7 ideas motivating me in my photography right now

Paris at Dawn by Anthony Epes

“One of the great joys of life is creativity. Information goes in, gets shuffled about, and comes out in new and interesting ways.” Peter McWilliams

A huge part of my photo practise is not taking photos. Maybe that isn’t surprising, because if you read my blog you know that I look to all areas of life to inspire me.

Paris at Dawn by Anthony Epes

Photography is an inner game. And so I realised a few years ago that to create amazing images I need to feed myself with ideas that really inspire me and help me grow.

Today I want to write a post about some of the ideas that I have used to improve my photography practise. But also I admit that this post is aimed at reminding myself of what I know — so that I can keep inspiration high.

In four weeks we are off on a long, long work-travel expedition with our two kids.

You know there is nothing like jumping into the unknown to bring up all those fears that are obviously usually buried deep. When your life changes dramatically, fears are shaken up. So I need to keep inspiration as high as possible.

But trust me — this will be a great article for you too. Here’s a little bit of fun facts and ideas.

Paris at Dawn by Anthony Epes
  1. New experiences slow down time

There is this idea that time speeds up when we get older. I mean it feels that way, right? When you were a kid, a boring wet Sunday afternoon felt like it lasted for days on end. Whereas now time vanishes in a who knows where? kind of fashion.

But science tells us that that actually has more to do with familiarity than age. The more familiar we become with things — our environments, routines, habits etc — the less information our brain has to process, and this makes it work quicker. Interestingly when we are in new surroundings the brain has more information to process — and this makes time seem to go slower:

“When our brains receive new information, it doesn’t necessarily come in the proper order. This information needs to be reorganized and presented to us in a form we understand. When familiar information is processed, this doesn’t take much time at all. New information, however, is a bit slower and makes time feel elongated.”

I don’t know about you but that makes me want to jump out of bed and go do new things! Stretching time — wow! That’s exciting.

London at Dawn by Anthony Epes

2. Bring something new into your life with silence

We all know how important it is to not have a life so full of work and distractions that you don’t get time for yourself for being creative. I recently came across this quote (on the very awesome blog of Austin Kleon) that puts a new dimension on why silence and having undistracted, unscheduled time can bring amazing unexpected things in your creative work and life:

“Silence is not only the space in which there’s no sound, but there’s no program. Nothing is there so that whatever is essentially unprogrammable can happen. How does anything new happen? In a world where everything is scheduled, everything is listed, everything is programmed, the first thing one needs is space… You have to be open.

It doesn’t mean something enormous will happen, but nothing can happen until you clear that space… Nobody has time to even receive anything that is actually new, including their own thoughts.” Ursula Franklin

London at Dawn by Anthony Epes

3. Do it now. Sometimes later becomes never

When we started to tell people about going travel-working with our kids, so many people said things like — oh, I almost did that with my kids, but we never managed it.

Hearing that breaks my heart a little. Because I know at the time the barriers to doing what you really really want often seem insurmountable. I know. It’s easy to say — later, later, later. Usually when you have more time/money/fitness etc

Here’s a thought, though — what if that magical time never comes and you get to an age when it becomes impossible. What will you think when you think back about the obstacles that are in your path right now? Will they seem that impossible from afar?

It’s rare that obstacles for doing something you love are totally insurmountable.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.” George Bernard Shaw

Which leads me nicely onto:

Westminster Bridge, dawn, by Anthony Epes

4. “Everything you want is on the otherside of fear.” Jack Canfield

I believe that obstacles, for the most part, are actually just fear. Fear of the unknown, of making a mistake, of messing things up, of losing something.

Yet if we think that fear is just an emotion, I like to think of it almost like a mist, that if I can accept it, and allow it — all I need to do is walk through it and then on the other side is that awesome thing I wanted!

Plus, what we often think about when we are considering taking a risk is what we have to lose, but really what we should think about is what do we have to gain? (Di taught me that one!)

Painters in Montmatre, Paris at Dawn by Anthony Epes

5. The magic of wonder

Awe for me is the beginning of everything with photography. I need to be in awe, in some way, with my subject otherwise it’s unlikely I’ll get anything great.

It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering awe — it can be the small awe we feel when we notice a bee doing its busy work, and wondering how it has that innate knowledge to know what to do.

I like how Margaret Fuller describes that process of bringing wonder and awe to our everyday life:

“We need only look on the miracle of every day, to sate ourselves with thought and admiration every day. But how are our faculties sharpened to do it? Precisely by apprehending the infinite results of every day.

Who sees the meaning of the flower uprooted in the ploughed field? The ploughman who does not look beyond its boundaries and does not raise his eyes from the ground? No — but the poet who sees that field in its relations with the universe, and looks oftener to the sky than on the ground. Only the dreamer shall understand realities, though, in truth, his dreaming must not be out of proportion to his waking!”

Look around with intense curiosity and you will always find subjects that will bring forth wonder and awe in you.

Paris at Dawn by Anthony Epes

6. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” Pablo Picasso

I love this quote, because to me it doesn’t matter how many techniques you have up your sleeve, how awesome your camera is and how well you know how to use it — you need to get out there regularly if you want to improve.

Don’t wait for perfect circumstances or light — which is one of my weaknesses. I’ll tell you, though, that I have got so many awesome shots on days I didn’t expect to and had literally shoved myself out the door.

“If you want something you’ve never had you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” Thomas Jefferson

Another thing I heard recently was someone talking about comfort zones and how:

Paris at Dawn by Anthony Epes

7. You only need to inch a little out of your comfort zone every day, in order for it to quickly double in size.

(I have paraphrased her words as I can’t remember who it was!) I did discover this which was awesome though:

To the degree we’re not living our dreams, our comfort zone has more control of us than we have over ourselves. Peter McWilliams

These points are all super-relevant for me right now — and I hope it’s given you something interesting to chew over.

That’s it for today. I hope you are all having an amazing day. I would love to know if there are things holding you back in your photography. Maybe I can help?

Just comment below and tell us!

Have an awesome day,

Anthony and writer-Di

Anthony Epes is a photographer whose work has been featured internationally; including on BBC, French Photo Magazine, Atlas Obscura and CNN. He is also a teacher — teaching photo workshops at dawn all over the world and writing in-depth free articles on his website.

Receive his free ebook on the two essential skills that will instantly improve your photos, and sign up to his weekly newsletter providing inspiration, ideas and pro-photo techniques.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Anthony Epes’s story.