer. It’s just too much hassle and too much gear to cart around. And I don’t like the working-hours, and my day-job also prevents it.
I do like nature photography a lot. I have an addiction to photographing trees, vegetation, forests and woodlands. Especially in beautiful backlit sunlight or while there is some fog to be seen. But I do not like carting around a big and heavy backpack full of gear to make these types of pictures. 99% of my woodland images are made handheld – mostly with my Leica and a 35mm or 50mm lens, and nothing else. When using my Leica I only bring the camera with one lens attached. The other lens stays at home, as I don’t enjoy the extra weight and the flip-flopping back and forward between lenses in the field. It just takes focus away from the actual image making process.
After almost two years of ownership, I decided to sell off my entire Sony setup. It was the perfect landscape photography setup, with excellent lenses that covered everything between 16-400mm. I had the best filters for the lenses, and a really sturdy and waterproof tripod. I had the photography apps on my phone, that could show me where and when the sun would rise, and set, and where I would get golden hour and all that stuff. After purchasing the apps I never used any of them. Not once. I spent so much time putting together the perfect kit, that when I actually had finalised the kit, I had grown completely tired of it, and had zero motivation to use it, and more disturbingly, no ideas of what to photograph.
I also have a love-hate relationship with nature. I absolutely love nature, and the idea of hiking in nature. The calm that nature provides me is exactly what my mind needs after working nine to five in technology on a daily basis. But I have developed a serious anxiety against ticks, of all things. It’s an anxiety that I’ve tried to deal with in many ways for a while now, but I can’t shake it and become comfortable with it. Permethrin socks, permethrin spray on clothes, eating garlic and onions, lemon based shampoo and soaps, several layers of socks with my hiking pants sandwiched between them, and so on and so on. Never walking in high grass, and staying out of areas in the forest that are swampy, soggy, wet and always in shadows, as that is usually a breeding ground for ticks. The only season I’m actually quite comfortable photographing nature is in the freezing winter, after the snow has arrived, and when the ground is frozen solid. As in, a real cold Scandinavian winter. Spring, summer and fall are seasons I’m not so comfortable with, where I strictly stay to the beaten path to avoid the risk of dealing with these tiny nasty creatures.
All in all, it doesn’t seem like landscape and nature photography is something that’s well suited for me, even though I do love nature.
Some years ago I always realised that street photography was becoming quite unsatisfying. I can’t really see what’s so interesting about strangers any more. A stranger in the street, walking, is supposed to be interesting? Really? I mean, sure, you can convert the photograph to high-contrast black and white, and make the image look striking with the help of some good light, processing and timing, but for me, the fact still remains… The image is boring, and the subject matter is not interesting. That makes the photograph dead to me. It might also be related to the fact that cities are generally stressful in my opinion. I prefer the calm of nature.
So, street photography is not a genre I particularly enjoy or am interested in any more either. It was fun for a few years, but then it become quite shallow and empty. There is so much nonsense street photography being posted on social media and photography websites these days, that I sure don’t want to contribute to watering out the genre even more than it already is.
Which leaves me with what genres of interest? I do, for some reason, like to photograph architecture, shapes and light. I don’t know why, but I do. I don’t like to make these photographs very technical however. I make the images hand-held with a prime. I don’t enjoy using a tripod and the necessary equipment to get the image technically perfect. It’s simply too tedious to haul around a lot of equipment. It’s not like I’m making money of my photography. It1s simply an expensive hobby that is a monetary loss in all imaginable ways. And it’s also very time consuming. And time has a value that is far greater than money.
But what is the purpose of photographing a door entrance? Or photographing beautiful light hitting a wall? Or the texture of snow in the sunlight? A lot of these images are, in my eyes, beautiful pictures. But I know that most people, except me, see the pictures as empty and dead. Nice composition, nice light, nice scene overall, but empty, no main subject, and thus a dead picture. Why am I running around making dead pictures with a $15.000 camera setup? What’s the point? Is it to feed my own personal ego or something? I get absolutely zero sense of accomplishment by making these images. If anything, making these images has become frustrating, as I know they won’t be useful for anything. Maybe they will be useful for historical reasons after my death? But then again, what the hell kind of crazy goal is that?! It sounds stupid because it is stupid!
So in essence, I don’t see the point of my photography any more. I have recently deleted mostly all of my images, and my entire Lightroom catalog now consists of about 5000 images in total, that spans the last ten years. That’s not a lot… And I’m still doing passes on them and deleting an image here and there, as I don’t see any point of having it. Someone else would maybe have been happy with all the images I’ve deleted, and would have loved to post them online or print them. I’m tired of dealing with images that don’t go anywhere. It’s just a lot of work for no purpose.
I’m not done with photography however. It’s an activity that’s grown and become a part of me. I am a photographer, and always will be. But I need to find the purpose of my photographs. And until I do, I feel I need to take a break.
