Falling Into Creativity

•April 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment


I come from a creative family. My father was a painter, brother is a writer, nephews are movie directors and photographers. Creativity, to one growing up in my family, was something that happened naturally. It was not something to be worried about and fostered. We couldn’t stop ourselves from being creative. If it wasn’t about creating art, it was about creating pithy puns in our conversation.

Even now I don’t think about creativity much except to be marveled by it. When I’m out wandering around a lake, mountain, creek or wherever, I just allow myself to be marveled and let creativity take care of itself. I know from experience that I usually have no clue which photographs will turn out to be boring and which will be compelling. I’m just sure that both will be there. Some days they’re mostly boring and some days the opposite.

I expect that my relationship with creativity is different from many of yours, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop the same kind of relationship if you want to.

I examined what took place and didn’t take place when I was being creative to see what was at work, What I observed is that creativity is a lot like love. Maybe all that creativity is, is an expression of love.

A lot is written about, thought about and filmed about falling in love, but most of it seems to ignore the expression itself. Falling in love. If one is falling what can one do. The term falling means that initially things are out of our control. And control, I believe, is the big issue here.

With falling in love there are issues with intimacy acceptance and self-acceptance. These issues are in the mind and the less power we give to our minds, the more ecstatic the experience will be. So, a big part of falling in love is falling out of our minds, falling out of our fear, and just letting the feeling and momentum take us where it takes us.

What keeps us from falling into creativity is similar. Creativity involves being inspired and just like love, being inspired requires being open without a lot of desires and fears weighing on our minds. Like love, creativity requires trust — trust that things happen in their own time, and that like love, creativity will happen.

I’m talking about creativity and inspiration, not technical ability. Having the knowledge to actualize what you see into a meaningful photograph is another topic. Technical ability has to be learned, inspiration is natural to us, we just have to trust ourselves and allow it to happen.

Just like we can’t make ourselves fall in love, we can’t make ourselves be creative. That can take a huge burden off of ourselves. There is no work to be done to be creative. If anything there is un-work.

We usually have all this stuff in our minds as some form of protection from humiliation or hurt, so this un-work involves un-doing this protection. We don’t have to be fearful that a mountain will think we’re too old or too fat. A flower doesn’t care how clever and intelligent we are. Capturing that landscape won’t get you that raise you’re hoping for. So, go out and relax, have fun. Love. That’s why we do it. If you’re out in nature, love the rocks, the grasses, the trees, the streams. In the city, love the sidewalks, the cars, the pedestrians, the buildings. What else is there to do.

Art and Success

•April 18, 2015 • 1 Comment


My nephew Noah has a new film out called While We’re Young. It appears to be a story about two documentary filmmakers who become friends and help each other, but what it really turns out to be is a meditation on art and success and what will one do to achieve success.

We Baumbachs come from a family of artists who struggle with what it means to be a pure artist and what is selling out. I managed to avoid this when, in my early 20s, I decided to peruse photography — so I went into commercial photography. There was no need for art, only success.

However, I soon lost the love of taking photographs and went on to other things. When I got back into photography some 20+ years later I decided to avoid the art/success conundrum in another way. I didn’t leave my job as a computer programmer and continued to make my living that way.

Being on the outside looking in, so to speak, I see a lot of compromises that surprise and disappoint me, mostly by photographers who are well known doing me-too shots. I suppose this is what we have to do to make a living.

I would love to show only what I think is my best work on my web site. The site would probably be a lot slimmer. The problem is that a lot of what I sell isn’t what I consider my best work. Some of it is mediocre shots of well known places that I believe is done better by others, but they sell. The other problem is that I’ll be the first to agree with the contention that artists are the worst judge of their own work. So, as much as I don’t like it, my web site currently stays as it is.

One thing I did take away from Noah’s movie is that it’s one thing to be a pure artist, but being an introvert does not contribute to getting one’s work to be seen. In that respect, I’ll try to express myself with words more and more publicly.

So, hopefully, this mostly dormant blog will become more active again.

Effortless Beauty

•February 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

During Boulder Open Studios this past fall, a couple of visitors mentioned that my images were “contemplative photographs” and asked me if I studied contemplative photography. I told them that that was the first and then second time I’d heard of contemplative photography, but I was very happy because they seemed to really “get” my photos. For me, taking and working on photographs, has always been about having a quiet mind. I’ve blogged about this in the past, but haven’t gotten much response and felt, as a photographer, I was alone in this.

So, I was heartened to know that there are other “contemplative photographers” and even courses in it.

I was very excited to get my hands on Effortless Beauty, a recent book by contemplative photographer and teacher Julie DuBose.

Julie, in beautiful and clear text, walks us through allowing our minds to become quiet, allowing ourselves to be taken in and moved by things we notice and creating meaningful photographs from our experiences.

The book is filled with beautiful, simple and quiet photographs that very well illustrate the state of mind and goal of the contemplative photographer.

I think it all comes down to what are you interested in. Are you interested in making images like some you saw online? Are you interested in making images that will impress your friends? Are you interested in making images that you can sell? Or, are you interested in taking your camera, being quiet and just looking and seeing? In that quiet space you will notice things that a busy mind would not have let you notice before. Some of these things when photographed properly will make profound and moving images. By approaching creating photographs this way, you will find that developing a style that is strictly your own is an effortless outgrowth of your photographing. You may not get famous, or rich, but you will have a great experience and fall in love with the process.

There is a very small chapter toward the end of the book where Julie and I approach things differently. For Julie, the process of seeing and creating occurs when we’re out with a camera and taking a photo. She says that post-processing should only consist of actualizing what the seeing experience was. Anything else should be discarded.

