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As I write this week’s blog I am lying on a sun lounger by a hotel pool in Gran Canaria. I have now been here over a week (in Gran Cararia, not lying on the lounger!). During that time I haven’t taken my camera out of its bag once. In years gone by I would have felt incredibly guilty about that. Travelling and not making images every day to document my journey used to be unthinkable. So what has changed?

Over the years as a professional photographer I have learned the importance of ‘recharging my batteries’. I am not talking about the ones that go into the camera but MY batteries, the inner batteries that power my creative instincts. The problem when your hobby is also your job is that you are rarely off work. That isn’t good for a person.

Designed for rest

We simply are not designed to be working all the time. I don’t know what you think about the Bible, but even if you just consider it as writings from ancient time, then you will probably agree that the writers were on to something three and a half thousand years ago when they stressed the importance of regular ‘time off’. A weekly day of rest, and regular festivals throughout the year gave the ancients time to recharge their spiritual, emotional and physical batteries. Failure to do so leaves us less effective than we should be.

Running out of charge

Let me explain how that manifests itself in my case. Before I came away the thought of creating images wasn’t something that filled me with pleasure. Every photograph meant time in front of the computer processing, captioning, keywording and uploading. I just saw the act of photography as making work for myself. Even when I have been on the cruise ships (Christmas and March this year) I have been working. Don’t get me wrong I really enjoy my time lecturing on the cruise ships, but on shore days I have to be out photographing the locations we visit, and on sea days I am lecturing and processing images. Whether ashore or aboard I am answering questions from my fellow passengers. I love it, but it’s not the same as being able to switch off completely.

So after eight days of relaxation the thought of picking up the camera is something that I am once again looking forward to. It will either come out of it’s bag this evening to photograph the dunes of Maspalomas, or tomorrow when we visit a local wildlife park. And I am excited to be back behind the lens again. I’ll share my images from those shoots in next week’s blog.

Looking at it a different way

Lets look at this a different way. There is the story of two men who went out to chop down trees. They both were hacking away at the trees and making similar progress, but after a while one of the men stopped and wandered off. Wanting to look the better worker the other man continued chopping at the trees. The first man returned and resumed for a while but throughout out the day he would periodically leave his work, wander off and come back. His colleague however stayed faithfully chopping at the forest. At the end the day, the foreman came to count the number of trees each man had chopped down. Much to the second man’s surprise the man who had been constantly wandering off had felled more trees. Puzzled he asked him what he had been doing when he wandered off? “Oh, that’s simple,” he replied, “I was sharpening my axe.”

Time relaxing by the pool doing very little is my way of sharpening my photographic axe.

What about you?

How does all this apply to you, a reader of this blog/recipient of my newsletter?

For those of you for whom photography is a full-time job or one that takes up a significant part of your life, make sure you build in that time off. Time to reflect and recharge.

If on the other hand, photography is just a hobby that you do when you are not at your ‘day job’ you may find that photography is your way of ‘sharpening your axe’ for you day job. Taking time to go out and make photographs may be just what you need to put that work problem in to perspective.

Whatever category you find yourself in when photography stops being fun it is time to take time out, stop making images. Pause and reflect.

Finally

One bit of final advice always set a time to go back and pick up the camera again. For me I know when that will be and I can look forward to it. If you don’t do that then there is a danger that you might not. After all, in the story the pile of trees would have been very small if ALL the man had done was to just sharpen his axe all day.

Until next time, keep resting / keep making great images (* delete as applicable),

Ian.