Why a step back might lead you forward

Alright, it's been a while since my last blog and that mostly has to do with my attempt to write on some ... well, I guess more complicated topics, but lack of time and maybe insufficient knowledge from my side on the topics themselves forced me to keep postponing them.


And just a warning before I'll continue to the actual body of this blog: As some of you know I'm a fan of metaphors and allegories... well, in this case, I'll throw in some parkour related comparisons, as my experiences with parkour triggered me to write this post.


A couple of days ago I was attempting a jump that kind of scared me. After I had prepped it a couple of times, I wanted to go for it, knowing that I was perfectly capable of doing it.

But I kept going back and forth, visualizing the run-up, the take-off, checking if the landing surface was completely safe, long enough to forget what my prep jumps felt like, which made it hard to commit the jump. My stubborn mind tried to convince me that I should just go for it, but fear kicked in and I didn't feel like doing it anymore.  

Luckily, I decided to give the prep jump another go and straight away it felt right, and I knew I could go for it again...

For clarification: I'm using this blog as a prep for the next one, hoping that this one will give me the extra 'commitment' I need for the other ones.


Enough mutter...


Some of you might have seen the photo below pass by on my feed and thought "Well, that's not the kind of stuff he usually posts".

Others might have thought "Is this guy sponsored by Yugen or something? F****** wannabe influencer". 


For the record, I'm not :) 

But indeed, it's not my usual type of photography. I've done similar things before, but never really liked the images I got.


So then why would I shoot this image if I'm not getting paid for it or not like the result? Simple: Boredom.

Or well, actually, it's not that simple. 

First of all, I do like the result, I just didn't really consider it good enough to post it.  

As most of you these days, I'm stuck at home the majority of the time.*
But the truth is, I haven't felt bored for a minute yet in the past month.

Having finished my editing backlog of pictures I decided I wanted to experiment a bit again, which, when I started photography, I used to enjoy a lot but kinda grew out off because... well, I found my style and tried to stick to it.


So a couple of days ago I realised my flash (a semi-cheapo canon 430ex ii) had been collecting dust in a closet for a while now and I wanted to make it feel less lonely in these times of isolation.

Because I had no human subject to photograph at the moment (and I detest making people pose anyway), I grabbed a soda can and tried to figure out a set-up to work with.

As I was holding an 'Apple-mint' yugen can, the choice of props was quickly made. 

Creative? Not really. But sometimes the obvious thing to do should simply be done, to get it over with, and afterwards you can start playing around with different ideas.

Parkour reference alert.

When I'm walking down the street and come across two walls a specific distance apart, instantly I'm thinking of a certain jump to do, which might not be the easiest one, but before I've attempted this one I probably won't start thinking about anything else to do there. 

Another traceur might pass by and think about a completely different jump, something I hadn't even considered or thought about. 

Is the other traceur more creative than I am?


Creativity is not necessarily doing something that other people don't do. The essence of creativity seems to be on a more individual level, often it's about doing something that you're not used to doing.

It's about creating something new, using unexplored links between your neurons to do something that you don't actually know yet how to do.  

But let's not wander offtopic! 

(If you're wondering if all of this is even going somewhere, stick with me for a little longer)


Whether your goal is to improve your photography, parkour or your bellydancing skills, longterm or short term; it might be a good idea to look back on the things you've tried so far in order to achieve your goals. Some of these things might look basic to you now, or even silly and you might see no point in repeating them.

And in many cases you're probably right, but still I'd advise you, if you feel stuck, in any way, to do it once again, just change it a tiny little bit to see what happens and you might end up with new revelations.  

That's why I like seeing all these #homechallenges becoming a thing on social media, it makes you try stuff you haven't done before or wouldn't usually do. 


So... 'challenge' time I guess :)


From here onward I'll give some of the technical specs of the photo above and some extra shots (see below) I took, which might help you to try and replicate them.

Btw, photography-wise, I got inspired to try something different by watching some videos from Thomas Heaton & Ted Forbes. Follow them if you don't already.


The 'apple-mint-shot' was taken in the midst of day, on my kitchen floor, using a yoga mat as a backdrop. Not a professional set-up, but the result turned out pretty fine. The fact is that I did use an external flash, which some of you might not have, so that's why I added the images below because these were made using only natural light.


Now, the interesting part: What do you need for these? Ordered by decreasing necessity.

- A window 

- A table/ desk/ or any surface with an interesting texture

- A can (They do work well because of their semi-reflective surface)

- Paper

- A see-through bottle (filled with water), I used a glass one but plastic should work just as well.

- A mist spray bottle? Water atomizer? Whatever you call one of those things that you used to chase your siblings around the house with. 


So this morning I decided to pull my desk in front of the window, opened the curtains just a little so only a ray of sunlight could pass through them. 

As the harsh light was hitting the can directly I needed to brighten the background, in order to lessen the dynamic range of the set-up.

I simply used some white sheets of A4 paper to reflect the incoming light to the background and an extra sheet to bounce in some light onto the shadow side of the cans.

A narrow depth of field usually helps to make a shot look 'better' so I used my Sigma 30mm f1.4. 

But to avoid chromatic aberration (and also because my shutter was already at 1/8000s) I shot these at f2. Don't be discouraged if you only have a kit lens, it will probably work just as well.


Some tips:

- Go low. Getting closer to the surface allows you to get some reflections where you wouldn't expect them.

- Play with light. I used a bottle in the second shot to diffract the light before it hit the can.

- Water is god (in a non-religious way). Extra reflection, extra shadows, extra texture.


And just because I know some people like to see these, I added the raw vs edited shots below.



Long story short:

1) If you stick to what you always do, you don't learn as much as you potentially could. So go ahead, do those kong precisions you've always been afraid off, or shoot those macro photos of your carpet. It might not lead to anything, but you might as well end up with a banger. 

2) Take a step back and accept that this might be necessary to drive you forward 

3) Creating things is what you want to do, it doesn't matter if anyone else has already done it 


*For people reading this in the future, this blog was written in the Corona-era in 2020.