Losing one’s “mojo” – and how to find it again

Mojo

Defined by the OED as:

Magical power, voodoo, the art of casting spells; a charm or talisman used in casting such spells. More generally, esp. in recent use: a power, force, or influence of any kind

Well, I am not a shaman, I have no magical powers and I am rubbish at casting spells. But the “recent usage”, of “power” or “force”, is what I have been getting at when I have said that I have lost my photographic “mojo”. I have stopped enjoying taking photographs and I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do about it.

Those of you who have known me for a while will know that for many years, taking photographs has been a huge part of my life. After a lull while the children were growing up, when I basically took a lot of snaps as Dads do (and there’s nothing wrong with that), I got back into it in a much more serious way in maybe 2002. For several years thereafter, I was taking a lot of photographs, making the most of every opportunity and using a lot of film. I have lever-arch files full of negative and slide films on the shelves in front of me dating back to that time.

In recent years, however, in relative terms, I haven’t taken many photographs at all. A friend of mine asked me last week when I stopped, and I had to think pretty hard. I linked it to being diagnosed with the cancer, but I’m not sure if that isn’t too convenient a “hook”. I will need to do some analysis to see when I slowed down and eventually came to an almost complete stop. It might have been around that time, or it might have been a little later; I will see.

After all, it’s not as if I am not fortunate enough to get away several times a year to new and interesting places. Last year we went to Sorrento, Cornwall, France and Istanbul. One would have thought that those locations would have offered a wealth of opportunities, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case.

This year, the diary currently has four trips too, including trips to San Francisco and Vienna, plus return visits to Skye and the Somme. Therein lies one of the problems – “return visits”. On a return visit anywhere, I tend to try to take the same photographs as I did the first time, especially if I have been pleased with them. That isn’t good.

Could it be related to the diagnosis? Quite possibly. Cancer does funny things to you, even when you are in remission. It changes the way you think about life (as this blog is a painfully long witness) and in many cases, it can lead to depressive thoughts. I have tried very hard to stay positive throughout this whole experience and for 99.9% of the time, with the support of family and friends, I have managed to do so. Maybe, my lack of photography is sitting in that 0.1%?

Having a further think, I am wondering if it is related to the “anti-photography” movement on the streets, these days. S44 of the Terrorism Bill had the effect of giving any jumped-up, fluorescent jacketed security guard the idea that he could prevent anyone from taking photos on the streets. Many policemen were of a similar opinion, unfortunately. No doubt, recent events in Paris and elsewhere will bring this nonsense back to the fore. While I was never and could never be a “street photographer”, I used to enjoy wandering around cities taking photographs. I can’t remember the last time I did so.

Or maybe it’s something else? I don’t know.

So, how does one get the “mojo” back?

A project.

What I need is a project.

In the past, I have enjoyed going to classic car rallies. There are many photographs on my website taken at rallies in the NW as well as, a couple of times, at the Goodwood Revival. Not only do they offer the opportunity to photograph some interesting cars, be they Ferraris (will be lots of Ferraris at Goodwood this year!), Maseratis, Jaguars and all the rest, the people associated with them tend to be interesting characters too.

So, this year, I am going to make a concerted effort to attend as many as I can. Lots of “stately homes” around here hold them in the spring and early summer, there is one in Lytham St Annes and smaller ones all over the place.

“A project” is a very good idea and one that I will embrace.

A new camera…

Much more controversial, of course. A new camera does not a new photographer make.

But, for years I have been toying with the idea of buying a digital Leica M, to accompany my film M, and maybe this year is the year to do so. I have had my Nikon D700 for a few years now, and enjoy using that too, so maybe it’s time to upgrade that instead (I can’t afford both). But, I have long been frustrated with colour film work, notably since taking slides, my favourite form of film, became so expensive. A roll of film now costs about £10 and processing is about the same. This means that every time the shutter is clicked, you are spending about 50p. That soon adds up and is a major consideration.

Colour negative film is cheaper to buy, at around £5-6 per roll, and can still be processed cheaply. However, you are reliant on others doing it properly and with my last roll being ruined (shots of the Millau Bridge in October, unfortunately), this is becoming more of a worry, especially as film use continues to decline. I could process either film myself, of course, but my volume of film taking means that the chemicals are very expensive in small quantities. A bit of a chicken and egg thing really.

So, if I want to continue to shoot colour, with an M, I might need to grit my teeth and bite the bullet , both at the same time.

Let’s see what the spring brings.

My website hosting and email account have finally been moved successfully

Finally, after several months of messing around, I have managed to move the hosting of my website and, much more importantly, my main email address to a provider who isn’t going to get bored and pull the plug.

This process has taught me several useful lessons.

1. Just because someone has a professional looking website and can set up hosting accounts etc, doesn’t mean that they may not just a one-man band with a big hard disk in their back bedroom. (I don’t know, but that’s what I suspect was behind my previous host)

2. Even if said host was recommended by a web-designer friend, have a look at what the really big boys are offering.

3. Do not rely on an email address as your main point of contact with the Bank, HMRC etc, etc, if that email address can be switched off on a whim by said back-bedroom owner. To say that it’s a pain is not even coming close.

4. Moving a web host is much more difficult than you could ever imagine, especially if the original host, from whom you have to get various Nominet codes etc, is somewhat uncommunicative. Eventually, this guy proved helpful, but it took me several months to get everything sorted (admittedly, I did let it lie for a while over Christmas, after he switched the servers back on…)

5. Moving a bank account is much easier than doing this.

6. My new host provider, Zen, have proven to be extremely helpful, but it still took me three half hour calls to get the email account working (due to a DNS error issue)

Whilst it obviously has to be difficult to move hosts, to prevent the bad guys hijacking your pages, I didn’t realise just how difficult it would be, especially if you are not completely comfortable with DNS, MX, and other tech stuff that goes on in the background.

So, everything is back up and running now. All I need is to find some decent content this year…

And with that in mind, it’s off to Liverpool for a wander.

A new book

About four years ago, I put together a collection of photographs into a Blurb album, entirely for my own vanity. A link to the book is here, if anyone is interested.

Having had a look at the book over the Christmas holiday, I thought that I might do a sister book to go with it, but only with photographs from the period in between – i.e. taken since 2011.

As I have explained in the past, my output has been woeful recently, so it will be interesting to see how many shots I can find that I think should go into a book. There was over a hundred last time. If nothing else, it will give me something to do in the coming dark evenings.

Not for inclusion in the book, but here’s one taken while walking the dog this morning. I ought to carry a better camera with me when walking the dog. I did have the film “M” in my bag, and took a couple of shots with that, but it will take a while to shoot the rest of the film. Something to look forward to.

Caldy-Beach-New-Year's-Day-2015