How to create something from nothing


Jim Rohn has long been one of my favourite authors and although he doesn’t directly speak or write on photography it seems to me that creativity is at the heart of all he speaks about.  In several of his books which I have as audio books he talks about how you create something from nothing and he goes on to say that you start with idea’s and imagination.  I agree with him completely and whether we are talking about creating photographs or losing weight to have your ideal body , changing career to find the job of your dreams or finding and living in your dream house the journey starts in the imagination.  Creating photographs for me is similar sometimes.  The image above comes from a long line of ideas that have been percolating through my mind for quite a while.  I came across this scene last night while out on the beach walking my dog.  But I didn’t just find it.  Last year while out walking I came across this image on another local beach:


This gave me the initial idea for a series on the sea, the beach and what I found washed up there.  At the same time I was looking around where I live here in Sligo and noticing the amount of small jetties and harbours that are no longer in use.  There are at least 4 local harbours all in close proximity here where I live that are deserted.  My next step was to give a local man I passed hitching a lift.  He was harvesting turf and the tractor he was using had got stuck in the wet bog – that year (2012) it was a really wet summer.  We chatted about what he worked at and during the conversation he mentioned that he used to crew a salmon boat in the old days but that all the salmon fishing has disappeared from this part of Ireland.  I have had several conversations like this since with different retired fishermen.  Last weekend I was running a workshop on the giants causeway and we visited the Carrickarede rope bridge as part of the trip.  The Carrickarede bridge was originally constructed by the local salmon fishermen to catch fish during the salmon migration.  Again the stocks have been so depleted that now the bridge is a tourist asset and there is no longer any salmon fishing carried on there.

The next theme that came to mind is climate change.  Whether you are sceptical about the causes or you believe that we are responsible for the current freakish weather we are experiencing I don’t think anyone would dispute that we have had some really unusual weather in the last few years.  From Sahara sand raining down on Ireland just last week to the winter storms and floods to the fodder crisis last year, the  late snow fall in spring last year that killed so many sheep in Ulster and so on I certainly feel that the weather patterns seem strange.  

Everything goes in at a subconscious level and I begin to notice and to imagine.  I began to construct a set in my mind, what kind of images might fit these kind of themes?  Where might I find them?  How can I find them?  What method should I use?  For instance so far my method has been to visit the beach regularly with a camera and photograph the things washed up that interest me, that have relevance to a series.  

Last night when I found this small fish on the beach I almost walked right by it – I was in a hurry – but I made myself stop and walk around it, think about it and pre-visualize how I might photograph it.  I didn’t capture it first time, I took several exposures and then chose the image that most fits my internal image.  It didn’t match this image as it came out of the camera and I needed to process it to get it there.  

I will tell you all about that in a day or two though but for now do you pre-visualise or use pre-visualisation?  Share how you do it in the comments action here if you do!

About briancooney123

HOW I GOT HERE Of course, I wasn’t always a full time photographer. I spent a lot of time in the corporate world. I had a job which paid well, but just didn’t excite me. I remember the day when I had had enough. Enough of selling myself short, enough of dreaming too small, enough of doing what others expected of me. I had put away my dreams and told myself I would get back to them later, but somehow there always seemed to be something else that had to get done first. A friend of mine had recommended I take the NLP Business Practitioners course, and although I was really busy, I decided to do it. During that time, I began to imagine the different paths my life could take from here. While I had a hazy picture of what this other life might look like, I had a clear picture of where my current life was going if I didn’t change. It was a scary moment, a bit like standing on the edge of a cliff deciding whether to jump into the great unknown or stay on the cliff, safe but trapped. I jumped. The transition to the life I wanted was challenging The transition to the life I wanted was challenging but I would never go back. After that day I resolved to do what I love, to follow my bliss.  Picking up a camera after several years away, I found that many things had changed, the digital age had arrived. In the intervening years, I was too busy to pay any attention to my photography, and occasionally when I took something I really liked, I would think “how do some photographs seem so captivating and others leave me completely cold?” I knew this is what I was meant to do Somehow though, I knew this is what I was meant to do. I dedicated myself to learning everything I could about being a photographer. I took many, many courses and I read every book I could get my hands on, I still do. Since then, I have dedicated myself to helping other creative photographers achieve the results they want. And what a journey it has been. Last year I qualified as a coach. My main area of interest is creativity and helping others to express their vision. WHAT I BELIEVE Along the way, I’ve learnt that there are no rules. Experiment, explore, play. My advice is to make your art from your heart, not for the praise or the money.  Lighten up. It’s important to take your photography seriously, but it's a mistake to take yourself too seriously. Finally, you get what you want when you never, ever give up so enjoy every minute of it and just do it!
This entry was posted in Strategies for creativity, The Giants Causeway, The West of Ireland, Tips and Technique and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to How to create something from nothing

  1. Stefan Shillington says:

    I don’t / can’t pre-visualise as such, but if the image is going to be a good one I get a strong feeling about it at the time of taking. I then have to get it downloaded and have an initial go at it quickly if it is to be realised, otherwise I loose the “vision”

    • Stefan, so you start kinaesthetically? With the image in this post I would first have felt that there was potential there. I took several images and each one worked progressively towards looking and feeling the way I wanted it to. If I take an image and look at it and feel nothing when I look at it then I know it’s not right.

  2. Catherine says:

    It can be a very frustrating yet enjoyable process for me Brian and so different from being spontaneous. This is usually when I’m staging the subject/s and likely to be some form of still-life. I have an image in my head then plan where and what I will use. One thing I know from experience is that everything usually needs to be closer together in the frame than my original set-up. Yet I still always set things apart. That’s because the image in my head is so ‘vast’ – filling my gaze; and I can wander (almost walk) around everything. It certainly isn’t easy trying to fit the world of my vision into that small frame!

  3. Dan Traun says:

    I think your approach depend greatly on multiple factors. When there is time, I will take a look at the subject or scene from many angles to insure the best light is being captured. A lot of times my photography happens at 30-60 mpg. While driving I see something out of the corner of my eye and shoot from shoulder (rather than hip while walking). My camera has become a natural extension of my right hand. I don’t always shoot with a specific topic in mind, but rather capture things that are interesting in one way or another and tag them appropriately. Revisiting your work (tags) may very reveal several series over time. I found myself drawn towards vanity license plates and irrigation systems; I have begun to amass quite a collection of both. Weird right? 🙂

    • Dan, thanks for your comment! My own experience is pretty similar. Interesting that you say ‘when there is time’ because sometimes what stops me from seeing is the feeling of being rushed – like the image will disappear if I don’t hurry, except when I do hurry I can’t see. Rushing is one of the biggest mistakes I make. It’s only when I slow down that things happen no matter how fleeting the moment. Also I see more from the car too, I put this down to the lower view point and also I see stuff on the edge of my vision too. Not weird at all! I have been photographing tourists photographing themselves in Dublin at the various sights recently. I have a good set now which I will share soon!

  4. Angelyn says:

    Love this post! Thank you for sharing!

  5. mudlips says:

    I don’t know that I pre-visualize, but I do try to think about what it is that catches my attention, what is the mood, the message, then I look at what aspect of the scene will best show that moment. But, that said, I do think there is, as you put it, an “internal image” that I’m working to capture. I’m usually most pleased with the photographs that best portray that internal image. So, maybe I am pre-visualizing!

    • I was reflecting on the great comments that this post received and how my own process works. I would say that you are! I think sometimes my own internal image is informed by a kind of library of images, possibly every image I have ever seen in my life, that I have in my head, both my own and other peoples.

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