Forcing Creativity

In the last post for my 52-week project, I talked about the village of Heslington in York, and how it has changed since the introduction of the university campus. This week I’ve found myself in something of a creative rut. Ideas just haven’t been coming to me as easily as they normally do. On top of that, my uni work is really picking up, so even when I have had brief moments of inspiration, I haven’t had much time to act on them.

These last couple of days have been especially stressful, and the fact that I had very little outlet through photography made things worse. Yesterday I decided I had to force myself to go and shoot, even if I didn’t have any ideas.

Heslington Church, 01 (Flickr).jpg
Heslington Church, #01

The church in Heslington is on the route that I walk to campus every day, so yesterday I left an hour earlier than usual with my tripod and set up on the grass outside. This image was shot on a 15-second exposure, using a 10-stop ND filter, to blur the clouds and lend this shot of the unmoving church tower an element of motion. The harsh midday sun casts shadows which bring out the detail in the brickwork of the tower.

My day was fairly uneventful, and I was hoping to return to the church at sunset to capture some more dramatic clouds, but unfortunately the sunset was dull and uninspiring. I did manage to get one other image though, of a group of trees I saw on my walk home from campus.

Four Trees, University of York (Flickr).jpg
Four Trees, University of York

By this point most of the daylight had gone, and dusk was approaching quickly. I used my ND filter again to make this 3-minute exposure, blurring the clouds to give this shot a sense of motion, as with the church. What I like about this image is the way these trees are framed and grouped. You have three trees on the right, almost entangled with one another, and a lone fourth on the left, giving this image a sense of structure that I find really appealing.

Neither of these are by any means excellent images, but that’s not the point. Anyone who tells you that being creative is easy – that it’s a ‘gift’ that makes ideas flow through you like some kind of magical energy – is lying to you. Being creative is about forcing yourself to create at times when you don’t think you can. It’s a full-time job, and while I wouldn’t trade it for the world, that can make it stressful sometimes. The important thing to bear in mind is the end. When nothing else can, the search for that one beautiful image is what keeps me, and likely many others, going.

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