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on Nov 1, 2006 in Thought of the Month

What is a Rut? – 11.01.06

CT Graveyard

CT Graveyard
Photo captured by D200, 28f1.4 at 1.4 on Lexar digital film

The weather is bad, the camera is old, I don’t have the right lens, my computer is acting up, the light sucks, when I hear excuses like this for continually not shooting, it’s a sure sign the photographer is in a rut. What is a rut? In photographic terms, it’s when the creative juices aren’t flowing any more, the passion is on the verge of slipping away. Burn out in layman terms. It’s not a good thing.

Can this happen to anyone? You bet! I’ve seen it happen all to often to photographers who had lots of potential but for many reasons, were never able to live up to it. The books are full of images from great photographers who, in general terms, hit a rut and were never to dig themselves back out again. Do you exhibit the warning signs? Do you use any of the phrases, or a whole lot more, to justify why you’re not out shooting more than you should be? More importantly, how can you avoid getting in a rut?

I’ve personally never gotten into a rut, but pretty darn close a couple of occasions. The way I avoided the whole thing was to go out and buy a new lens. I than marry myself to that new lens, shoot everything with it until I knew it inside and out. I shot everything from my big toe to road kill, whatever got in front of the new lens was a target. No, great images didn’t come from the exercise, but opening my eyes & heart to new possibilities did come from the exercise. Avoiding getting in a rut was the most important aspect of the exercise.

Avoiding getting in a rut, or pulling yourself out of one I think is as simple as being totally silly with your camera and chase subjects you would never, ever regularly chase. Depending on how deep of a rut you might be in, you might have to play a little longer. Or, you might find the new fun is something to delve into with even greater zealous now you’re out of the rut. Does this work? There is only one person I’ve suggested this to over the years that it didn’t work for. Regrettably, that person is no longer a shooter, works as a chef.

Keeping the creative juices a live is very important, especially now that winter is fast approaching. The normal subjects aren’t as obvious or plentiful. It’s the time to explore new techniques, revisit old ones and master and combine them so when spring rolls around, you’re ready to go. Photography is a grand pursuit and one that takes all of your heart & soul. At all costs, you need to avoid getting in a rut and burning out.

What is a rut? A rut is a grave with its ends knocked out.

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