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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

The one thing holding my creative photography back

I avoided clearing the layer of snow and ice that blanketed my Jeep Grand Cherokee for most of the day.

Come late-afternoon, though, when I'd plowed through my to-do list and no more excuses, I grabbed my down jacket, braved the polar temperatures, and started to brush last night's storm off the SUV.

As I did so, I noticed the weather forecasters got something wrong.

The cloud cover, which was suppose to remain all day and into the night, began to break up, allowing pale golden light to pierce the sky and invite us out into the frozen but gorgeous winter landscape around our homes.

And so with just 90 minutes of available light, I grabbed my Canon camera, a few lenses, some cold weather clothes, and took off to the countryside that's near my home in Lancaster County. It was time for a light chase.

A church stands amidst snow during a purple, pink, and blue sunset
Bethesda United Methodist Church and the surrounding cemetery glowed in the snow and sunset.

And the sunset did not let me down. Whatever magic is in the atmosphere and the tilt of the Earth, it went into a spectacular light show, from dazzling clouds on fire to a placid blue, pink, and purple.

You'd think I oughta be thrilled with the image opportunities. And I was. However ...

It was the drive home, when I found myself doing something I tend to do after every shoot. I mentally flogged myself for a sin I keep repeating over and over and over again.

I didn't take my time.

What holds you back as a photographer? What mistake or mistakes do you make over and over again? Or is it a bad habit? Something that keeps you from rising and seizing your full creative potential?

For me, I believe, it's about patience (or the lack there of).

Whenever I find myself traveling or driving around my home, looking for great photos, when I find them, something bursts inside of me. It's a creative fireball, a volcanic eruption of adrenaline or dopamine or a cocktail of both.

A snow covered farm at sunset.
A farm in southern Lancaster County, Pa., sits beneath a glorious winter sunset.

I rush out. Handle the camera. Check the settings. Fire away. Almost all of it entirely on instinct.

When it's done, and I've driven away, I realize how, by being hyper present with the camera and making images, I'm actually less-than present with the scene.

I don't "work the scene," in other words. I don't allow myself to be in its presence. I don't take my time, walk around, change lenses, change angles, change focal length, all the things that can lead to creating multiple publishable images.

Just as fast as the eruption of creative fire bursts forward, it's as if it flames out. More a meteor than a long burning candle.

Somewhere along the line, this became habitual. Maybe it was all those days, especially on vacation, when if you wanted to make a creative photo of your child or children, you needed to do it fast.

Being a Dad and husband comes first, not your need to make an amazing image of your child, and so clickclickclick, then get back to reality.

I dunno. Maybe that's it. What I know is it's the bad habit I need to break. Maybe I should do a breathing exercise next time, which will force me to slow down and pace my creative self.

What do you think? Any ideas?

Dave Pidgeon is a seasoned photographer and writer. He lives in Lancaster, Pa. with his three sons.

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