Sometimes I’m just not in the right mood for photography, and I come home and look at the photos and think there’s nothing worth keeping. This is what happened about two years ago, when I was coming to the end of my photographic block, but hadn’t quite got into the creative flow of things as yet.
I went for a walk along the River Trent. I didn’t feel like taking my camera – couldn’t be bothered carrying its weight and didn’t think I’d feel like taking photos anyway – but I thought I should make the effort and so I compromised by taking my Fuji compact instead. It was a bad decision. I really hate taking photographs on a compact, mainly because it has no viewfinder and as far as I’m concerned a viewfinder is one of life’s essentials. Squinting to see the screen in bright daylight through spectacles designed for long distance vision makes me cross, and having to hold a lightweight camera away from my body makes it frustratingly difficult to get a steady shot. The compact doesn’t have an option for RAW shooting either, and since I discovered what a difference the extra data can make sometimes, I feel short-changed when I shoot jpegs.
It’s sod’s law that if you don’t have your chosen camera with you then that’s when you’ll see lots of things you want to shoot. Almost against my will I got fascinated by the reflections and patterns and little bits of floating weed in the river water and made lots of pictures, feeling frustrated all the while by knowing what my DSLR could do compared with the compact I was having to use. I didn’t quite make it into my usual creative flow state, where I get so absorbed that it’s like a meditation. I came home feeling mildly irritated, and when I put the images up on the screen I didn’t like them. I processed one or two but they seemed uninteresting and full of faults to me and I soon abandoned the exercise.
Now and again I go back through file folders full of old shots, and it always surprises me that I find what seem like perfectly OK images to me now, that I dismissed as lacking or simply didn’t notice at the time. Yesterday I revisited the pictures I took that day, and found a lot more merit in them than I did then. I processed the best of them, cropping them all into squares as it seemed to work well, and here they are. Not the best photos I’ve ever taken, but I like them now and find it fascinating that on one day, in one small stretch of river, there was such a multitude of variations in colour, light and pattern.
It seems to me that it pays to go back and reconsider old stuff. Sometimes being in a difficult mood when you take them can warp your perceptions, and sometimes – if you go back far enough – you find that your visual sophistication has increased during the time you’ve been away and you can see something in them that you simply weren’t capable of doing before. It’s a great argument against over zealous decluttering of photo files. Have you ever found buried treasure in your old files?