Over recent weeks, I have increasingly felt that the "Sailing Log" only touches upon my personal feelings and thoughts towards the project and my role within it. When I first started out, I was very open about my thinking processes, but over time, this has been replaced with ship activity and little else. As a consequence, I have kind of edited myself out, which is a shame, because, as Kathy has pointed out, some people might want to know more.

So, I made the decision to put my thoughts in writing here, along with everyone else's. Now, it may surprise people to hear that I have not created many pictures recently. This must be hard to imagine considering that I am running this project, and also teaching photography, but I have something of "photographer's block" – something a bit like writer's block but obviously with images.

Why has this happened? It is a good question. I guess it started when I began this voyage. Even though I was still making pictures – particularly portraits – my creative endeavours were being poured into the design of the site as well as feedback. My time in Japan was drawing to a close, and moving back to the UK proved another distraction. I could only keep my focus on the project. Nearly 6 months on from then, and the search for teaching opportunities has continued to drain my creative powers. It really is no surprise that I haven't made many photographic images.

I have tried to fix this problem. It snowed very heavily recently, which was rare for these parts of the UK, and I felt a duty to take photographs of this occasion. I drove around a town where I grew up, looking for sites that I could photograph with my hybrid camera. Along the beach, I got out of the car and started walking with my camera and tripod. Seeing a bench overlooking the sea but covered in heavy snow, I started to set up and level-off my tripod. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another figure walking along in the snow. He too was looking at a bench, and was brandishing an SLR camera. Clearly he had a similar thought. I looked back at my tripod, looked at the scene I was thinking about photographing, and I found myself wondering why I was doing it. I had been content to just look but I felt some kind of duty to take pictures of it. What happened next was interesting: I put the hybrid camera away.

Perhaps I was just put off? Perhaps it just wasn't the right scene? Normally, I wouldn't be concerned about a change of mind, but then I remembered that this wasn't the first time. Whilst teaching at a college in Essex, some students were shocked when I revealed that I had seen a beautiful tree set against a bland background but had had no desire to photograph it. They could not believe me. Yet I still remember this tree vividly in my mind, and the moment that I saw it. Did I need a picture of it?

When Japanese students of English talk about Cherry Blossom season, they often use the verb "watch" to describe what they do in the park when in full bloom. Most English teachers notice this as a translation from Japanese to English and quickly correct it with the verb "look" or "see". But I wonder if they do use the right word? To watch cherry blossom is to see it moving within a time and space; within a moment. Isn't that what we do before releasing the shutter of the camera? Food for thought.

Nevertheless, I have sought answers to why I put the camera away. Perhaps I was lacking enthusiasm for the scene? Perhaps I was lacking enthusiasm for my hybrid camera? Perhaps I was shy and out of practice? Perhaps I was just plain lazy? Or perhaps I have reached the limit of what photography can offer me? The professor feels that I have just reached the limit of a certain style of photography to which I have become so accustomed, adding that she cannot believe that with all my passion for photography, I might have reached a limit. It is a valid point. What is clear is that I need to experiment again. I am considering small photo assignments for those members who wish to try them, and perhaps I should try these myself.

On that snow afternoon in my hometown, I did manage to make one picture of a scene. It will certainly be remembered as a watershed image in my career.

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Comment by Kathy Ponce on December 19, 2010 at 10:52pm

Thank you for sharing these thoughts Gary.  I resonate with them in a "writer's instinct" kind of way.  This afternoon as I was visiting my Mom in the hospital for her 5th chemo cycle I was "talking to myself" and started typing some notes on my iPhone.  I started asking myself questions why I couldn't write.  Why I didn't know exactly what to write about.  The creative flow usually goes down after a series of busy non-creative activities and I'm still trying to grapple through that difficulty.  So it helps come to terms with it when a fellow creative person shares his own struggles with the creative flow as you have done.


Yes, I am very much interested in doing the projects and will be scheduling them into my calendar soon. :)

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