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
Taking a break from it all doesn’t harm, you’ll come back as a better and more inspired photographer! You’re talented so go out there and show your work, be it on social media, local exhibitions or photo clubs.
Thanks George Taking a break can indeed be re-energizing.
I had visited your website months and years ago and ended up here today after reading a prior online post of yours. (Also, we traded a few messages on LUF or RFF years ago.)
Anyway, from seeing your work and reading your posts over the years, I am not at all surprised that you are unenthusiastic about your Sony mega setup. In fact, getting that setup together and then finding it to be unfitting may, in part, be the source of your current photographic malaise and lack of related inspiration. I always saw you as a photographic minimalist, with an M and a lens or two or with a Q or an Rx1r—not an expansive major camera system with Sony bodies, lots of lenses, tripods, and gizmos. Such a setup would be counter to how I see and want to experience photography—and I sensed that such would be the case for you, too.
There may well be other aspects of life that have fostered your current situation, and such may be even more important to the feelings that you have expressed explicitly and implicitly above.
For what it’s worth, I’d recommend that you hang onto your Leica gear. Continue the break that you’re on and let photography find its way back to you. I bet it will. You have a wonderful eye for form and light (whether in cities or nature) and (I’d guess) will come to miss the creativity, intellectualism, exploration, and calm that photography can bring. As you know, that’s the apex of what photography can be for the vast majority of us “photography enthusiasts.”
Thanks for your kind words Ramosa. I’m currently considering a Leica Q2. I don’t own a single piece of Leica gear any more. I own a Nikon Z7 and a 24-70 2.8 S, which is a fantastic kit. But I only use it for certain nature and landscape photography. It mostly stays in the camera backpack until I take a photo trip.
It is good to get your response and interesting to see your photography evolution. It’s also interesting to see how I have evolved since I left my first message here. Since then, I purchased a Leica Q-P and am in the process of selling off all of my Leica M gear (body + lenses). Anyway, I hope you’re doing well and working some magic with whatever camera you have in hand!
Doing well here, considering the current situation of the world. I only have a Fujifilm X100V now, and I’m enjoying the limitations and simplicity of that.
You write your best when you are at the end of your photographic rope! :).
Well said! I completely followed through with your feelings expressed here!
As always I have some gear to liquidate because I just don’t “need” it and like you my latest is the X100V as well and I too am enjoying the limitations and simplicity of it! I might even pretend to make it my camera for a year 🙂 (lol)
Be well and be encouraged,
I just found your website. Your photography is beautiful. But if you’re not enjoying it . . .
Hoping you find your way back. I still refer to your blog, even rereading many of the articles, some five years later (the Leica MP).
Else, I hope you’re well.
I miss reading your articles and your honest insight! Hope you are doing well my friend.
Q2 Monochrom 😉
Hi Børge, I must congratulate you. It sounds like you reached deeper insight and elevated yourself from headless path of creative fluff. I have been shooting all my life, went to filmschool, worked as AD etc etc – always in creative fields, until I came to more or less the same conclusion. Now in my 40s I changed profession altogether and picked up painting, a different challenge and forced change of perception but perhaps with the best realisation – photography doesn’t necessarily represent truth. It is obvious to me most people are too stuck in preconceived perceptions (of life) for which they are happily spending time and money only to suppress the ever so painful truth, that is the anxiety of mortality. I do not wish to talk about religion, but it is definitely a spiritual awakening to fully realise it. With everything said, I wish you good luck on your journey. PS. Please note the irony how I found your site looking for Leica photos Regards, K
Hi Borge, sounds like you’re suffering from too much camera acquisition!
I live in Bermuda and have been making photographs for years, first film and then like most people, I got caught up in the digital age.
I’m in my 70s now and wonder where all the years have gone !
Having retired some years ago I started photographing this beautiful island and selling pretty prints to visitors. I got some satisfaction from this and made a little money. All the images were taken with various Leica digital cameras and processed and printed by me.
After some years of this and thousands of images, I find I’m becoming jaded by the whole process.
Before digital, back in the 70s and 80s I had an M6 and sold it and started acquiring all sorts of fancy digital cameras. But recently I went back to film! I’ve been shooting Tri X and HP5 and developing it myself and scanning to Lightroom and printing my best images. I am enjoying this process much more than I ever did with all my digital stuff so I’m selling the lot and buying a Leica MP !
The whole process of film from capturing the image to printing something that you can hold in your hand or give to friends and family is very satisfying and motivates me to keep being creative.
Maybe you should do the same?
(I came upon your site as I was looking for reviews on the Leica MP. Great article and images)
Awaiting your return 🙂
Hi David. Thanks, but I don’t even have a camera these days. But at some point, who knows 🙂