My most favorite birthday gift of all time was the used Minolta SLR analog camera with 50mm lens my dad bought me for my birthday when I turned 18 years old. I loved the idea of freezing a moment in time and capturing the magic I saw in everyday life. Even more, I loved having an excuse to go out with my dad for lessons and spending time with him just the two of us.
Early on I was discouraged that my photos lacked luster, movement, and the magic I saw, but could not convey. My dad came to the rescue with some simple suggestions for the amateur photographer like myself. For my dad, photography has been a lifelong hobby and at one point it was a second career. Besides capturing the magic of me and my brothers' childhood via pictures, my dad is also gifted at crafting metaphors fit for dad-advice for just about every situation. Through the years I've come to realize that these photography tools and skills not only create dynamic, contemplative photos, but can also work as metaphors to create dynamic, contemplative moments when feeling stuck or complacent in jobs, relationships, making decisions, or practically any other host of circumstances. I've included some of these photography tips below followed with some open-ended questions you could ask yourself when feeling stuck in a particular situation.
Try a different perspective - Photos taken standing up can be mediocre simply because that is how we typically see the subject matter any given day. Take a look at the same scene on your knees, from the ground, standing on a stool, or even a bird's eye view. When you're feeling stuck with a given set of circumstances what happens when you look at it from the perspective of the child version of yourself, or your own child? Again, what happens if you were to put some distance between yourself and the scene, remove yourself from the middle of it or look back at it from the future?
Experiment with different lenses - I always wanted both a macro and a fisheye lens which were out of our budget, but switching between my 50mm and 28mm lenses gave me enough flexibility to get up close and personal as well as capture a wider view of the field. How might you understand a situation differently when we focus on a particular subject blurring the background as with some portraiture? How does that understanding change when you use a wide angle lens and see the same subject within the larger context? When you approach the subject up close what details did you miss before?
Play around with filters - As a teen I was completely fascinated with filters - not exactly the same as today's digital filters on camera phones or photography apps, but an additional physical component I could screw on to the end of my lens. I cannot recall the actual name, but my favorite filter diffracted light to create starbursts around lights in night photos. I have about a billion pictures of the I-74 bridge at night and Christmas lights to prove it. Metaphorically you could think of filters as your current mood, an interchangeable add-on. How might a given set of circumstances look different filtered through various moods? How might the situation look through diffused light, softening all the edges?
Double exposures - My favorite photography trick as a teen was taking double exposures - or exposing the same frame twice to superimpose one image on top of another. My dad taught me the trick of preventing the film from advancing and to stop down one f-stop as to not let too much light in. When feeling stuck or complacent you could superimpose the current situation onto one from the past and compare and contrast the two images. Be careful not to overexpose one too much or you'll lose the detail altogether. Do you see any overlapping patterns between the two? As the photographer what did you do differently or the same? How might the inclusion of two vastly different images create one wonderfully, unexpected piece of art?
I still enjoy photography today though I've moved to the digital age. I doubt my dad really meant for me to use these photo-taking tips as metaphors for getting unstuck, but I guess "like father like daughter" I can't help but to see and utilize metaphors everywhere. I think what I appreciate most about these photography suggestions is the questions provide me with new insight about the subject and my relationship to it as the photographer. These new insights either guide me to change the subject matter altogether, go elsewhere or they help me in seeing the same exact scene differently, and that's when I notice the vitality and magic are already there - it's all in how I am viewing it.