Writer, Thomas Ott

The Writings of Thomas Ott

There are times when we don’t feel like taking any photos. You see a great scene and go ‘meh, I’ll pass.’ I know that feeling because I’ve suffered from it over the years. Finding inspiration for your photography work can be hard at times. I don’t believe in forcing creativity at all but what I believe in is creating a situation where inspiration finds you!

Here are 33 tips on how to find inspiration for your photography. I’ve organized them based on their categories and I hope to add to this list over time when I find more to share. If you find this post helpful, please share it on social media.

Physical Activity

The first set of inspiration generators that I wanted to share is something that you wouldn’t normally associate with finding inspiration, it’s exercise. Getting the blood pumping helps focus the mind and it helps me be more creative afterward.

1. Exercise

Any type of exercise helps get my creative mind going. I just returned from a swim to finish this article. Whenever I regularly exercise my creative juices flow and inspiration seems to hit. Sometimes it takes a few days of regular exercise to focus the mind but when it does, you’ll generate a lot of great ideas and photos!

2. Go for a Walk

A simple low-impact exercise is walking. I like walking around a lot because you are slower than a car and more attentive to what you see around you. Walk around your neighborhood, visit your parents and walk around their neighborhood. Just walk around but make sure to take your camera. It doesn’t have to be a big DSLR, it could be your mobile phone. Just walking around outside can help inspire you to take a photo.

3. Go for a Bike Ride

Another great low-impact exercise is biking. The best part about biking is that you could a lot further than walking and ride to some interesting places. Make sure to take your camera with you, preferably a light one. I took this shot with my phone while on a bike ride in Cape Cod.

Cape Cod Salt Marsh Landscape

I would’ve never taken this shot if it wasn’t for me riding my bike around there and being inspired by what I saw.


The next category is traveling. You don’t need to travel far, you can walk to it, bike to it, drive to it, or even fly to a new location. No matter how you do it, you have to leave your house and go somewhere else. Just a change of scenery can inspire you to shoot more.

4. Go to the next town over

One of my favorite things to do is just go over to the next town. There are different shops and buildings to look at it and possibly shoot. I’m a big fan of closed or abandoned buildings, I’m pretty sure every town has some. The way the town and buildings are laid out might give you opportunities to catch interesting light. The best part? Your neighboring town isn’t that far away, hop on your bike and head over.

5. Visit the nearest city

One of my favorite things to do is get a group of people together and go on a photo walk in the nearest city. My nearest city happens to be New York City but I’ve visited smaller cities like Minot or Williston North Dakota. There are a ton of things to see and shoot if you just head over to their nearest city.

6. Visit the countryside

If the city isn’t your thing, then maybe the countryside is. I live in New Jersey so there’s a strong farmland component in several parts of the State. I come across old barns, rolling fields, and abandoned grain silos. There are a lot of things to be inspired by in the countryside, just grab your camera and head out there.

7. Go camping

Want to get away from all the crowds and get closer to nature? Try camping. Some of my favorite personal shots were when I was camping out in the desert, woods, or wherever. Sleeping under the stars, being a bit uncomfortable, and waking up in a new place can be inspiring. If you’re going camping that’s accessible by car you can bring more camera gear or you can go light by bringing a point-and-shoot with an extra battery.

8. Go backpacking

Another extreme of the camping theme is going backpacking in the backcountry. You can visit places that only people dream of and you might see things that no one has ever seen. That, right there, is inspiring to me. Just make sure to carry only the camera equipment you need because backpacking 10 miles with a lot of gear, your tent, food, etc can get heavy!

9. Visit a new country

A more expensive way to get inspiration is to go visit a new country. It doesn’t matter where you go just that you go and see new things. Visiting Rome with unadulterated eyes can give you a shot of inspiration over the everyday Roman person living there. Just make sure to take extra batteries and ensure your equipment is, thieves, strike everywhere!

Reykjavik Iceland Viking Boat Sculpture

10. Go Vagabonding

Vagabonding is the method of traveling around countries and places for an extended time. Usually, when we visit a foreign country it’s because we’re on a holiday or vacation. We’re there for 5 days or 10 days and we don’t see all the non-tourist stuff. I find that the good stuff is usually where everyday people live and work.

