Dealing with Isolation, Inertia and Creativity

Dont Panic - Carry a Towel - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

I know things are challenging right now. I, and probably you as well, have been combating isolation and inertia. Trying to maintain levels of creativity while working my day job at home. Doing more with less, a smaller team and more work. Yes, I know that I shouldn’t complain, I am better off than a lot of people out there. I still have my cyber security day job, working remotely. This allows me (at least) one less thing to worry and overthink about. I have a paycheck coming in still, and have a roof over my head and food in my belly. Like I said, I’m better off than a lot of people right now, and I don’t take it for granted.

Last month I thought things were looking up. I had my first gallery show, was getting some great feedback on my artwork, and *enjoying* photography like never before. Then COVID-19 changed everything for everyone. The Universe hit a giant “pause button” on its Universal Remote, shutting down nearly everything – The Great Pause spread across the world.

Sorry if this post is long and rambling. As I write this it has morphed from a quick post about some ways printing photos out has helped improve my photography into this rambling soliloquy that I am running with.

(Note: I’ve written, deleted, re-written, closed walked away from and restarted this so many times I’m just gonna go with it … I’ve had a bad couple days and I probably should just publish and go with it …)

Isolation? Inertia?

I have gotten out a few times to local spots I enjoy shooting at, which is great, but my love is travel and architecture photography – something that is on hold … probably for a long time.

Looking for anything that keeps me positive and moving forward, not simply work myself to oblivion. I have built out a schedule for myself to try and keep things organized in my solitude. Normally I am more chaotic than organized, but I am finding it helpful right now. Get up, shower, drive or ride the motorcycle for a few and get setup for working from home. Having a set ‘work time’ and ‘non-work time’ has helped me from falling into a cycle of inertia, wake, work, sleep, that is so detrimental to my metal well being.


During the ‘non-work periods’ I am focusing on the creative side of my being. My ‘day job’ is data and logic oriented so having this hard break is invigorating. I am looking at older photos with fresh eyes thinking of ways that I would rework them now. Admittedly, some come out like a dumpster fire, but the exercise is the point, not the product. When this stay at home / isolation order started, I played video games (For the HORDE), binge-watched Netflix, probably drank too much whiskey and read a ton on my Kindle. That got boring fast, so back to photo editing!

Something I have been doing differently with photo editing during this time of social distancing and isolation is not only working my photos digitally for online sales or presentation. I have also started printing them as well. This has really pushed me to improve my post production work, as you can’t hide imperfections on paper like you can on screen. Paper exposes all the faults of the image, a great (and humbling) exercise to push your editing skills.

Creative Minds are Rarely Tidy

I’ve been using a Canon Pixma Pro-100 photo printer for long time. It has amazing output, up to 13×19 paper, the ink is expensive, but hell, its cheaper than therapy. Over the years I have come to absolutely love the output on Red River Paper, especially the Polar Gloss Metallic. It really does make Black and White and HDR images pop off the paper.

Why do this? Well because right now what else is there to do? Also, I am taking this time of solitude and isolation as an opportunity to push myself. This shit will end someday, and we will probably fall back into our old habits and be busier than ever. Right now we all kind of get a chance to review our priorities, goals, hobbies and ultimately ourselves.

More Inertia

Don’t know about you, but I have to fight hard not to fall into a complete rut of doing nothing. I have some general anxieties that I have dealt with for a while, although they can be paralyzing when I allow them to overwhelm. Completely isolating from everything “out there” definitely doesn’t help. These stay at home orders, “pauses”, whatever we want to call them this week are going to be on for at least another month. While writing this, Governor Cuomo of New York extended that State’s pandemic response until at least 15-May, other Governors in the region will undoubtedly follow suit.

This means we are going to have to find ways to keep sane busy and engaged in life for longer than we expected. I am going to try out some more astrophotography and tryout some macro photography which is something I havent done before.

On the astro side, I just ordered the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer pro pack to take some better shots of planets and time lapse / star trail images. It has a tracking platform to allow longer exposures of the Milky Way, planets and even some deeper sky objects if I can capture them with my Sony 200-600mm lens. The pessimist in me thinks that once it is delivered, North East PA will be hit with cloudy nights for weeks. For now I’m keeping my fingers crossed. 🙂

Francis E Walter Dam: Milky Way IV

On the macro side, I recently picked up a Sony 90mm f/2.8 macro lens to learn to macrophotography with. I’ve had it a month or so, but haven’t had time to play… well, now I have plenty. Flowers should be blooming up here soon according to my allergies. Another reason to get out of the house, even if in an isolated way.

So where was I going with all this?

We are all going to be challenged, emotionally, mentally, physically, and other ways I can’t begin to imagine over the coming weeks. Find your escape, your passion. Use the time we have during this solitary social distancing to grab it with both hands and run with it! Our ‘normal’ lives were so busy, so little ‘me’ time – now we have plenty. If you are with your loved ones, tell them you love and cherish them, if you are distant from them for work or other reasons – call them and let them know the same.

Don’t let this time go to waste! You will regret it later … trust me on that. Feel free to use the comments below to discuss or suggest ways to stay creative and busing during these isolated periods. I’d love to hear about your projects and ideas! Hell, feel free to just say “Hi” or whatever 🙂

too many choices
Joy Division – Isolation

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2 Responses

  1. Hey John, I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts as you struggle with keeping active and creative. Revisiting your old photos with a critical eye is a great lesson, not only in humility but recognizing growth. Now you have an opportunity to further hone your skills and expand into new areas of photography. Enjoy the journey.

    p.s. Your creativity isn’t just limited to photography. You are also talented at expressing your thoughts in word pictures. Please continue to take us along the journey as you explore your craft.

    With much respect,
    Dean Behrman

  2. Wow, Dean thank you so much. Trying to make sense out of a bunch of things, while trying to keep a semblance of normalcy and sanity while the world goes crazy is ‘interesting’ at best.

    I so appreciate the kind words, and the support you have shown me here, on FB and my photography!

    I hope you and yours are well, safe and healthy!

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