Stay At Home Photographic Distancing And Distraction

· 21.March.2020

In these uncertain times we all need a little distraction from the surreal happenings in the world. Home-based photographic projects could well help with this process.

Right now many of us photographers find ourselves grounded at home, and along with much of humanity we’re also in state of uncertainty and panic. This anxiety is potentially going to do almost as much damage as the pandemic we’re currently battling against.

It’s hard to switch off and escape from the situation right now, and oh how I wish that I were back in my beloved mountains social distancing in nature, as I’ve managed to do for much of my life. But, hey, I’m holed up at home for the moment, and like many I could really use a mental break from the constant social media and news bombardment about the virus.

As well as desperately trying to push my work and to get paid through this, during a time when most of my clients are battening down the hatches or simply not paying anything more out (including backlogs) it’s also important to take some mental time out do something totally immersive, and being stuck inside meant this needs to be something out of my regular outdoor comfort zone.

Not so long ago I also found myself in a bad situation, one that left me home based for a while. I’m not quite sure what triggered my exact distraction reaction, as it was not something that was anywhere near to the top of my extensive “to do” list.

Some years earlier I’d have the idea to shoot some close up/macro imagery of bike parts, partly from a learning point, but mostly to build useful and different stock imagery for my regular cycling magazine work.

Maybe it was a YouTube video, maybe reading an article on macro photography; I really have no idea what finally forced me into making a start on this.

I’d just ordered a few new bike parts, and remembered that way back I’d also bought a small table top studio box, and years before that I’d bought a couple of LED lights with the intention of getting into video. After much scouring of old boxes I found them and then set about grasping the basics of table top macro photography – but always with the underlying aim of the images being of use to me editorially, and also to grasp a better understanding of artificial lighting.

Studio and indoor photography was something that had never interested me, in fact it was something that really rubbed against my passion for the outdoors, and so I hardly expected this Blue Peter style budget experiment to end up totally consuming my time and attention for the following two weeks.

It all started out with the aim of shooting a new rear cassette and bike chain, all in clean light on black. However, with every exposure I found myself getting totally immersed and ever more curious, and learning new skills with every click of the shutter.

I had some bike lights close at hand and found some coloured hand soap containers, olive oil bottles, and anything else that I could find that I could possibly colour light sources with. In no time at all I found myself coming up with ever more complex ideas, and I started to push things further by getting more conceptual with shots – with lighting, composition and in meaning.

The whole experience was so immersive that I could think of little else for days on end. New ideas would spring to mind and keep me awake at night, which is just how I am. Hunting for rusty chains, creating oil slicks in baking trays, using mosquito coils for smoke, backlighting, side light and lots of light painting provided me with a totally immersive distraction. This was exactly what was needed at the time, and what’s more the images are also coming in very handy for inclusion in magazine feature work too, which also helps me to justify the time investment from a commercial standpoint (a bane of being freelance).

I did move on to getting to grips with some self-portraiture too. All basic stuff to many, but skills that came in very handy a week later with an athlete photo shoot I did.

Apart from a couple of extra batteries and 2 cheap light stands (ordered online) the whole (and on-going) project cost nothing but time. Not only was that time well spent from a learning and potential commercial standpoint, it ensured a self enforced distraction from outside issues and also infused me with a much needed dose of creativity in an area of photography that I’d never even considered delving into.

There’s no claiming that I’m suddenly a studio photographer or lighting genius, far from it. The whole point of this exercise was distraction, and by closely linking that distraction to my regular work genre and interests it also turned into a learning experience that makes for a win-win situation.

In these times a little offbeat photographic distraction could be just the ticket. It could well become as immersive for you as it did for me, and if you also learn new skills along the way too, and without spending out… well, give it a go. Think out of the box, or even think from inside of it.


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