Going Trans Genre

Low’ring skies

Pool Bank, Wharfedale

It’s been a challenging winter, here in the UK. The weather seems to me to have been the most miserable in living memory. We’ve seen a few cold spells but we’ve had little snow. Mostly there’s been rain. A LOT of rain, and when it hasn’t been raining there’s been an abundance of overcast and thick cloud. This winter has hovered between dark and dim. 

As you may have come to expect, in such circumstances (and with an abundance of spare time on my hands for such things) I’ve become somewhat circumspect in my recent lack of output, and I’m taking time to do some introspection.

Low’ring post titles

Communications tower, Cookridge

As I look back through my blog posts over the last couple of years, there seems to be a recurring theme of grumbling about missed or lost photography opportunities, but all the while generally managing to find enough images in my recent archives to build a gallery of images which I’m generally proud to share. It’s not since February 2019, five years ago, when I posted about a lack of enthusiasm for photography itself, though.

Ireland Wood, Leeds

Instead, I can see that I’ve posted a far too consistent stream of increasingly downbeat blogs with somewhat negative titles. This is something I need to address, particularly since photography is in fact the constant in my life in which I find most enjoyment. That should be reflected in this blog, and I’m committed to ensuring that it is in future!

My obsession trap

Red kite, Wharfedale
Chaffinch, Adel, West Yorkshire
Duncan Street, Leeds

I don’t know if it’s specific to how my head works, in some ways different from other people but, even as a web designer, switching between the graphical aspect and the coding side of development was not a simple process. It could take days or even weeks for me to truly settle in to the different ways of thinking, having to re-train my brain to get into the right mode in order to function effectively. 

Trinity Centre, Leeds

For many years, my photography was mainly focused on landscape photography. When asked, I always referred to myself as a landscape and macro photographer. Owing to the cost of entry, I’d never considered wildlife a genre that I had any place participating. This changed when I purchased the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens and, for the last year and a half, I switched almost exclusively to wildlife – particularly woodland birds. As I have often done in the past, I hyperfocused on this one specific and solitary genre of photography, to the exclusion of all others. It’s worth noting that, when I initially got the 150-600mm, my first few months with it were spent attempting to apply the lens to my default genre of landscape photography – and with some success, I think – but my mind is a bit like a ship that is too cumbersome to turn quickly. I have little to no real ability to adapt to changing conditions on the fly. 

City Square, Leeds

Added to my propensity for obsession was the failure of my 24-120mm Nikkor lens. This being my main walkabout lens made it much more easy to justify concentrating on ONLY wildlife for the past year and a half. But a direct consequence of my successes with the 150-600mm is that, when the conditions dipped away from being optimal as the autumn and winter rolled in, knowing that I couldn’t match or better the wildlife photos I’d obtained during the warm and bright months, I stopped shooting altogether.

Saltaire, West Yorkshire

I even missed autumn because I was obsessed with shooting wildlife while macro and standard lens photography was ignored. Rather than resorting to former obsessions, my output dwindled to nought. Instead of photography, I turned to Youtube to watch other photographers’ videos about photography. This helped in my denial that anything was amiss as it masked the absence of photographic effort, allowing me to convince my unconscious self that I was no less involved in the process of photography, even while failing utterly in the act of photography.

Breaking free and changing genres

It’s only very recently that I’ve realised that this is what’s been going on. I assumed that my loss of photography mojo was just that.

Once I realised that there was more to it, it became something that could plausibly be addressed. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks, albeit tentatively. 

Saltaire, West Yorkshire

Something which is largely absent from wildlife photography is the creative element. The challenge in wildlife, which is documentary in nature, is far more about persistence and determination. This in a sense has been an easy out for me for the last year and a half.

While I enjoy wildlife photography, the truth is that I think it’s made me a bit lazy. I don’t have to work for a good image. I just have to put myself in a situation – usually a hide – with a decent camera and a sharp telephoto lens, and wait for subjects to present themselves. I’m not suggesting that this is the basis of everyone’s wildlife photography, but it’s certainly the pattern I established for myself.

Briggate, Leeds

Luckily for me, Glenn’s recent purchase of a Leica Q2 Monochrom means that there are opportunities to venture into genres that I’ve habitually steered clear of for many years! Glenn doesn’t fear the street like I do, and a bit of cognitive behavioural therapy won’t do me any harm! It’s only since venturing into other genres that I realised just how complacent wildlife photography had made me, and how little creative effort I’d really been putting into my own photography. We recently spent a day visiting the Five Rise Locks at Bingley and Salt’s Mill at Saltaire.  I was also forced to make a trip into Leeds and took the opportunity to take some photos between buses. It’s all a gentle reintroduction to photography styles that I’ve not dipped into for some time, and I’m already beginning to feel the tug of creativity again, experimenting with different editing techniques etc. I must say it feels good. 🙂

Corn Exchange, Leeds