The Traveling Photographer: A Guide to Great Travel Photography (2014)
24. There Is Life Without a Camera
Why You Shouldn’t Take Pictures If You Don’t Feel Like It
There will be days when the camera just doesn’t feel right in your hands, neither your inspiration nor your desire to take pictures has shown up, and the light everywhere is woeful. I know from personal experience that taking pictures on days like this isn’t any fun, and your images tend to show it.
Professional and semi-pro photographers who are on assignment have to be able to produce quality images even during those phases regardless of how they feel. For everyone else, though, there’s no reason to have a heavy conscience for taking a day or two off, especially if you’re on vacation. These down times can actually end up being productive: perhaps you’ll think of an idea for a new picture, or discover a location rich with possibilities for photos, or simply feel unburdened and relaxed without a camera dangling around your neck.
When you turn your attention and concentration away from photography for a bit, your other senses benefit, and you can take in your surroundings more fully – or for the first time at all – than when you’re focused so intently on visual perception. At least that’s how it works for me. It’s not unusual for me to feel uninspired with my photography during the first couple days of a trip. When traveling, adjusting to new surroundings and dealing with new requirements and challenges takes its toll, and inspiration may give me a wide berth on the first few days. With time, I’ve come to discover that trying to resist this lack of motivation is futile. Embracing a certain serenity is much more useful in regaining my enthusiasm for photography.
Even though this sentiment may seem out of place at the end of a book about photography, there is life without a camera. A day without taking any pictures is not a lost day, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Indulge in it as much as you endulge in photography. The joy of using your camera will come back on its own. Just give it, and yourself, some time.
Icon in black and white: Giant Panda in Chengdu, China. Nikon D300 • 300 mm • 1/200 s • f/5.6 • ISO 1600