Almost every morning I wake up at 5am, chug a coffee, hop in the shower and head straight to the beach. I sit in the lifeguard's chair and watch the sunrise nearly every day of the week before heading to my morning job as a nanny. Each day, the beautiful starry 5-am sky slowly transitions into it's own one-of-a-kind work of art as the sun creeps over Lake Michigan and paints the sky with different colors and clouds every day. Even in the rain or the violently windy Chicago mornings, the sunrise has this immensely calming, therapeutic value. It's this one hour of complete mental-clarity before the long day ahead of nanny-ing, photo-shoots, or working at a local Taqueria. It's that feeling of calm that convinced me to never bring my camera there again.
Chances are if you've seen any photograph of mine since I got back to the States, it was taken in at that beach, and chances are it was taken during one of those aforementioned sunrises.... So why did I stop bringing my camera? I mean, every day the light changes, every day the same composition may look completely different... It's like deliberately missing a photo opportunity every single day!
...Exactly. I don't want any pictures of that time anymore.
Back when I came back to the states from a trip to Tohoku, I was bringing my tripod and my full camera kit with me every day to the beach. I'd pop the camera on the tripod and go sit in the Lifeguard's Chair and wait for the light to change, and when it did, I'd get up and fire the shutter, then sit back down and wait for the light to change again. That didn't change for weeks, and while the photos I was taking every single day were stunning and the colors even left me surprised despite having seen them with my own eyes... The more photographs I took, the less each photo started to mean.
After a while I stopped looking at the photos after I took them, and while I still brought my tripod and camera every single day, i would just leave them on the chair next to me while I watched the sunset. Soon enough even the act of carrying them became a nuisance, and the joy that came from taking a photograph became an obligation. So I stopped bringing it all together, and started appreciating the sunrise even more than I ever had before. Not only that, but also I starting to value the day-to-day instances where I had my camera with me even more.
I firmly believe that even the most passionate of people are on a fuse that's constantly burning out and needing to be replaced. Thats why even the most driven and creative of photographers, authors or artists hit a wall and just want to stop for a while. The put down their tools and just reflect on what is they're doing, and who they're really doing it for. Then once some time passes they pick up their cameras, pens, or paintbrushes again and get back to work only to burn out after a few months for a little while longer. I think thats exactly why I stopped taking my camera to the beach every morning:
It burnt me out.
But that burnout brought with it more positives to my photography than anything else. I started bringing with a notepad instead of a camera and planning out ideas for long-term photography projects, and ideas for content I wanted to put out into the world. It's no secret that photography is one of the biggest aspects of my life and that I want to keep taking photos until I'm on my death bed... and even on my death bed I'd like to fire off the shutter a few more times, so this time where I wasn't worrying about taking photographs became time to mentally explore other aspects of photography, and how to actually succeed in other creative ways without feeling obliged to create anything right then and there.
It's no secret that to write a book, you need more than just a pen and paper. That to write a song you need more than just some instruments and a good voice. And that to make meaningful photographs, you need more than just a camera: You need an idea, you need to search deep inside of yourself, not the camera or the canvas to come up with an idea worth expanding upon. And so when I want to think deeply about the work I'm doing, and how I want to leave my mark on the photographic world... I leave my camera at home.