Friday Foto Talk: Overcoming Mental Obstacles   13 comments

Sunrise over the Atlantic Coast of Florida.

Sunrise over the Atlantic Coast of Florida.

I’m back!  Instead of offering excuses for my absence, I’m picking up where I left off as if nothing at all happened.  The good part of a break from blogging is I have plenty of new images to post.  They’ll give you an idea of where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to lately.

This little series is devoted to overcoming all sorts of obstacles to getting your best shots.  If you like, check out the other entries, which cover the most important challenges we all face as photographers.

An Atlas 5 rocket soars into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida

An Atlas 5 rocket soars into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida


This one is hard to define.  Maybe a hypothetical will help.  Say you want to get close to a certain foreground element, and this involves hopping a fence onto what is most likely private property.  You’re naturally afraid of being caught trespassing.  And you’re certainly not going to break the law to get a picture are you?

But think about it.  What are the odds of being caught?  Okay, maybe they’re not nil.  But I’ve been caught a few times and on each occasion I explained what I was doing and apologized.  I was honest and said sometimes I get too excited about a picture, but that I meant no harm.  Nothing ever happened.  On a few occasions I even got into a conversation and obtained permission to shoot on the property in the future.

A quiet walk through one of Florida’s few remaining hardwood ‘hammocks’. These are islands of forest surrounded by marsh.

I’ve actually gotten into more hot water shooting from public places, when people became paranoid about me photographing them or their house.  Almost always my camera is pointed in a different direction.  There’s really no way to avoid this sort of thing, short of not shooting around other people (which is pretty darn limiting).

By the way, I wouldn’t use this rationale to shoot government installations or other sensitive subjects.  It’s not worth the risk.  Let your gut feeling about situations be a guide.  But in general, err towards moving past mental discomforts just like you should shoot through physical discomforts.  Don’t let any fears or other mental assumptions you’re carrying around get in the way of a great shot.

An alcove in Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.  This is the only image here that isn't recent; it's from last fall.

Draperies line an alcove in Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. This is the only image here that isn’t recent; it’s from last fall.

Always eager to get my feet wet in the pursuit of a great shot, this local showed up just in time to remind me where I was.


This is really another kind of mental obstacle.  For example, we’re often under the impression that we just aren’t good enough.  We say to ourselves, “I’m hardly an expert at this, so why should I go to extremes? I’ll leave that to the pros”  I’ve mentioned this in other posts.  Decide whether you want to remain casual or pursue photography in earnest.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the former.  But if it’s the latter, then don’t hold anything back.  Your attitude should be ‘I can and I will get the shot’.

I enjoy the act of photographing most of all, more than any other aspect.  And as much as I appreciate them, that includes getting oohs and aahs from you the viewers.  I can usually shoot myself out of a bad mood and into a good one.  Still, I occasionally feel too crummy to shoot.  Have you felt this way too?  Too impatient?  Or just too “off your game” that day?  Or maybe it’s a stomach ache or something else physical?

I’m stubborn and try to move through these things by continuing to shoot.  But there’s a point for all of us where the best thing to do is pack up and try another day.  If your attitude is not improving as you shoot, you won’t get your best shots.

Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia is a throwback to the old south, its good and its bad: slave quarters.

Beautiful (and car-less) Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia is a throwback to the old South, its good and its bad.  This is a slave cabin made of compacted sea-shells and mud, on an old plantation.

Live oak dripping with Spanish moss: Cumberland Island, Georgia.

But before quitting, try this: put the camera aside and just appreciate the scene before you without shooting it.  Tough to do in great light, but I think you’ll get even more out of this sort of pause if you watch awesome light come and go.  We train ourselves to jump all over great light.  So it’s nice to get out of this comfort zone once in awhile, chill out and just watch the show.  This works with people too.  Just call a break and hang out with them.  Have a few laughs.  Your pictures will be better after a bit of fun and relaxation.

Thanks a bunch for reading and have an awesome weekend!

Sunset at Bollinger Mill & covered bridge, in Missouri, which predates the Civil War, was my plan. But Mother Nature had something else in mind.

Sunset at Missouri’s Bollinger Mill & covered bridge, which both predate the Civil War, was my plan. But Mother Nature had something else in mind.  A violent thunderstorm was moments away here.

13 responses to “Friday Foto Talk: Overcoming Mental Obstacles

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  1. I too am chicken when it comes to private property and I too have been busted – on a wind farm in NE Colorado. No one for miles, and then I notice a rancher unlocking the gate with a truck load of cattle. My husband was on the legal side. Boy was I swearing the whole way back because my husband said no one will ever show up. As with your experiences, the guy ended up letting us shoot from his private property near his home. I’m toying with calling a local farmer to ask if I can photograph seniors on the property. He doesn’t own it – a lawyer a doctor do. There’s a “no trespassing” sign, yet the neighbor told me that people shoot there all the time. Scary!

  2. The shot of that Saturn rocket is great. That should be shopped around. All your fellow “photogs” have been missing you.

  3. Great to see you back and really good advice. I often have confidence problems, you know, taking pictures in public, what will people think, will they ask me the usual question “did you get any good shots?”, are they going to get cross with me if they think I’ve taken a picture of them? It’s a great challenge to just go out of my comfort zone and take some pictures in public, without thinking about other people and what they think (which, let’s face it is probably nothing!) it doesn’t even matter what the photos are like, it’s just the putting myself out there, enjoying framing and shooting without thinking of what other people think. This is one of my mental obstacles and it feels great to overcome it, even if just for a while! 🙂

    • Good for you Katie! I feel the same way. But mostly people are just curious as to what you’re shooting. I never want an audience, but sometimes it’s a given. It’s always worth remembering the goal, to get good pictures. Let other people in the area do and think what they will. Good luck!

  4. You’ve been missed! Great post! I just bought a $200 (all I could afford) back up camera for going to Yellowstone…a Canon SX520. 16 mg and 42 x zoom. My husband is OK with it but did ask why the Coolpis wouldn’t work…10 zoon. Well I said, this will be much better. It just took confidence to say this is what I need to do for the trip and he know photography is really important to me. AND I LOVE Carlsbad Caverns. Did you get photos of the bats leaving the cave at dusk?

    • Thanks Annette! I think it’s a good idea to have the longer focal length for Yellowstone. Is this your first trip? I didn’t get the bats because they were all down in Mexico at that time. Need to return.

  5. Welcome back, and great post. Love the egret/alligator combo.

    Melissa Shaw-Smith
  6. The mystical magic of the first shot was so good, it seemed like you were never gone.

  7. Good advice and spectacular images. Welcome back!

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