Just visiting the backways or off-the-beaten paths of a place – if you have a month to spend there – makes for great inspiration. I highly recommend reading Ralf Pott’s Vagabonding book (affiliate link) to learn how to travel the world on a shoestring budget.


11. Take your camera everywhere

Take your camera everywhere, you never know when a great shot appears in front of your eyes. Ricky Powell has something to say about that around the 3-minute mark of the video. The more you take your camera with you, the more you’ll find inspiration AND get the shot.

12. Rent or buy a new camera

Shooting with a different camera can be inspiring in itself. There are new settings, other technology, etc. I like shooting with different film cameras in different formats. I love a clunky old medium format film camera that can give me a 6x7 image.

13. Rent or buy a new lens

The same applies to renting a new lens. Maybe you live near a park and want to try a 500mm lens to photograph the birds in the trees. Or you could try a lens that gives you great bokeh for portraits. Sometimes the lens (and camera) will drive your inspiration to try something new.

14. Try film (analog) photography

I learned on film and I still love this medium. Nowadays digital photography is the norm and so is post-processing images after you capture a RAW file. With film, you have to do a lot of upfront thinking and minimal post-processing afterward. This could be liberating for some but also inspiring because of the different film looks you can get automatically! Try analog once or twice, it might get your creative juices flowing!

Burlesque Dancer Ivory Fox

OPA – Other People’s Art

15. View Other people’s Work (Instagram/Flickr)

I’m a big fan of looking at other people’s art (OPA) or photography work to get inspired. Sometimes to can make derivatives of their work, for instance this image inspired me to make this image.

Many great photographers share work on Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr. Spend some time on those sites and you’ll be sure to find something that’ll inspire you.

16. Borrow or buy photography books by the Masters

I’m a fan of buying books by well-known and not-so-well-known photographers. I’ve bought PDF books from street photographers, a treatise on the Road to Seeing (affiliate link), and much more. The best part is that you are supporting the local photographer if you buy directly from them.

17. Copy the photographs from the Masters

Similar to what I did with this this image, I copied someone I admired to learn how and what they were feeling when making it. I then personalized it to how I was feeling back then. If you’re a fan of Bresson, try to copy some of his photos but with your twist to it. You’ll not only find a ready source of inspiration but might make a great photo too.

18. Read Photo Blogs

Part of keeping your creative juices flowing is to feed your head. Read photo blogs (like this one), read books, and do whatever you can to feed that brain of yours so it can start making neural connections to inspiration!

19. Change your perspective

Instead of shooting portrait or landscape style with perfect focus, try blur and shake. Tilt the photograph, forget perfect focus, and just take the photo! Get on your knees and get low, try climbing a tree and getting above it all (safely). Changing the perspective on how you see things and scenes can inspire you.

Mix different Arts together

Everyone has that song that puts them in a good mood, and makes them crank up the volume, and sing. Some people feel deeply connected to written words, poems, sonnets, or even stories. Other people look at paints and feel moved. Whatever other art moves you, look to it to inspire you.

20. Complimentary Work

Often when I work or go out to take pictures I listen to my favorite artists. Sometimes I like to take a song lyric that has a meaning to me and make a photo of that. Someone else's inspiration rubbed off on me and that’s a great thing to feel!

21. Write poetry, haiku, gogyoka

I like to write poetry, especially haiku, haibun, and gogyoka. When I pen a new piece I think about an accompanying image that I could create to complement the written word. Other times, an image I take inspires me to write a poem!

22. Listen to music

I wrote about it above but listening to music is my number one way of getting inspired to shoot photos. Just listen to the lyrics and how the song makes you feel. If it’s loud and angry my photos tend to be daring or dark. If it’s peaceful and mellow then my images tend to turn out that way too.

Photo Groups

Taking photos can be a solitary event or even a big social event. Granted the Covid19 pandemic killed a lot of social gatherings and prevented a lot of my shutterbug friends from getting together too. Now, with vaccines, things will be different in the summer of 2021 and onward, fingers crossed!

23. Join a photo group

I’m active on Flickr, which is by far the best photo-sharing website out there. Sure Instagram and others are popular now but Flickr has the best groups. You can 100’s of groups that cater to your interests and interact with people there.

I’ve made many friends that have inspired me to become a better photographer. I routinely meet up with fellow shutterbugs and do photo walks. Join a group and meet new people that will inspire you.

