Thank God for pets.
Even those, like our youthful dog, Zoey, a cockapoo who remains resistant to learning the basics (like learning the family room is not where she should do her "business").
And our cat, Bailey, who just kinda sits there, unless he's hungry, at which point he lets you know he's hungry by either complaining or swiping with his unleashed front claws at your ankle.
Winters where we live (south-central Pennsylvania) are dull affairs. It's cold without purpose.
Ours are not idyllic New England winters with snow-covered mountains and skis decoratively hung above the fireplace.
Our winters, particularly this one, meander in shades of gray and brown, with little snow. It's mainly just a waiting game for the first fingertips of hyacinths to stretch out of the soil, signaling our wait is almost over.
So like I said, thank God for pets.
They can be a wonderful way to break out of the malaise.
I spent a Saturday morning picking up my Canon camera and EF 100-400mm zoom - a lens that stays largely packed away in winter because it only stops down to f/5.6 when maxed out at 400mm - and told our cockapoo that it was time to play.
Toss a tennis ball in the backyard. Let her chase after it like a furry Olympic sprinter. Wait for her to return with the ball in her mouth.
Joy. Pure joy.
Yet even though the situation might lend itself to two crucial elements to good photography (motion and emotion), there was light and shadow to consider.
The time of day was mid-morning. Harsh light. So what to do?
Light doesn't get much more harsh than that. And yet they've solved that puzzle.
My favorite images of theirs are when a sliver of the player - their face, a little uniform, their hat - is perfectly exposed while the rest is in dark shadow. Dramatic. Perfect exposure. Masterful.
Worthy to emulate in a backyard with mid-morning, mid-winter sun and a cockapoo.
I stopped down the exposure compensation to two stops below. That way I could expose Zoey and capture sharp detail of her facial fur, not worrying about anything else. Just want her face to be exposed.
And mercy it worked delightfully. Over and over again.
Later that morning I replaced the 100-400m with a 24-70mm, aiming the glass at our cat, Bailey. He just kinda sits there, you know? At best, he's mildly curious about what's going on around him.
Well, thankfully, our pets provided a little spark of creative inspiration.
What do you do to restart your creativity? When does it wane and what do you do to pull yourself out of that valley? I'd love to read about it in the comments.
Dave Pidgeon is a seasoned writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.