I don’t work that way. Maybe I should be called a contemplative post-processor as well as a contemplative photographer. Seeing doesn’t have to stop with the camera − and one’s experience when seeing and taking a photograph no matter how profound was only an experience in time and that moment is already gone when you’re at the computer. One can be quiet at the computer and experience discovery and excitement once more as one takes the raw material of the digital image and creates a beautiful photograph from it.

That said, I wouldn’t want to touch any of Julie’s photographs in Effortless Beauty with Photoshop. They are great as they are.

Effortless Beauty is available at Amazon, but even better give Julie all the money and purchase it at http://www.effortlessbeautybook.com/.

My Favorites of 2014

•December 29, 2014 • 10 Comments

I believe that 2014 was a great year for me photographically.  I’m very pleased and excited with the images that I was able to produce this year.  I’m always nervous when I have to prepare these best/favorites pages, because I’m not necessarily objective about which are truly the best images. I just know about the ones I have strong feelings for.  
For now I’m happy with them.  I appreciate your feedback on how they may move or not move you.

Thank you for taking the time to look at them.  Click on any image to bring up a page with a larger version.

Morning in Eldorado Canyon. One of my favorite places in the world.

Reflections and foam in South Boulder Creek running through Eldorado Canyon.

We had a lot of rain this summer and fall. The grasses were amazing

Another grass abstract.

Morning sun illuminating the walls of Eldorado Canyon.

Those same walls reflected in South Boulder Creek.

I got back into photographing trees. These at Sawhill Ponds.

I also tried my hand with pond grasses at Sawhill and Walden Ponds.

I do think my best work, however, was of the local grasses.

I love these little buds.

I’d never seen grasses like this before. They were fun to work with..

I call this Oh My after one of the comments for it on my facebook page.

It’s starting getting quite cold here and I’m getting back into doing ice photos.

I’m always a sucker for trees.

One more of reflections of the amazingly colored walls of Eldorado Canyon in South Boulder Creek.

Just Slow Down and See

•November 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

We live in such a Me-centered world. Everyone is “Going for it”, “Having it all”, and “Creating Success and Prosperity”.

What a bunch of arrogant schmucks we are. We humans, especially we white anglos, have a lot of power and can do a lot with it. We don’t have to look far to see the positive and unfortunately negative consequences of our power and arrogance.

However this fantasy of “Having it all” and “Creating our success and prosperity” is even over the top for us.

I think we fortunate humans who try to make art — artists and artist wannabees — realize how little is actually under our egoic control.

We can’t just be creative because we want to be, turning it on and off at will. Creativity is actually a result of surrender. Creativity occurs when we allow it to occur by letting all our other desires fade to the background.

I’m not talking about something unknown to us here. I make a living as a programmer, one of the most left-brain professions one could have, and yet every programmer I talk to nods their head and knows what I’m talking about when I talk about mulling over a difficult problem all day and how the solution automatically comes to me when I’ve left work and I’m walking to my car.

Being an arrogant, white anglo myself I am constantly humbled and consequently immensely grateful to have the very good fortune to have creativity come to me whether invited or uninvited.

This was made acutely aware to me on Thanksgiving morning. I drove out to Eldorado Canyon that morning under a beautiful sunrise. I wanted to be there post-sunrise to catch the beautiful reflections of the canyon in South Boulder Creek. When I arrived at “Eldo”, the Sun was up but already going behind some clouds. I wandered along the creek “trying” to make photos, but without the beautiful golden reflections I didn’t feel very inspired. When it was clear there would be no sun for some time, I gave up and put my attention on the trees. Again I didn’t feel I was getting much but I would try to make photographs of things that looked interesting to me.

I wandered around for awhile not being very satisfied with anything, and finally gave up and went home. As I was taking my camera off of the tripod, I noticed that I had mistakenly set my camera to take tiffs instead of raw captures. Not only did I not take any good photos, I’d have even fewer options to work with them now. At least they weren’t jpegs.

This is the arrogant knowledgeable photographer speaking: “I know what I want. I know what I’m looking for,” and so forth.

Well, whether I deserved it or not, the Creativity Gods sure paid me a visit this morning. I’m very conscious of not wanting to copy another photographer or even just copy myself so apparently being thrown out of my comfort zone really worked. I realized that I composed these images, set the lens opening and shutter speed but beyond that I can’t take any credit for these photographs. They really happened in spite of myself.

I Don’t Suffer for my Art

•August 24, 2014 • 4 Comments

In my late teens and early 20s my joy was wandering New York streets with a camera or two and snapping photos of people on the street. One day I found myself concentrating on photographing people’s hard times, and I quickly stopped myself. In a crowded dirty city like New York, suffering was all around us and I felt that it was too easy to make sad photographs that would move people. I said to myself that suffering wasn’t all of my reality. There is also joy and excitement in my life and I should express that in my photographs.

Many years later those thoughts still motivate me. I want my images to uplift you, make you happy and bring you peace.

These memories come up today because I’m seeing so much of contemporary “Art” photography not only focusing on people’s suffering, but being self portraits of the individual photographer’s suffering. I’m not immune to suffering. I tried to kill myself at three by running in front of a car. Suffering among us is very real, but I think that glorifying one’s own suffering is a selfish act of self indulgence that at best makes me laugh, but really makes me sad.

There’s so much real suffering in the world, in Gaza, in Africa, in Ukraine and even in the richest country in the world, my United States. Lets get some perspective here!

Bye Bye Blog

•July 9, 2014 • 2 Comments

I less and less interested in talking about photography these days and more and more interested in looking at and taking photographs. So, I think it’s time to give this blog
a rest. As a parting post, I’ll show some of the new directions that I’m experimenting with.

You can keep up with my photographic work on my Dan Baumbach Photography Facebook page.

Who knows, now maybe I’ll be inspired to write something.

Thank you for taking the time to look at this.

– Dan


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