Restore, Reset and Renew, 2021 in Retrospective

December 24, 2021  •  2 Comments

At the end of each year I choose a word for the upcoming 365 days, a word that will act as my compass. The word I chose for 2021 was Restore. The year before had left me feeling broken and lost and I had every intention of bouncing back, even though my old normal would never return.

Within the first few days of the year I took my first big step; I stopped using Instagram and Facebook and I have not regretted it for one single second. So often we do the things that everyone else is doing without ever wondering if this path is really ours. Being an artist, creating, is who I am, being on social media is who I am not. They make me take a route that is not mine, they started to push me into the passenger seat of my own life and even though my decision  meant doing something wildly different than what might be expected in this day and age, I quit because I could not longer live this life that was not true to who I am.

The year started, I wrote down a masterplan of what I wanted to achieve. I wanted and needed to restore, reset and renew. I needed me back into my own life. If I am to live on this beautiful planet, I want to be the one living it, I need to trust my instincts even if the road ahead would not at all be straightforward and would undoubtedly lead me into directions that would not be expected of me, but that I know to be true to who I am.

And so I worked on new port folios, in the background, without the need to immediately share anything with the outside world, without being influenced by what others were up to, without the weight of other people’s expectations. 

I waited and waited, I viewed and reviewed photographs, I created and waited again, deleted half of the photographs, started over, added more pictures, but still felt slightly awkward about sharing the work with the world. In this world of labels and identities, I was most definitely   identified as a forest photographer and these were for the most part not forest photographs. Also, this work felt so deeply personal, that I felt slightly protective of it and felt like sharing it with others might destroy the sometimes fragile and fleeting feeling of wonder that filled me when taking them.

Artists have to stand on their own at some point. I practice and preach this all the time. Sharing our creations is letting others be touched by what touched us, but it is also sharing ourselves as art is always about the artist more than about the subject. 

The I that I am is not a forest photographer, but you can find my self in my forest photographs, just as much as in my photographs of the sea. The sense of feeling restored and of being more at peace found its way into my photographs.

To the outside world it might appear to be a big leap from forests to seas, from trees to sandy beach , but to me it is not,  as this is all me. It is the tiniest of steps, even though the step of sharing felt and feels like a big leap. 

This year was about quietly working in the background on new work, new ways of seeing familiar subjects that are close to me heart and creating images of unfamiliar subjects and carefully investigating my boundaries and beliefs. I made myself go beyond and deeper than what might have felt comfortable and this did not always lead to perfect photos, but it lead to a deeper understanding of where I want to go and more knowledge about how to achieve this.

I challenged my methods, choosing discomfort over safe repetition of what I know to work. This means that inevitably I “messed up” quite a few times. The pixels were not wasted, I made a conscious decision to go beyond what I believed to work, tried something new and these carefully considered choices sometimes convinced me that I was right after all to do things the way I did, but in even more cases they steered me into new exciting directions. 

And so 2021 was a year behind the scenes, with much progress that was not yet shared, because not all things need to be shared immediately and are in need of immediate feedback. Without the pressure of sharing the latest and greatest (or actually the latest and most fitting in) work on Instagram, I was able to hone in on what I actually believe to be worthy of sharing with just myself as the judge. In the end in any type of art, we need to please ourselves first, our art needs to come from deep within and this can not be negotiated with others.

Below I am sharing my own favourite photos of this year, the ones that I feel most connected to, hoping that in one way or another my sharing these might speak to you in a way that spoken language never could...

GlowGlowSerene scene of a lonely oak tree being backlit by bright misty sun rays

SwirlSwirlMoody scene with tide pools on the beach at the Waddeneilanden MetamorphosisMetamorphosis ReflectionsReflectionsColorful clouds reflecting in tide pools on the beach of Terschelling at sunset IcingIcing After The RainAfter The RainDark mood with black sand on the beach of Terschelling after a huge storm Dream TideDream TideSerene sunset mood over the Northsea coast of Terschelling, Waddeneilanden, The Netherlands ChilledChilled Evening StillnessEvening Stillness

Fall in WinterFall in Winter

The Spirits of WinterThe Spirits of Winter Sand WavesSand Waves

That leaves me to wish you all a very merry Christmas.

May a sense of wonder prevail in the upcoming year

 

As always thank you for your interest in my work, be it my writing or my photography and hopefully both. In 2021 the book Woodscapes became available in the German translation and many readers have joined my newsletter, for which I am incredibly grateful. Now that I have had time to refuel, I plan to write much more in 2022

If you want to support my work please consider purchasing my eBook The Magic Of Forest Photography (for English speaking photographers)

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Comments

Rick Smith(non-registered)
Ellen,

I had purchased your "The magic of forest photography" in the past and found it very helpful Your photos are such a great inspiration to me. I agree with your thoughts regarding social media and how it perpetuates instant gratification and lack of more meaningful interaction at a one on one basis.
The moody look to your photos is what I really like and hopefully one day I can achieve a similar look.
Mark Goverde(non-registered)
Thank you for your beautiful words and your beautiful photos.
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