Lee, Ann, and I in Times Square NYC

24. Take part in a photo challenge

One of the great things about Flickr groups and meeting people is the random photo challenges they have. I’m currently in American Photographer where each group thread is a subject that anyone can post to, like a game. For example, the New York City thread is all about New York City whereas Joker’s Wild builds on some similarities from the previous photo, and so on.

25. Join a voting game

A great but defunct Flickr group was F/64. Whenever a new game was to start, photographers would sign up and you’d be randomly paired with another photographer.

There would be a theme and you had 24 hours to submit a photo on that theme. Your opponent did too. Then people would vote and whoever got the most votes would move on to the next round. This kicked your inspiration out the door.

26. Organize or Join a Photowalk

Joining or organizing a photo walk with a bunch of shutterbug friends is extremely fun! Most of the time these happen in cities or at a studio, but it’s a great way to get inspired by other people shooting photos. Plus, you make it a social affair too! Photowalks have always inspired me to take more and better photos.

Get out of your Comfort Zone

We all get comfortable and tend to shoot the same type of subject with the same camera settings over and over again. Here are some tips on how to switch things up and get inspired by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.

27. Try a different genre

Do you shoot landscapes or portraits? Why not try street photography? Scared to shoot a model, get together with a friend and hire one for outdoor lifestyle shoots. Try a new genre and it might inspire you to shoot some great new photos.

28. Put yourself as the subject of the photo

This one can be scary but instead of always being an external view of a scene, why not put yourself into it? I’m a big fan of Rebbekka’s work where she puts herself in her photos.

Self Introspection of a Younger Self

29. Make a personal project

If you start thinking to make work on a project your inspiration will automatically kick in. Want to make a personal project about your dog or cat? You can start shooting where they sleep, how they interact with people, etc. The ideas will become endless. Just think of something close and dear to your heart and make it a project. The inspiration will flow!

30. Create a photo documentary/essay

Likewise with the personal project above, creating a photo essay or documentary about something that you find interesting from a historical perspective could be inspirational. The historic NJ canal system, which was built during the Revolutionary War, exists in my area. I’ve always wanted to trace the original path and photograph what it looks like now. It’s been abandoned and some parts still exist, but making it a documentary would be pretty cool.

31. Volunteer

Another idea to get your creative juices going is to volunteer your expertise for a cause. I know a friend that helps take photos of shelter dogs and cats for adoption. Her ability to make the animals look great has increased the adoption rate at the shelter, a win-win for her and the animals!

32. Create a website or blog

Another great tip is to start writing and posting your thoughts with your photos on a website or blog. This way you start thinking about creating content and what images you need to support your

33. Take Your Camera Everywhere!

Taking a camera everywhere is easier than ever. We have smartphones in our pockets and the best camera is the one you have on you. If you have a point-and-shoot (P&S) camera (mine is the Ricoh GRD or Canon G11), even better. You get better battery life and IQ from point and shoots, although the iPhone is starting to surpass a lot of P&Ss now.

You never know when you see a funny scene or something that makes you go “I should take a picture of that!” If you had your camera with you, you could.

#photography #flickr #tips

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I know many people love the Leica rangefinders for street photography but they're super expensive.

I much prefer a more robust, fixed lens, workhorse camera. I prefer the Ricoh GRD.

Don't believe me? Read the Amazon reviews. This camera kicks ass and is the most used camera I have ever used.

#ricohgrd #streetphotography #digital

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In Nietzsche's “Human, All Too Human” he says that the Resurrection of the Spirit is based on the following:

“On a political sickbed a people is usually rejuvenated and rediscovers its spirit, after having gradually lost it in seeking and preserving power. Culture owes its peaks to politically weak ages. “

After seeing the rise of Trump, the Tea Party, and the full-frontal assault on a woman's right to choose and voter rights, there is a big attempt to preserve power by the Right in this country.

While we are not out of the woods with this level of Fascism in our country, and we need to root it out of the darkest corner and fight it tooth and nail, I can't help but wonder if we'll usher in a newer American spirit.

There are bright spots emerging. My children are more open with their lives, they express themselves more. They connect and communicate with their peers in ways I never did at their age.

