Getting unstuck and feeling creative again

After many visits to Granville Island, Vancouver’s jewel of diversity, creativity and culture, I found myself following my own photographic footprints. And that’s a problem.

A huge challenge I often face as a photographer is finding new ways to express myself instead of repeating myself. When we humans experience success, the tendency is to do it again. This becomes very limiting. I was in a rut. I was determined to create a new path in my photographic travels through Granville Island. So I set myself a project to make several visits this summer with the intention of creating images that were “out of the rut”.

The challenge was great. It amazes me how strong the tendency is to do what I’ve done before. It forced me to say no to those familiar opportunities and think through the many other possible options. Sometimes the light would go on and I was off on a joyful journey. Other times, I hit a wall. After each visit, I came home exhausted. This task of digging deeper is hard work!

Here are a few of my most satisfying images followed by a short slideshow.

Welcome to the Church of Granville Island! Well, at least that’s how it looks to me. Really, it’s a warehouse with the light reflecting, and the effect is multiplied by the use of multiple exposure.
Trees are alive and dancing
Dance with Me! These trees, at the park on the east end of Granville Island, have such joyful personality as they invite us to dance and revel in the beauty.
large cement silos with paintings on them
One of the most iconic structures at Granville Island, these silos at the Ocean Cement site were actually painted with hundreds of cans of spray paint by two Brazilian brothers. The effect of looking through a window is created with a double exposure.
Vancouverites know and love the street entertainment at Granville Island. The use of multiple exposure allowed me to create an impressionistic view of this restful lunch time on a hot day.
A second look at a window can reveal visual gifts. Often the prize is the reflection. This one provided a delightful abstract.
goose necked lamps at Granville Island
There are many iconic structures at Granville Island, such as the industrial metal cladding, cranes, bridges, aqua buses and of course, these lamps. This is a playful view.
Granville Island is a busy place, especially in the summer and this image attempts to show that. In case you’re wondering, the Keg restaurant is front and centre, with the multiplicity of structures and people around it.
On my way home one night, I spied this single light and stopped with an idea. Here’s my happy result.
When I saw this woman walking toward me, I knew I had to ask her for a picture. She kindly obliged. I ‘placed her’ inside a nearby window frame. Just one of the many friendly people at Granville Island.
Another icon is this old boat, permanently at rest under the Granville St bridge, thanks to the Sandbar restaurant. It was built in 1929 and served as a fishing boat and rumrunner over its long career on both of Canada’s coasts.
One of the many warehouse style buildings on the site which houses the famous market.

Well, if you made it this far, thanks for hanging in. Here’s a short video that shows you more.

Thoughts for Photographers

Do you relate to the tendency to repeat what you have done before? Especially to repeat what you have done successfully? Have you ever wondered why this is?

This tendency used to frustrate me enormously until I learned more about it. It seems our brains are wired that way. It’s not our fault!

When prehistoric hunters went out to capture food, you can bet they repeated their successful strategies so they’d have food the next time. And we do this constantly. Made a good dessert that everyone loved? You’re guaranteed to serve it again. Found a successful strategy that works with a difficult person? It’s now your predictable approach. What about you fishermen? Are your favourite fishing holes and lures because they’re beautiful or because they’ve rewarded in the past?

When I realized that it wasn’t just me but that I was wired that way, I decided to accept this tendency and work around it. And that’s what my purpose in this Granville Island project was all about. By pushing outside of my comfort zone, I entered new territory, where I experience lots of failure but am rewarded with occasional joyful discoveries.

If you recognize that you photograph the same ol’ stuff in the same way over and over, you may be on a dead end path to boredom. Sadly, many photographers quit the craft because they’ve “lost interest”. But here’s the answer: find a new path. Think different and rekindle your interest. In my intermediate photography class, which offers many creative strategies, a key principle is to find another way. This means to continue photographing even after you think you nailed the shot and always ask yourself, “How can I do this differently?”

Wishing you success in your creative journey.

Shenanigans on a photo workshop! I offer occasional photo excursions to Granville Island for photographers. I show them all my favourite spots and help them find their creativity. Send me an email if you’d like to be notified about the next one.