Ready to Jump

laguna dreams, photograph

“But an artist’s waiting […] is not to be confused with laziness or passivity. It requires a high degree of attention, as when a diver is poised on the end of the springboard, not jumping but holding his or her muscles in sensitive balance for the right second.”

– Rollo May, The Courage to Create

I liked May’s analogy of the diver poised on the board to describe the heightened sense of awareness that artists feel when they are in the creative process. To the outside observer it may appear that little is happening, but inside the artist be in the most intense and delicious state of attention possible.

I know that when I am out photographing, it looks like I’m just idly walking about, looking here or there. In reality, my focus is very directed, and I am processing the scenes around me as rapidly as possible, considering what might work, how to frame it, how to make it a creative capture, what I might do with the image later, etc.

Just like the diver, I, too, am poised, waiting for just that “right second”.

May also discusses the role of relaxation in the creative process. We have all heard the stories of people struggling to solve complex problems, only to have the solution come to them when they least expect it, perhaps while taking a walk or in the shower. He says that we are at our most creative when we are going back and forth between relaxed downtime and energetic work. It is the periods of intensity juxtaposed with periods of seeming inactivity that produce the best results. As in all things, I guess it is balance that works best.

What circumstances have led you to be at your most creative and productive?

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13 responses to “Ready to Jump

  1. As the Indian’s say… when we walk into the forest the forest scatters… all the animals disperse due to our intrusion. However, when we sit still (literally) the forest comes back to us.

    My experience is much like yours Bob. I’ll see the obvious image right away, but the better, deeper images tend to come as I learn to be… be still, be quiet… be open… be aware… be….

    Good thoughts. I appreciate your reading these books and sharing the insights with us. I’ve gone out to buy some of them. Is this another you would recommend? You might consider some reviews of books for us.

    • John

      Interesting suggestion about the book reviews. I do enjoy reading about creativity, art and photography and it serves as inspiration for my posts.

      I’m glad to hear you’ve made a purchase or two – hope you have enjoyed them! I usually try to get the book first from the library and only buy them if they are not available there and are inexpensive!

      I enjoyed the Rollo May book. He is a psychologist who happens to also be an artist, so his analysis comes from first hand experience. It’s not as dry as many psychology texts tend to be and it is relatively short and to the point. I particularly like his discussion of the thought processes at play in creative acts. He talks at length about how true creative processes are based on the intensity of the encounter the artist has with his surroundings. And, of course, he discusses creativity and the unconscious, which is another area of interest for me.

      So this book is a little different than many of the photography and art books I read, but I found it interesting because of that different perspective and relatively accessible. I’d give it 4 stars…

  2. I have definitely felt “in the zone” while photographing – everything is working. I’m sure it’s akin to playing tennis and every shot is in, or a basketball player who just “can’t miss.”

    It’s exhilarating. Strangely, the strongest I have felt is at the few weddings I have shot. I felt plugged into the positive energy present and that I was capturing expressions and moments that literally couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. I think I do enjoy connecting photographically with people more than the landscape. Not that I don’t enjoy the latter very much, I certainly do.

    For someone of supreme lameness in all other artistic pursuits, I’m very thankful for having some abilities in photography.

    • Bob

      I’m impressed that you feel such an affinity for wedding photography – always seemed to me the most intense and nerve-wracking kind!

      I’ll bet you’d be surprised at how your skill in photography could help you in other artistic pursuits – there’s a transition phase but you’d be surprised how easily you can pick up steam. Sometimes the obstacle to beginning a new art form is that it’s hard to be a beginner again.

  3. This image is pure magic. There is something about trees that just gets me. Don’t know what it is, but this depiction certainly pulls me in. I know the feeling you talk about well too.

  4. Wow beautiful..all your photos are beautiful totally inspiring. For me creative process just comes from my heart. It’s that sense of wonder when I even look at the simplest things in life. And of course, I get my inspiration from artists like you. Thanks for inspiring.


  5. It’s been a while since I was at your blog, Bob. My nose is into my own Lightroom database of pictures as I prepare for a one-day seminar back East March 6th. But I love trees, and this image really resonates with me – the colors are incredible, and the warm hues really energize me along with the movement adding to that.

    As to my own experiences, I have two things I’ve noticed. When I have to put a visual program together for a speaking engagement, I’ll often find myself cleaning out the closet or organizing my files instead of doing what I’m “supposed” to be doing! I used to think this was just procrastination, but in fact it’s a way for me to process and plan. The whole time I’m doing tasks that don’t require a whole lot of specific focus, I’m germinating ideas about what I’ll say, how I’ll assemble it. And it always works out and I get it done in time.

    When I’m photographing, it’s similar to what you said. I seem to be just wandering – and I am, in fact, but I’m internally focused, in touch with my feelings about what I’m seeing, open and ready to ‘pounce’ on the scene when I see it. As Ernst Haas once said, “An element of surprise is important. Let things happen. If you come without a plan, you are open to chance, and in this chance you’ll find order.”

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. love the image. about 15 years ago I went through a ‘creative’ crisis after painting pretty landscapes for 15 years– I thought perhaps I really was not creative and I read several books on creativity and Rollo May was one of them–
    I believe that an artist can not separate themselves from their work– that even when they are not actually in the studio ‘at work’ they are thinking, looking, being affected in ways they don’t even know until they are once again back in their studio and ‘at work’

  7. This is one that I would have to think about for awhile Bob. That defining moment is hard to pinpoint for me because it happens at so many different times. Sometimes it is in the field waiting for the moment to happen, sometimes it is in post review of images 1 year later that I finally realize what my subconscious was trying to tell me.

    I love my visits here as I always leave with something more to think about.

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