Self Imposed Limits


Feeling Sorry for Myself, Selfie;                                                  © Ian Poole, Brisbane 2014.

Having recently come through a few days of unexpected medical induced resting in a hospital, I had time to reflect where I sit in the creative world.  Being at a point in my life where it may be that I have already taken some of my best photographs, I pondered whether there were more great photographs left in Poole.  More maybe, possibly even better images!

Not being capable of fast and snappy thought processes, it took a day or so to realise that some of my doubts about personal creativity were linked back to self imposed limits.  Who said I needed a newer, better, bigger camera with a longer, wider, faster lens?

In a blinding flash of genius that even stunned me – I realised that all I needed was a camera!

I have spent a lifetime working with all manner of cameras.  Good grief, I have spent longer than I care to think about teaching others how to use a variety of cameras.  The camera is just a device that records the photograph and preserves it until the photographer decides the manner of its use.  The brain connected to the eye is what creates a photograph.

Could great nursing staff coupled with a perceptive GP, aided by an intuitive gastroenterologist who had the wisdom to consult my gifted cardiologist, give me the answer to photographic creativity?  Was it that simple?

Sadly, yes.  

Our personal growth is often stunted by limits that are self imposed.  The equipment question is what I regard as a “boys’ toys” problem.  But in this more politically correct age I am seeing many photographers of the other gender also falling into this trap.  I concede that technical quality can sometimes be the strength underlying a photograph, but more often than not it is the original creative concept that underpins a great shot.


People Watching, Circular Quay;                                             © Ian Poole, 2014.

Personal creative growth can be stymied by the danger of succumbing to advertising pressure.  The cross infection that comes from this pressure is rarely borne out by greater creative photographs.  The memory of seeing a photograph develop in a tray of chemical usually stays with most photographers their entire life.  I am inclined to think that a similar effect is generated the first time a younger photographer sees the power that is unleashed using software to process a digital file.  I know I was.  I remember it clearly – whilst I have no knowledge of which version of Photoshop it was – the power that was given to me to clone a mistake out of a digital file.  Instead of having to dodge/burn or use Farmer’s Reducer, this apparent magic has also stayed with me as long as seeing that first 10×8” black and white print slowly appear in a tray in my parent’s bathroom.

Removing self imposed limits and reverting to taking photographs, is the jolt which most of us need.  Cop-out constraints like lack of equipment; better locations; more responsive brides and grooms; faster computers; blue skies with fluffy clouds; more co-operative models – are just that.  A cop-out.

True photographers concentrate on taking photographs.  Creative photographers concentrate on being creative.  Creativity comes from many sources.  It can be from mentors and teachers; it can be from research and observation; it can sometimes just come from getting on with the process of taking photographs.

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, the legendary Ansel Adams landscape photograph was taken when Adams was thirty-nine years old and created in a matter of minutes.  Unable to find his light meter, Adams exposed just one frame with an exposure based on a lifetime of gathered knowledge.  Adams knew that he had to take/create/expose/make the photograph – not be constrained by equipment or any other self imposed impediment.

It took several days of lying in a hospital bed to come to this amazing conclusion – I hope you can find this answer far sooner and with more immediate results.

28This article first appeared in f11 Online Magazine – Issue 28








9 thoughts on “Self Imposed Limits

  1. I love this article Mr Poole.
    A few years ago i had a similar situation and came to a very similar realisation.
    The hospital bed is quite the place for self reflection, haha.


  2. Great blog Mr Poole! I was fortunate to stop and see the place where Moonrise was shot when I was in Santa Fe a few years ago. At the time, I wondered how on earth could anyone have got an image so magical at this place. The town still looks the same! But now, I appreciate how years of experience hone the ”seeing eye” and technical skills become one with a photographer. I look forward to making the most of opportunities that present now, and in the future. I would say that ”seeing eye” of yours doesnt miss a trick and the best is yet to come!


  3. Ian, a hospital bed is a grim place to confront the limits you place on yourself. And the deal cuts the other way too. The “self” which you cannot transcend places non-negotiable limits on what you can achieve as a creative individual.

    The truth of your ideas hit me hard last year. I was in the high country with 100 sheets of 8×10 film and a month to shoot them all. Try as I might I couldn’t do it. Only 60 got exposed and many were out of a sense of duty rather than inspiration. The “self” does indeed impose limitations!

    But that could be a good thing. Creativity may very well be affirmed by the decision not to shoot rather than just plink at everything. A self imposed limit, a concious editing of effort, (not a mere work-shirking cop-out) may prize quality over quantity. One hopes.


  4. Ian Poole you are a very wise man, no matter that it took an enforced rest to surface the wisdom.


  5. Ian….That was the most inspirational dialog I have read in a long long time!! While I disagree that not everyone makes excuses, I have to say that stop the doubt right this very second that Poole has shot his best shots yet!!!!


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