Ever since I learned about the tradition of Krampus and the Perchten, I’ve dreamed of making a photo series about them. Someone beat me to it, with a series about pagan soltice traditions in rural Europe, but I have to admit: the results are so beautiful that I can’t hold it against him.
You and your brain. You’re a team. Except when you aren’t. Then you get stuck in a Mexcian standoff: your brain, threatening to never gift you with a creative idea again. You, threatening to drown him in coffee or (let’s admit it) red wine until he comes up with something good. This is – shockingly – usually ineffective.
I’m guilty of this all the time. Especially with coffee, and then the subsequent reading of productivity blogs. Input, input input. And more input. My poor brain never has a moments rest. But I recently read a blog post by one of my favorite online people about the importance of downtime for creativity. In her words: “bored brains are creative brains.”
I love this.
Of course it’s only true up to a point. But it is true. If you’re filling every moment of your day with work, blogs, emails, and social media, then relaxing at night with a book, or in front of the TV, your brain can’t get a word in edge wise. And then, when you try to go to bed, it starts spitting out all the great ideas that have been pushed out of the way all day.
You know that feeling: your head hits the pillow and suddenly… “whirrrrrrr” go your thoughts, until you get the feeling you need to keep a notepad beside your bed so you can jot them all down. Gets me almost every night.
But I’ve found that taking just 15 or 20 minutes during the day for a little down-time can make a big difference. Just sitting there, letting the random thoughts buzz through my head… sure, sometimes it’s really just random, but then again there are nuggets of gold in there often enough to make it worth it.
So give it a try. Go walk around the block without your headphones. Or stare out the window and let yourself do nothing for a few minutes. Let your brain get bored, and see what he comes up with.
How can you not love this kid?
What do you think, guys – six degrees of separation? Let’s do it! Please share and help me find him.
You know those shoots where you get to the set and realize: today is gonna be rough? It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s raining. Your model is freezing and your fingerless gloves are leaving your fingertips numb.
But what are you gonna do? You’re a professional, and all you can do is grit your teeth and deal with it. It’s days like this that separate the wheat from the chaff, damnit, and who wants to admit to being chaff? Sure as hell not you.
There’s an upside to these shoots, though. When you put up with weather and obstacles that would send most people diving for the couch, you’re going to end up with shots that are out of the ordinary. Your models might not be bathed in glowing sunlight, but sometimes a dark sky can be exactly what you needed.
I had one of those shoots a couple of weeks ago. Internationally acclaimed chef Eyck Zimmer wanted some urban, gritty portraits that would showcase his personality and background as a native Berliner – a dream assignment for me. Food + creative weirdos? Sign me up.
The only problem? Scheduling an outdoor shooting – in Berlin – in early February. I’m a Californian, so I’m spoiled as far as outdoor shoots go. If a client or an editor wants to shoot something outdoors in CA, you have roughly 98% chance that it won’t be raining that day. No worries, mate.
In Berlin, on the otherhand, you’d better be ritually sacrificing memory cards to the weather gods for a week before the shoot. Or else have an indoor backup plan, which wasn’t really possible in this case. There’s just no way to shoot Alexanderplatz or the Berlin Wall from indoors. So we held our breath and waited.
The morning of the shoot, things were looking good. It was cloudy, but dry, and the sun was starting to peek tantilizingly through the clouds. My assistant and I gathered up our gear and headed off to meet Eyck. By the time we got to the first location, though, the sun was gone, and the wind was driving frozen rain straight into our faces. As we stood there, freezing, waiting for Eyck, I decided that it just wasn’t going to work. Neither he nor I wanted to be out in this weather, I was sure. But when I got him on the telephone and heard the words “I’ll be right there – we just had to pick up a pigs foot for the shoot” – I changed my mind. How can you say no to a pigs foot as a prop?
In the end, it was one of my favorite shootings ever. Eyck and I were both freezing, my hands were so cold I could barely handle my gear, and I had to roll around on wet, frozen cement a few times to get the right angle – but when I saw how the pics were working out, the creative drive took over and I loved every minute of it.
What about you? What are your stories from the trenches?