It's not just the technical aspect of that connection, but it's a big part, of children these days exploring the meaning of their sexualities, partnerships, social justice, and environmental justice.

While it remains to be seen, some of these idealistic kids will get into politics and eventually outnumber the old white-haired men that are desperately trying to hold on to power and nostalgia of an age that never existed for nonwhite people.

Yet, to get there will require turmoil and upheaval, and we haven't seen the last of Trump-like Nazis, riots, school shootings, racism, and assault on women and minorities. Let's hope that there are more good people willing to step up and “hold the line,” so we can build a new country, one that is more inclusive and kind.

I hope that it can be done.

A Resurrection of the Spirit

#philosophy #love #resurrection #spirit #culture #society #Nietzsche

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I live in the Northeastern part of the United States. We have winter Nor'easters, and 'muggy' summers, but awesome spring and autumn weather. The weather changes a lot but I love the change of seasons. I like Spring and Autumn the best. Winter is ok, I get sad because of the low amount of daylight, and I swelter in Summer.

I'm uncomfortable.

Swelter, melt, and cook. It's not because I'm always feeling hot but because we have no working air conditioning in the house. Our AC broke a year ago. We looked into getting it fixed but found out that the compressor units had leaks and needed freon to work. Unfortunately for us, freon is no longer available so we'd need to switch out both compressors. That means the air handlers in the attic need replacement too. All this comes with a hefty price tag to replace so we 'sucked it up' and dealt with sweltering sleeping nights.

Being uncomfortable is to be human.

Sleeping in the middle of the heatwave is terrible, and uncomfortable at best. I toss and turn and sleep in my underwear. I move from my upstairs bedroom to the downstairs couch where the fan is on and continue to toss and turn all night. Morning comes fast and I'm left groggy and sweaty.

I'm uncomfortable.

As I lay in a semi-state of sleep I start to think about how wonderful it is to be uncomfortable. I also wonder if I'm crazy because I'm yearning for a cool room to fall asleep in. Why is being uncomfortable something wonderful?

I console myself with the fact that I'm 'building character.'

Being uncomfortable is to be human. It is because of this that the human race has moved forward into a safe and comfortable existence. We've built so many creature comforts that a whole generation of humans don't know what it's like to sweat. New houses come equipped with central air and I even remember a time when AC was an option in cars, now it's the default.

All this comfort comes with a price. Yes, there is a cost to pay for this luxury but what is it? What's the true price? Central air conditioning uses electricity that's often generated from fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels warms our climate creating a negative feedback loop, and forcing us to cool our homes. We drive more in our cars with the AC on, thereby burning more gasoline and generating more emissions. The effects of our desire for comfort are killing us and the Earth.

More damaging to our physical nature is the insidious attack on our mental stability.

Granted, I'm not against our creature comforts. They do have a positive effect on the elderly and infirm for without them their life might be shorter. Yet, it might be good to be uncomfortable at times. It helps us reconnect with what our ancestors had to endure.

Being uncomfortable teaches us patience, a great trait that's lost in a world of instant gratification. It teaches us to be novel, innovative, and thrifty – three great character traits. Our generation is the most educated but most insulated from these uncomfortable experiences. It's affecting the very core of who we are. We can't adjust when faced with uncomfortable situations.

More damaging to our physical nature is the insidious attack on our mental stability. We live in a world of Instagram personalities and crafted perfect lives. We have a fear of missing out (FOMO) and clicking 'likes' to give ourselves a dopamine rush. I am guilty of it too, it can be a very seductive siren call.

While we all fall prey to it at one time or another, there is a hidden price to pay for it all. We suffer from self-doubt, self-confidence, and mental stability issues. It's so bad that we're losing the ability to determine what is fact from fiction. Our mental stability is under serious attack, and our defenses are weakening.

To be uncomfortable lets us cut through the bullshit that so many people cover themselves in every day.

What to do? We've spent two decades in the 'thick' of the Internet creating this monster, how do we kill it? This monster won't die easily because it makes money for the companies but must do it ourselves. We must save ourselves and it starts with an uncomfortable decision.

First, I propose exchanging personalities for people of character. Ask yourself, do those Instagram celebrities you follow exhibit a strong code of ethics or moral fiber? If not, cut them loose. Do your Facebook friends lift you up and work to build a better world, inclusive to all? Keep them.

