The Tale Of The Disappearing Photographer

In my most prolific phase of photography, after buying my first “proper” camera (a Nikon Coolpix) in late 2011, I recall shooting over 1000 images a month for six months.

Then I discovered film, which is another story, and meant amongst other things I couldn’t afford to be anything like as trigger happy.

Since retiring from film five years later, in mid 2017, my output has again returned to digital alone, albeit not making quite so many images as that first half year with the Coolpix.

Over the three year period from then until the middle of last year, the volumes were fairly consistent, and after editing I was typically left with between 50 and 150 images each month.

But since around September last year – so about six months – I seem to have made dramatically fewer photographs.

Indeed for a couple of those months, I haven’t kept any images at all – a combination of taking so few anyway, and then none of them being worth keeping.

So what’s going on, and why does the previously abundantly hungry photographer within me appear to be slowly disappearing?

First up, I’m not especially concerned or upset with this pattern.

Whilst I do love numbers in many parts of life, I’m not one to force myself to make a certain amount of images per week or month. It’s fluctuated over the years, but as explained above, before the last six months, it’s remained above a certain minimum.

A significant factor is that I’m simply not taking my camera out with me so much.

I’m actually walking as much as I’ve done in years, and perhaps more than ever, as our family has made use of the local public footpaths and bridleways extensively in the last year.

It’s been incredible to realise the variety of walking routes within just a two or three mile radius of our doorstep.

Plus it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say – and I know this is true for many of us – that the combination of walking and the countryside has preserved both our sanity and physical health over this challenging period.

At a time when so much else has had to constantly evolve (like school and working patterns and locations, obviously two pillars of any family life), these walks (daily for my wife and kids, and as often as possible for me, work allowing) have provided a much needed routine and stability too.

But whereas a year ago I would usually walk a couple of times a week alone, and always with a camera, I rarely take one on the family walks.

Mixing two purposes or activities doesn’t work well for me in many areas of life – I hate being torn between two things I feel I want to be giving my full focus.

So trying to photograph whilst also walking and talking with others just isn’t enjoyable and degrades both experiences.

I also think that because I have photographed with intention for over 15 years, alongside this an ability to see potential photographs has inevitably evolved.

Whether I then a) have a camera with me or b) fire the shutter, doesn’t change this act of seeing a composition I feel is worth trying to capture in the first place.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen, say, a tiny robin on a branch a couple of feet away – Christmas card photogenic – or a flock of geese flying over, or frost on a partially decayed leaf, and mentally taken the picture (and made that memory) without feeling the need to make it with a camera.

I’m intrigued to see how the patterns that have taken shape in the last half a year change over the rest of this year and beyond.

How about you? How have your photography habits changed in the last six months?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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8 thoughts on “The Tale Of The Disappearing Photographer”

  1. Interesting thoughts. I also come to the conclusion that it is difficult to get a lot of images if we do not take time to photograph with intention. Probably one reason why I don’t have a lot. As you said it is difficult to photograph with intention if we walk with other persons. This is also the case if we are alone but have another goal such as going for a run. So finally maybe just a matter of how we choose to use our time!

    1. Yes, for a while I tried combining cycling and photography. It seemed ideal, as I love cycling gently round local country lanes, and I love photography in the same places. But on a bike you don’t want to be stopping every two mins to get your camera out and take a picture. The two activities together ruin each other.

  2. I don’t know how much of the change for me is due to the COVID restrictions here in New Jersey, to our move from the 100+ year old building where we lived for 47 years to a 50+ year old building just four miles down the road, or to the termination of my decades long project of photo documenting the gentrification of our old neighborhood.

    For whatever reason, I no longer take a camera with me when I go out, except for my iPhone. So my casual photography has essentially stopped. On the other hand, I am taking more purposeful trips out with a particular camera, film, and lens to photograph a particular subject than I have in years. There isn’t a lot to do otherwise and I am finding it a good way to fill the time.

    1. I think I’ve always been more into intentional photowalks, going out deliberately seeking images, with cameras I enjoy using, rather than just having a camera with me in case I see something I want to photograph.

  3. I agree that family outings and pictures don’t match well… but I end up doing this anyway, otherwise I won’t get hardly any pictures at all… with the current work-from-home scenario I never get to go out by myself anymore, I used to have lunch breaks where I could walk around but around my house there’s hardly anything photogenic – especially at this time of the year.
    Sports season (for my kids) has started here, and that gets me a lot of photo opportunities though…

  4. Dan, My photography using my iPhone hasn’t changed much in the past 6 months. Despite COVID i have done my daily walk usually alone and most of my photography is done on those walks. My greatest joy though has been seeing the chalk drawing done by the neighbourhood kids as part of their way of dealing with COVID lockdowns. I have taken many photos of it all

    1. That’s interesting to hear. We’ve had similar subtle “street art” over here, and not just in the street, but for example many rainbow posters in people’s windows (supporting the NHS, our National Health Service), and these were especially prevalent in the first six months of the pandemic (March – Sept last year).

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