In my previous post "3 Lessons I Learned In 2016" I discussed several pieces of subject matter and one of them which I happened to touch about was in dealing with enjoying and experience the moment. With this entry I wanted to elaborate a bit further, and more specifically discuss the pros and cons of creative energy and whether it should be used instantaneously or given time to incubate. First I will give you a little story from this past week about immediately following through an artistic idea. Yes, I walked away from this one with fire ant bites all over my legs. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Strap in because here we go!
NYE Shoot: Pixelstick Debut
This past weekend I was at a New Year's Eve party hosted by a couple friends of mine. The party was chill, and everyone was having a good time by the bonfire, eating excellent food, and having a few drinks. The stroke of midnight occurred and we all toasted in celebration. As a light artist, I thought it would be fun to show off my new lightpainting tool, the Pixelstick. When the countdown reached zero I fired up the LEDs and whirled the Pixelstick around in a trippy rainbow kaleidoscope flurry. It was indeed a hit. Afterward, I set my tool aside and engaged in further conversation.
I ended up having one of those random, slightly buzzed off alcohol conversations which helps you to realize what you need to be doing with your life. One of the guests and I ended up discussing the concept of New Year's Resolutions and how we both agreed it was arbitrary thinking to choose to act until the beginning of the year in order to make a change. "You need to do things, and do them now. I've heard a million phenomenal ideas, with few actually acted upon." They were speaking my language, and at the time I was feeling motivated, or maybe it was all the leftover Christmas sweets I had eaten. I knew what I needed, and wanted to do.
Without a shred of hesitation, I set aside my drink, bid my hosts a Happy New Year, then proceeded forward with an idea which had popped into my head, Pixelstick in tow. I was going to begin the year 2017 with a bang, and this was going to set the tone for the year. My resolution was the be 2017's photographer of the year, and I had to capitalize on every moment in order to achieve this goal. I was one with The Force and The Force was with me. After a quick detour to my house to pick of my Sony Alpha camera and tripod, I was finally off to my target destination and around 1 a.m. I had arrived.
The advantage of having grown up in Rankin County, Mississippi is that I have a vast knowledge of backroads with very few traces of civilization; places perfect for lightpainting, and I decided one of these locations would be the prime spot to debut the Pixelstick. I set up all my equipment and got my positions marked where I wanted to shoot, and how far away from the camera I wanted to move with the Pixelstick. For this shoot, I would also be using a brand new lens I had purchased, a Sony SELP 18-105 mm (which was a welcome addition because my previous lens with wide angle capabilities was damaged in a steel wool lightpainting session where a piece of flaming material had landed on the lens and fused to the glass.) I also found an interesting prop with an abandoned utility stool, flipping it on its side to roll and positon perfectly with my Sony camera.
Go time. Since this would be my first session with this new lightpainting technology, I decided it would be best to play around with the base templates. Hitting the shutter and beginning the countdown on my camera, I timed the release of my Pixelstick right to the moment with the image woud begin being captured. Fire. In a flurry of pulsing lights and colors the Pixelstick came alive and I began my movements. Starting out slow and smooth, I wove the stick around through the air gracefully and in control. The Force was indeed strong, but then I began feeling a stinging, itchy sensation. "Ow!" I yelled in retaliation. Again I felt another quick, sting, and knew what was happening. My oafish human feet had incurred the wrath of the devil's hellspawan: fireants.
It is only fitting that as someone who has largely specialized in wielding various forms of fire for their art, that in an instance where I decide to try something knew I get eaten alive by the vermin. The ants were everywhere; my feet, legs, and even my a few parts of my crotch were under attack. Welcome to the first day of 2017...the surrounding was so dark I could not see any of the ants, and the itching was beginning to drive me insane, coupled with the fact that every other second I was enduring a fresh bite. I surmised that due to the damp soil from the earlier rains, the ants were probably all over my shooting location. At this time I seriously thought about shutting down the shoot, and calling it a night. It was around 3 a.m. I was tired, and my body from waist down had become mincemeat, but I had a mission. My resolution was to be photographer of the year, and I had an idea. I would use the fire ants to my advantage..
I decided it would be best to leave part of the shoot up to fate. 2017 was here and it was go time. Camera shutter ready. Fire. I had to fight the urge to itch to continue going forward. While my camera was processing images between shots I battled the ants as best as I could. There was no way I would be able to swat them all off my legs, but I would not go silently into the night. This was my war to win. Another flurry of images and I thought of another way to fight the little demons. To force the ants off my body, I decided to make a few jumps and let gravity to the work. This ended up working nicely with a lot of my Pixelstick images as I was able to position the light in all different manner of shapes. By 4 a.m. I had filled my camera's memory card with plenty of images to sort through. I left ant hell in victory, and a few hours later the images were online just in time to welome in the new year.
Lightning in a Bottle vs. Lightning in the Sky
My New Year's Eve spontaneous photoshoot was an instance where I had a creative spark, and chose to act on the idea before it became fleeting. Sometimes it is best to catch the proverbial "lightning in a jar" before that idea loses thunder. Like the conversation I had at the party, there have been many times where I have heard killer ideas, yet never seen the light of day. A lot of times we can become distracted by day-to-day life, and lose track of our ideas. It is when these scenarios occur the best way to let our ideas continue to live is to let them incubate, and sometimes that is the best manner in which to complete a project. It all boils down to making the choice between doing something quickly, and making sure it gets accomplished, or taking time to plan out an idea ensuring it is done in a calculated manner. Lightning in a bottle is quick and flashy. Lightning in the sky is spread out, and can be quite elaborate.
One thing to remember in seeing through that creative spark to the end is making yourself be of the, "this is happening," mindset. Regardless whether you capitalize on that energy now or later depends on the time at your disposal. In an instance where you find yourself available with free time, I would say to let yourself act as soon as possible. If busy, do not let your idea die. As you go about your busy day let your thoughts organize, pay attention to your surroundings as you go about mundane tasks, and elaborate on your original thoughts. This can be to your advantage, and if you can find a free moment scribble down some basic notes and keywords to remember in a notepad or on your phone. Ultimately, make sure your ideas are seen through to the end. Considering each mode of action reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes from Carlos Castenada's The Teachings of Don Juan.
"In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions."
One final project in which I worked on this week was a special, what I like to call, "Easter Egg." I had been in talks this week with my buddy Garrad Lee about doing a photoshoot with Jackson Indie Music Week at Fondren Underground (which will be taking place January the 12th for those of you interested in viewing it live) utilizing the new Pixelstick. Unlike my New Year's shoot, this one would be using the stick's SD card slot, which allows the LEDs inside to translate the image into pure light during a long exposure photograph. Wanting to test the technique in preparation for the shoot, I got the email to ask for permission to use the JIM Week logo in use during some field shoots, to which I was obliged.
I let the ideas of shots I wanted incubate the entire day, and by nightfall I set off from work, Pixelstick and camera in tow. Throughout my many runs in Jackson, I knew exactly where I wanted to shoot in order to achieve the desired effect. Soon enough I had my equipment set up, and by the end of the night, I had three good quality photos spread across the city. I could not believe how well the Pixelstick turned the JXN Indie Music Week logo into light! I was able to gather all the shots within a fairly quick amount of time, though this was possible because beforehand I had spent a decent portion of my day with my mind going over the fine details way in advance so when I actually set forth to do the project it was done in a very calculated and efficient manner. This was an instance where it worked to my benefit