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A pope on the street in Belgrade, Sunday 8AM. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 BC. © Thorsten Overgaard.


The Story Behind That Picture: "Not feeling inspired?"

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Not Feeling Inspired?

By: Thorsten Overgaard. June 13, 2023.

You can join one of my workshops, but you can actually also do something about it yourself, right now.

It sounds simple: take your camera and walk outside. This morning I was in Belgrade, and instead of going from the bed to the shower to the computer, I decided to take a walk to start the day.

I set a goal to reach a nice coffee place just ten minutes' walk away. But when I walked out the door, I deliberately went in the opposite direction because there were some walls, trees, and interesting light over there. Perhaps. The coffee if not the goal, it’s the excuse to get out.

Photographically speaking, I walk in whichever direction I feel there might be something to see and explore. Preferably, it has an element of the unknown because if I already knew what would happen and what I would get, it wouldn't excite me that much.

The first few minutes of my walk, I have to cross the usually busy shopping street, and even when empty, "busy places" seldom offer inspiration. But once I get across, I start seeing some chairs lined up outside the cafés and trees casting beautiful light and shade. It's starting, even if I don't take any pictures.

Sometimes it takes a moment of getting out before you shake off other thoughts and start being in the moment instead. I often have internal discussions with myself about what to do in which sequence. I am very aware of my energy; I know that mornings are great for creating and getting things done. If I use my energy walking, I might get less done later, especially since I have to pack up and drive six hours to Sarajevo later today.

These are the things I have to deal with internally, but after a few minutes, I forget about the troubles of life and things I should have done yesterday, and I start looking. Life becomes new again.

There are things that give you energy, and there are things that take it away. Even in listening to music, some music gives you energy, while some drains it. The same goes for books—some things you read inspire and fire you up, while others tire and drain you. And speaking of which, some places drain your energy, while others inspire and bring hope (busy places as a rule drains you, quiet places inspire you).

I see a corner with great light under the large trees, and a granite wall. I see the silhouettes of two birds on the empty street, and then I spot a pope walking alone as a third black silhouette (Priests are called pope’s in Serbia).

"There we go," I think. He is so far away that I have oceans of time to prepare the light. I do a test shot to set the exposure and prepare the focus on a spot on the street some meters in front of me. I had an ND filter on and consider taking it off, but this shot is so easy, I can get it regardless.

  Messed this one up, despite having all the cards in my hand.
  Messed this one up, despite having all the cards in my hand.
   

Once he arrives in my frame, I realize my focus was wrong, and it's too late. I fumble quickly to get the photo, but I fail. It's all a mess, and even if I had captured it, there would have been a cable in the background and the alignment of things (composition) is all wrong. I should have thought it out differently. So much time, so much space to work within, such an obvious photo, and yet I managed to mess it up.

Oh well, I know something else will happen. And even if it doesn't happen this morning, it will some other time or day. I continue.

I circle the block because there is interesting light, but also because the pope might walk around, and I might meet him again in another street. And I do, but he is talking to a homeless person, and it's not a photo.

I walk down to the church; they have a nice little garden, so I wander around there. There's a photo I can take here. I don't know what it will become, but I saw something, so I try to capture it without thinking too much about why.

 

 

Something about this. It’s all about minimizing the delay from you feel there is a photo, to taking it without delay. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. © Thorsten Overgaard.
Something about this. It’s all about minimizing the delay from you feel there is a photo, to taking it without delay. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 BC. © Thorsten Overgaard.

 

There is a little bench under an umbrella where a pope sat the other day with his coffee and cigarette. That was a picture too, but I didn't take it. Layla had said, "That’s a photo," but once a photo becomes so obvious for everybody around, including the person who will be in it, it is a performance and not a capture of life. It becomes staged.

I take another photo that I don't know what it will be, but I take it anyway. There is also an interesting-looking tree, and I walk all around it but cannot get the background to work from any angle.

