The Currency Of Creativity – The Moment

Many photographers spend a great majority of their time suffering an intense form of creative anxiety.  You can just sense that somewhere inside your brain is a truly brilliant creative diamond mired down and hidden somewhere in tons of mundane gravel.  If you could just take enough photographs it would find it’s way out!  Right?  Sadly, with today’s high-speed digital cameras a single push of the finger can reward you with dozens of similarly uninteresting images.  I know… I have made thousands!

What I’ve discovered is that memorable images require a certain amount of creative currency.  This currency can be earned, gifted, or even stumbled upon.  The more of it you have at any moment, the better your chances of producing a really memorable and impactful image.  Let’s look at a few of the denominations.  In this first installment, we will consider the “moment”.

1.  Every great photograph requires a moment.   Sound simple?  It isn’t. One of the biggest challenges every hobbyist photographer faces is a lack of time to sufficiently study a particular subject and an equally frustrating challenge to position themselves in the right location at the perfect moment.

A perfect example was a recent trip I made with my brother to Utah.  We visited all of the National Parks, but only for a day or two each.  The vistas were breathtaking!  I mused that you couldn’t drop a camera without taking a really great photo.  However, it was apparent that the really spectacular lighting was limited to an hour or so at sunrise and sundown; what photographers often refer to as “magic hour”.  With so much space to work with and such limited access, it was tough to know where the magical opportunity would present itself for a truly memorable shot.  What was needed was local intel.

We were finishing up a rather disappointing sunset shoot, and I was beginning to break my equipment down. As I was beginning to contemplate the next day’s activities a local photographer standing a few feet away asked, “Leaving so soon?” I looked back at the horizon where the sun had disappeared and wondered what he meant.  He continued, “Just trust me.  Leave your camera out for a few more minutes and you’ll see the real fireworks!”  My curiosity was piqued.  I set my bag back down and mounted the camera back to the tripod.

For a few minutes, the scene continued to decay as the view became grayer and grayer.  But then you could sense that something was evolving.  Slowly and steadily color began to build on the horizon where the sun had just set.   I made some adjustments and snapped a few frames.  Quite unexpectedly, the clouds began to brighten and the colors began to intensify not just on the horizon, but in the expanse above the canyon itself.  It’s hard to explain how electric the anticipation became.    Bands of sunlight began to stream from behind the rocky horizon bursting upward and illuminating the clouds and haze hanging high over the canyon.  Sunlight reflecting off the bottom of this natural ceiling above the canyon bathed the stone with incredible muted hues of red, orange, and purple.

The local literally chuckled knowingly as I took shot after shot of the ever-evolving masterpiece spread out in incredible scale in front of me.  Gradually the light waned and the colors faded to ever darker tones until finally, darkness prevailed.  The entire experience lasted only a few moments.  Yet, I found myself awed and gratified.  The other photographer had gifted me with a large loan of creative currency.  He had brought the right “moment” to my creative endeavor.

North Rim Grand Canyon Sunset

This principle of an individual  “donating” the right moment to a project is at the core of what the Creative Kiln is all about.  Investing a unique moment to a collaboration adds to the likelihood that together, collectively, we will be able to create an image that is incredible.

In our next installment, we will discuss another seriously valuable component of creative currency; access.