Confessions of a Couch Photographer: 10 ways to get your Fojo working

As I staggered to the summit of North Ridge on my daily dog walk (OK, it was a hill that felt really steep) dragging two puffing bullmastiffs behind me, I fixated on the stunning cumulus clouds billowing upward into the heavens above the Auckland skyline to the South, the late afternoon light describing the subtle curves and nuances of every shade of white. In my minds eye I could visualise the framing and exposure settings of my photograph. I could even imagine the final print hanging on the entrance wall being admired by visitors. Alas, I had no camera with me and the truth be known, I was in a photographic slump. It was the equivalent of writers block or a bad case of stage fright. I had lost my Foto-Mojo or Fojo for short.

This got me thinking about ways to get my camera out and re-discover all the things that motivated me when I bought my first digital camera. It was a compact 4.5 mega pixel Canon Ixus. I carried that baby with me wherever I went, weekly shopping at the supermarket pushing the trolley for my wife, to work every day, out to social engagements (that’s a fancy way of saying having a barbie with mates) and even on my bike. I tried every angle, exposure setting and focal length available. I just couldn’t get enough. Now I needed a plan to get my Fojo working. Here are a few Ideas that I hope will re-ignite your photographic fuse.

  1. Start a 365 project:
    Taking a decent photo every day may sound easy but a year is a long time that takes commitment, dedication and stamina to get the job done. Think of this as a photographic ultra marathon. Having a smart phone with a camera does help you take advantage of every opportunity or get a little compact with a decent optical zoom. I find the best way of staying on the case is to spread the word; tell as many folks that will listen, set up a Facebook page and upload your daily ditties, publish to sites like flickr.com, shutterfly.com and smugmug.com and invite comments from stranger and friends.

    1 - view of lemons in a glass

    Pointing your camera into glasses will yield interesting results

  2. Join a photographic club:
    The first thing I did when I arrived in Auckland was to join the North Shore Photographic Society, where I was immediately introduced to a varied bunch of photographers, whose interests ranged as widely as mine did. Having a monthly set theme that was sometimes way out of my comfort zone pushed me to explore new genres and subjects. Probably the most challenging part of camera clubs is entering work that will be critiqued by a judge who will provide feedback on areas for improvement. Visit www.photography.org.nz to find a club near you.

    2 - camera club set subject

    Regular set subjects will push you to explore new ideas

  3. Learn a new technique:
    It’s easy to get into a photographic rut repeating the same old, same old so learning a new technique can breathe new life into a stale approach. I tried my hand at pinhole photography, which is relatively easy to do with modern digital SLR. This falls into the same creative vein as impressionist and abstract techniques. Then there’s light painting, long exposure, street… the list goes on, but I’m sure you get my drift; the sky’s the limit here.

    3 - light painting

    Long exposure and light painting are fun to experiment with

  4. Travel to a new destination:
    Whenever I arrive in a new destination I can feel the creative juices bubbling and the best way to explore is to get out my camera and go walkabout. You don’t need to travel very far from home; even a trip across town or a new beach can awaken the slumbering genie. My best work by far has been created on ‘made for purpose’ road trips with like-minded people. Visit maps.google.com and stick a virtual pin the map, then hit the road.

    4 - tea seller in Istanbul

    Experiencing new cultures is very stimulating

    4 - Istanbul skyline

    View of Istanbul from a river cruise

  5. Buy, hire or borrow some new kit:
    Like different techniques, new kit can literally give you a new point of view and force you to re-look at your usual hunting grounds. I recently got out my 70-200 zoom lens while doing some landscape work. For someone who is fixated with the 17-40 wide angle peeper, this was a challenge for me. I found that I was now able to isolate and focus on little vignettes in the bigger scene.

    5 - wide angle view

    Wide angle view of the lighthouse

    5 - close up view

    Closeup view using a tele or zoom lens

  6. Volunteer for a local charity/group:
    I find that having a “client” that is expecting results from my shoot, adds the necessary pressure to get the job done, even if I’m not getting paid for the work. My recent outing was volunteering my photographic services to The Breast Cancer Foundation capturing new publicity images for future marketing campaigns. This is both rewarding and motivational and I had the best time ever. Check out volunteernet.org.nz and www.facebook.com/VolunteeringNZ or just put an ad in your local rag.

    6 - breast cancer foundation 2

    Being part of an event is exciting

  7. Set a project:
    I’m extremely goal driven so setting a project with a deadline works well for me. Your project could include entering a photographic competition, capturing the lifecycle of the ducks at the local park or documenting an event over a period of time. It’s easy to get side tracked along the journey, so documenting the expected outcomes and working out a roadmap to get there, should keep you facing the right direction.

    1 - still life study

    This was part of a project to turn household objects into photo art

  8. Emulate other photographers:
    Spending time enjoying other photographers work, can be both inspiring and motivational. As a fine art printer, I get to see many and varied images that feed into my own creativity, so it doesn’t have to be the work of famous photographers. Trawling internet sites like www.pinterest.com and www.flickr.com will fill you with awe and wonder at what’s possible.

    8 - inspired by Ansel Adams

    Inspired by Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise, Hernandez”

  9. Go out shooting with a mate:
    I had the great pleasure of hosting a fellow photographer from Cape Town over the festive season and delighted in sharing my favourite photography spots around Auckland with him. I do find it much easier to get out there and shooting when I have made a commitment to meet with someone else, especially early morning dawn patrol outings when the gravitational pull of the duvet is hard to escape.

    9 - Peter Corbette in Namibia

    Road-tripping with Peter Corbett in Namibia

  10. Print your photographs:
    In this modern age of digital media it’s great to share your images on social media etc, but personally there is no better outcome to my myriad photographic journeys than seeing a print on the wall. For me, it’s a reward for the hard work and attention to detail. It doesn’t have to be large and expensive sometimes a small intimate print that’s well framed invites the view up close and personal.

So the next time you find yourself in a bit of a rut and your Fojo has gone on leave without you, try one of these methods. Remember, it’s like golf; it only takes one good shot to make you believe you can. Happy snapping.

Get out there and CREATE – PRINT – SHARE.

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