 

I take another photo that I don't know what it will be, but I take it anyway. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. © Thorsten Overgaard.
I take another photo that I don't know what it will be, but I take it anyway. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 BC. © Thorsten Overgaard.

 

I walk out and decide to go around another block, and who would have known, down that empty street comes another pope walking towards me.

Having rehearsed something like this recently, this time I will get it right. I set the frame and focus on where the person will be walking, a spot on the ground that, when he walks right there, will create a pleasant composition. I elegantly frame it to avoid a store sign in the background.

He arrives, I take two photos, we nod at each other. He is on his way to the church, I am on my way to coffee.


A pope on the street in Belgrade, Sunday 8AM. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. © Thorsten Overgaard.
A pope on the street in Belgrade, Sunday 8AM.
Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 BC. © Thorsten Overgaard.

 

I follow a street, then realize I have achieved the optimum state for any street photographer: I am lost! I don’t know where I am and have lost direction.

With my phone, I find my bearings and head in the right direction, leading me down a street I know too well and thus don't really see all the opportunities I know I would have seen if I had never been there before.

 

I walk by a gate, a cat is looking curiously at me. We both seem to wonder where this day is going. I take a photo of him. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. © Thorsten Overgaard.
I walk by a gate, a cat is looking curiously at me. We both seem to wonder where this day is going. I take a photo of him. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 BC. © Thorsten Overgaard.

 

The coffee place is not open yet, which is a slight disappointment, but on the other hand, I got out, took pictures, and now I can return to my hotel and get today's work started.

 

The day before: Coffee at the coffee place D59B in Belgrade. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. © Thorsten Overgaard.The day before: Coffee at the coffee place D59B in Belgrade. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 BC. © Thorsten Overgaard.

 

I managed to get inspired, and I got a few pictures on my 20-minute walk, and that is what it is all about. It sounds all very simple, and I am sorry for that, but it's because it is simple.

I try to edit the photos I take on a day, the same day, so as to learn from my mistakes, but mainly to harvest what works and get it finished and ready in the archive. This cycle of trying to take photos, get some, and then realize that some of them worked well, that is what gives the enthusiasm to go out again the next day.

Because when you take pictures, you make pictures.

 

How to fix writer's block

Writers occasionally suffer from "writer's block" where they sit and stare at an empty piece of paper and wonder what to put there. The solution is to address the creative mind, which is to walk out the door and look and experience things. That is what flames inspiration and gets ideas going. Then you can go back and write it on the paper.

Photography is the same.

 

How to fix a failed purpose

You originally, at some point in the past, got a camera to make photos and have fun with it. Something like that.

Purposes must be executed. You cannot sit at home and think thoughts about making photographs. Because if you just think about them, they never happen.

What you have to do is to pick up the camera and take some photos. As you know from experience, and as you can see from my 20-minute morning walk, sometimes you fail and could easily think you suck at this. But then you get back on the horse and take some more photos.

Once you rekindle the failed purpose of having a camera, you start making photos. I am not talking about making a masterpiece every time you release the shutter. Nobody does that. I am talking about, that once in a while, you make something that you recognize as, "Wow, this is what I wanted to do with my camera."

Focus on the successes, not the failures.

 

More to come

Bon voyage with it all. Sign up for the newsletter to stay in the know. As always, feel free to email me with suggestions, questions and ideas. And hope to see you in a workshop one day soon.

/Thorsten Overgaard

 

 

         
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Above: A pope on the street in Belgrade, Sunday 8AM. Leica M10-R with Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 BC. © Thorsten Overgaard.

Thorsten Overgaard in Milano by Nicola Semprevivo.
Thorsten Overgaard in Milano by Nicola Semprevivo.

Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish-American multiple award-winning photographer, known for his writings about photography and Leica cameras. He travels to more than 25 countries a year, photographing and teaching workshops to photographers. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via email.

You can follow Thorsten Overgaard at his television channel magicoflight.tv.

Feel free to email to thorsten@overgaard.dk for questions, advice and ideas.

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