The problem is that we focus too much on a person's personality traits that we forget to see what makes them real. If you strip away the money, their awesome life, or how beautiful they are, are they pieces of shit?

Make the uncomfortable choice to cut out the bad and keep the good. Start small and start today. Don't become comfortable with bad personalities and bad character traits. Become uncomfortable with the culture and lives we are creating with every 'like' or tweet. We must kill this monster and get in touch with our core values and beliefs. To be uncomfortable lets us cut through the bullshit that so many people cover themselves in every day. It forces us to discern what is important and what is not, especially if you're lying in your pool of sweat on a hot night.

#essay #comfort #environment

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The old saying that “all roads lead to Rome” is a good one, especially for building my web presence. Let's face it, we're all trying hard to get the SEO and authority juice to pimp ourselves up, myself included.

But it all begins with your domain and your online presence. This is why you need to have a solid strategy for how to share your photos, writings, and other creative endeavors. They should all lead back to your domain.

Every single one of them should have a link back to where the canonical (original) post is. You should siphon off the SEO and authority juju from Medium, Tumblr, Flickr, Mastodon, etc back to your site.

Your site is a haven where you can never be kicked off. Never. Even if they ban your work and posts elsewhere, your original content will live on.

Always control your art, and your writing, and stop giving away your hard work for free. Remember, this is supposed to be a mutually satisfying exchange, not an exploitative one.

#SEO #content #strategy #Tumblr #Mastodon #Medium

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This is a rant piece that aims to be somewhat informative, ideally. Right now there are so many “film” shooters selling courses or workshops on how to shoot film. They opine on how much better film is than digital, how it's a purer experience, etc. It just pisses me off and I figured it was high time that I share my 15+ years of shooting print and slide film. As a disclaimer, I'm a 90% digital shooter now and I will explain why later in the rant piece.

Digital to Film

Here's my biggest piece of advice. Start out shooting digital. Just do it. Make your mistakes, and see them on the screen. Learn about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and all the other technical things that you'll need to know as a photographer or hobbyist. It costs a lot of money to buy and develop film (see below), so make your mistakes digitally and don't repeat them on film!


I have given a lot of thought to writing novels but when I try to write a novel I end up hating what I've written. For example, I'll plan the outline, lay out the beats, and develop the characters. Then I start writing and get about 5,000 words in when I realize I hate the story.

I don't understand why I do this. I tried writing a young adult novel years ago. Recently I tried a romance novel and a creature-feature erotic thriller, both ended up in the digital dustbin.

I think my problem has to do with writing fiction as opposed to reading fiction. I love reading a good story whether it's real or not. However, I can only write from a non-fiction standpoint. I can do essays, memoirs, and the occasional creative non-fiction story.

Perhaps I should just focus on what I do best and explore those genres because my writing just pours out of me when I stick in those lanes.

#writing #fiction #nonfiction #essay #memior

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They're not rumors, Matt from Tumblr (and WordPress) said they're going to add the ActivityPub protocol to Tumblr.

Then Don from Flickr tweeted about gauging interest in it.

If Tumblr and Flickr add this, they will become relevant again. They have a HUGE share of content and they can rise from the ashes again. This will put the fediverse on the map.

I can't wait!

#fediverse #tumblr #flickr #activitypub

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I was away on Holiday for a week down to the NJ Shore with my family. We rode bicycles, ate some good seafood, and spent quality time enjoying the Sandy Hook seashore. We saw a pod of dolphins, many different bird species, and different types of plants and trees. The weather was variable but it was great to get away and listen to the roaring surf and enjoy Nature.

Covid19 shut down a lot of the amenities at the beach. The visitor center and concession stands were closed but the showers and bathrooms were open. For the most part, everyone was social distancing and wearing masks if they couldn't stay 6 feet apart. The beaches weren't packed but they were busy and it brought with it all the usual annoyances of the masses of humanity, most notable and irritable of all: garbage!


I wanted to take a moment and write a short update on journaling and why I still do it, albeit sporadically. It's no secret that I love to journal, I just have to remember to find the time to do it.

I even wrote about the Art of the Journal on Medium a few years ago, but I made the mistake of making it sound like an infomercial. I tried to maximize it for SEO and get you to click on a few affiliate links.