A Truck for a Rut

The past few evenings I’ve been sorting out my personal issues with photography. I’ve been feeling like I’m stuck in a creative rut.  I view things the same way, capture the same way and finally edit them the same way.  This is great for some fields of photography but that no longer applies to me.  A number of years back, I owned and operated an art reproduction company.  Capturing original artwork requires shooting under very controlled conditions.  Everything is precisely calibrated and tuned: camera, lighting, monitors, printers, room lighting, wall color… the list goes on.  There is little room for intuition and creativity in that kind of work.  You have to be able to repeat every step reliably, every single time you do it.  I got very adept at this and produced beautiful limited edition paintings for many artists.  I’m glad to have learned all that I did but, at the same time, it’s upsetting to look at myself now still see the effect it’s had on my personal creative freedom.  When I shoot, I’m still focused on all the objective things.  When I get my RAW files into edit, I’m back to using measurement tools to determine corrections to tone and white balance.  All of these things are good to understand and apply but if your not careful, they can also put you a rut that can be very difficult to get out of; a prison for your creativity with its doors slammed shut on any notion of exploration or a wandering attitude about this art form.


Tonight, I went back to a photo I shot last year in Colorado and set about editing it in a way I typically would not.  I still like the original version but to me, this new one has so much more drama to it.  Is it realistic?  Is it how it actually looked at the time I shot it?  NO!  Black points and white points measured and adjusted accordingly?  NO!  Do I like the resulting image?  Does it draw me in and beg me to stay a while longer?  YES, it does!  And I guess that’s all that matters.  You may not like it, and that’s fine, but I made this for me – for my enjoyment.  Maybe if I start to shoot and edit with that concept in the forefront of my mind, I can finally pull myself out of this rut and start making some authentic Tom photos.


8 thoughts on “A Truck for a Rut

  1. I enjoy your words and thoughts as much as your photos, but this was a truly interesting post. Thank you for sharing, fascinating….


  2. Tom- I vaguely remember when you posted the original… it would be interesting to see the original- and how you edited it- to get a more direct comparison between the two.. unless, since- as you stated- this was an exercise for your own self- you’d prefer not to compare the 2 side-by-side here 🙂
    I have a lot of difficulties with so many photos I see on Facebook…. that are severely overprocessed in such a manner that you KNOW there’s no way that’s what the original scene looked like. HDR- while interesting- and can produce some beautiful images- gets old, when that is all you see out of a photographer… scenes that are severely overprocessed.
    This photo still looks like you could- like you would see it. I applaud you for not going off the deep end!


  3. Tom…I think we can all be “overly-critical” of our own work(myself included)! I, personally enjoy all of your photos, your sharing of techniques, sense of humor, etc. I have recommended, to several people..to start following your Travel Blog..that’s how much I appreciate your work!
    But, as I said, we can be the hardest on ourselves!
    I’ve been working on a “mosaic” for most of, the last 10 months(it’s finished, except for the “resin coat” ). I have a dear friend, that has worked beside me & helped me with this project. I may have gotten frustrated & it would have become, another “unfinished project”. I have a tendency to see things in the usual colors & to “outline” my work(it’s probably myself)by “staying inside the lines”..so to speak.
    Anyway..with my friend’s artistic eye…she helped me to “break out” of my usual tendencies. She helped me to see, that, colors are made up of many colors, & I didn’t have to “do it this way”…that, I could do it any way I wanted(!)..what an idea!
    Going “outside the box” will,usually result in the most growth…so..this might be your time…to “get out of that box”!
    I hope that you will give yourself a break & know that many of your followers, really like what you’re doing & look forward to your next entry!
    But, trying new things is growth too…just go with the feeling(GOD gives us those “intuitions” for a reason)..you have been blessed with a wonderful talent & I thank you for sharing it with us!


  4. ****My cousin’s sons have a “auto restoration” type of business & the “hottest thing” right now, are the “barn-find” trucks & cars! At first glance, you think…it’s not done! But, the more you study the vehicle, the colors in the old paint & rust…you begin to see the beauty in the whole situation(the interiors are completely restored))…but the layers of paint & rust are “clear-coated” & that’s a neat effect!
    Your “barn(pasture)find truck” is the perfect example of what I just mentioned!
    Both photo’s would be desirable….but, your newest one…with the “enhanced” color(even a mere hint of layers of paint & rust)..would be quite popular, if you decided to make prints of it! Good job, Tom!


  5. Cynthia,

    I appreciate both of your comments very much. Thank you for your supportive words and shared experience. I think all artists experience this in one way or another. Regarding a print of the truck, my wife and I have been talking about this image and I think I’ll go ahead and do a proper print. The full-resolution image will easily make a high-quality 24″x36″. I’m buying back my coffin-sized 44″ 12-color commercial printer so I will be handling the print making myself. I’ve also sourced a local company who can face mount the prints to 1/4″ optical acrylic. That mounting technique really makes an image stand out. The acrylic draws the light in making the photo look almost backlit even without a light shining on it.
    I’m currently working on a second image to use as part of a pair for hanging in the house. Once I finish the processing work, I’ll post it here.
    I’d love to see your mosaic when your finished with it!

    Philippians 4:8
    Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

    God’s note for artists!


  6. Thanks Wes. I too am a little tired of seeing the over-done HDR stuff. It does look great when done properly but it takes a critical eye to determine when enough is enough. I’ve avoided the whole thing all together. I have, in the past, used HDR type techniques to draw out all the delicious data in a single RAW file but never stacking multiple exposures.
    Trey Ratcliff is a master of stacked HDR images and he has one of the best photo websites I’ve seen. He truly has pioneered proper use of HDR. Check out his website: http://www.stuckincustoms.com


  7. Hi Dana,
    I appreciate you’re comment and I’m glad you found it of interest. I was in a weird mood last night from all I had been thinking about and I just felt like posting what I was going through. For no other reason than I know that probably everyone experiences such things and sometimes just reading that you’re not alone in it can be a piece of encouragement. I don’t ever want to use my website as an outlet for anything but positive images and writing; a place people can trust to provide relaxing articles and images when you just want to get away from the all the news and busyness of life that wears us out each day. I hope last night’s post didn’t step over that boundary.


  8. Good to hear from you, Tom!
    I think you & your wife are “on track” with the possibilities of doing your own printing! Blessings on all of your endeavor’s!
    Most of my “artistic” work, are “on hold” for the most part…since I am a caregiver for my(94 yr. old)mother & my oldest brother(who is totally blind).
    That’s ok…GOD has given me this time, to care for them…it’s a “gift” that HE has led me to. Any “talent” that I may have..comes from HIM, as well!
    Thank you for sharing “GOD’S note for artists…..if you don’t mind..I’d like to share it with my friend, that shares her love of the LORD & her talents in art!


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