Making and managing a mess

Making and managing a mess

Right now my desk is covered in “stuff” and the rest of my study is not much better. I have been pulling things out of drawers and off of shelves to do a little reorganising of my workspace before Summer school starts next week.

Admittedly, I’m not the tidiest person in the world but I find a clear workspace is less distracting. That extends to things in the immediate vicinity “put away” on shelves or in drawers. The problem is I still know the stuff is there and that it represents something I haven’t dealt with. More than once I have found myself unable to concentrate because my attention is pulled towards items on a shelf nearby. A lot of it is just clutter, accumulated over the last few years because my preoccupation with study took precedence over everything except work, leaving little energy for anything else. This semester, the study and work commitments were less taxing so I decided to make this break all about working out whether or not I actually need all this stuff and how best to manage it. Once that is done I can look at making better use of the space freed up.

As I worked through this mess today, I also thought about the project this blog is all about and realised the monthly themes I use have served their original goal of making me use my camera more. They are now clutter, just like the stuff around me, distracting me from what I want to focus on next. This raised the question of what that next goal is and how to use this project to get the focus where I need it.

This is going to need more than a week to work through. It makes sense to stop using the themes after next week and use the next two to three months on planning that next step. Meanwhile, I will still get out and make images to share, so not much will change.

Out of focus

Out of focus

The competition for my attention at present is getting fierce.

  • I have several work projects in various states of progress and new things drop in and out of my task list all the time.
  • School is progressing to an extent but an assessment is looming and I don’t feel well prepared when I should.
  • Photography is taking a back seat to all this other mental debris. It turns out I can’t multi-task and I don’t even want to. 

My energy and focus is a finite resource that I want to direct properly but I find I’m second guessing myself about my choices. This is frustrating.

“Faking” it

“Faking” it

The light, the leaf and all the elements of the image above are real. What is fake is that none of it was as seen here when I first came across it. I made decisions that took these elements and arranged for them to look this way and those decisions extended to changing the light.

Let me explain. Last weekend I was out walking and I saw this bridge railing. The light was pre-dawn and a little overcast, so there was no definition. I liked the curve and I thought about what I could do to bring that out.


I made two decisions straight away. I created some contrast by using an off-camera flash coming from the right hand side and I simplified the composition by going closer and losing the top and bottom rails. I used a wide aperture to isolate a section. It looked better to me but I felt it needed more.


The next decisions resulted in the final series of images. I saw the leaf on the ground nearby and it had the right colour contrast against the steel. There was also the contrast of organic against industrial textures. I needed somewhere to place the leaf  so the bottom rail came back into frame. I also shifted the flash to the left hand side to avoid shadows falling across the rail. It made more dramatic shadows as well.



Now if there is a point to this post it’s that you should always give yourself permission to change what is in front of you when it suits. It is no worse than adding a filter or making changes in post.  Another point is to always ask yourself what you can add or take away.