You lose something when you stop taking pictures -- a certain sense that lets you put frames around things.
When I came back to photography after letting a roll of Portra stagnate in my Fisheye for several months, I didn’t feel the magic. I walked through neighborhoods and seldom saw anything except for one day when I stopped to shoot a pile of yellowing gingko leaves with my camera phone. There was a long silence in both my flickr and lomography accounts. This was due, in part, to the attention that was drawn to dealing with my wife’s cancer, in part to a certain laziness that took over my creative life.
I put some of my energy into Twitter for part of that time, some of it into Pinterest. It was easy to go through photos and say “This I like and that I like” but not so easy to make any of my own. I wouldn’t call it burnout because I didn’t feel the death that comes with that kind of loss. I just wasn’t looking.
I knew that I had to get it back. First, because I loved to take pictures. Second, because picture-sharing was one of my chief forms of social media. To prep myself for a cruise to Mexico, I went for a walk with a friend in the Bolsa Chica wetlands near my home. I shot twelve pictures. That’s all. My friend is a talkative sort and I do love to listen to him, but my eyes weren’t picking up the details. They were there because some of my photos were actually good. But my finger went to the shutter only a handful of times. I was blind to the world.
I dreaded what would happen on the cruise. I took six cameras with me: my DSLR, my Instax, my Fisheye, my Nikon 8008, my new tablet, and my camera phone. And I used all of them. Getting going was hard. I started by taking photos of myself at bedtime with the camera phone and pictures of the ship’s library with my wife. Then we got off the boat in Puerto Vallarta and went on a tour that went a little too fast for my photo-taking pleasure. I began to panic, to feel that I wasn’t going to get it back when I looked through a fence at the port and saw a pirate ship built for tourists and my boat:
I mark this as an important picture because it is then that I ran to something to shoot it before it went away. I came alive. The little man sweeping the pavement completed my engagement . The frame exploded in my head and I knew just how it was going to turn out. I snapped it, stuck the instant in my pocket, and became a photographer once more.