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  • Kayla Sulak

How I Refreshed My Motivation to Get Out and Take More Pictures

A sunrise and a fog inversion at Mount Hood, June 2019

When the inspiration to go out and shoot with my camera was evading me for a few months, I gave myself some simple, fun, daily goals for motivation!

After a few scenic road trips at the start of this year, there were a handful of months that went by where I was just working at the day job a lot and trying to save money. That meant traveling around a lot less (read: not traveling at all), and scaling back on all those delicious, gourmet campfire meals. It goes to show that, even when you're living out of a truck remotely with plenty of "freedom," it can be hard not to succumb to pesky bills and boring routines sometimes.

Finally, summer began to roll around, but my inspiration was in the pits. I had hardly taken my camera out of the bag for maybe three or four months, and I felt paralyzed with indecision about what to do, or where to go next.

I started to wonder if my creative inspiration was ever going to come back. Then, another photographer gave me an idea: he planned to wake up and shoot the sunrise every day in June. For me--the girl who notoriously sleeps in through sunrises, sometimes even after traveling a long way just for sunrise plans (don't get me started about it)--that was a lot to ask... especially because the sun rises at 5 o'clock in the morning in June; its earliest rising time in the whole stinkin' year!

The idea sounded a little crazy, but it also got me brainstorming about all the nearby places I'd like to visit during sunrise that, for reasons unknown to me, I hadn't yet bothered to prioritize--why was that, I wondered? In addition to that, I had completely cut alcohol out of my evening relaxation time a few weeks prior, and having this month long challenge to wake up extremely early seemed like a great way to reinforce the good behavior. Count me in.

Most importantly, this sunrise shooting challenge gave me some simple, daily goals that were both interesting to me, and practical enough to achieve each day. Technically, all I had to do was get out of bed and point my camera somewhere as the sun was rising. The challenge wasn't to get a world class, brilliantly composed photo every morning; it was merely to stand up with my camera and snap a picture, any picture, at sunrise time. There was no pressure, except maybe for my own unwillingness to fail at this self-assigned challenge.

Mount Bachelor and flower meadows at sunrise, June 2019
Paintbrush blossoms and sunrise in the desert, June 2019

Although there was no real pressure, I found myself wanting to go above and beyond the bare minimum of "just standing up and taking any random picture at sunrise" more often than not, so I sought out cool places to boondock in the evenings and avoided campsites that were too "treelocked" to see the sky well. Sometimes I would unenthusiastically drag my butt out of bed with the intention of going back to sleep a.s.a.p., only to be swept away and rather charmed by how beautiful those first rays of sunlight are.

In just the first few days of June, I already took more pictures than I had taken in the last few months before that. My favorite part of the month was perhaps not the sunrises, but the fact that Mother Nature put on a fantastic show with a "super bloom" of desert wildflowers in early June. It seems like I would not have gotten out there to find and appreciate the short lived bloom, if not for this challenge to get me out exploring and shooting more!

Lupine and golden sun rays in the desert, June 2019

Although I was seriously ready to catch up on some zz's and finally let myself sleep in by the last week of June (going to bed early isn't exactly my forte), I also find myself experiencing some FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) about not watching the sun rise now.

Fortunately, the passing of June meant that it was finally time to start living out all the summer backpacking and travel plans I had been (semi)patiently looking forward to since the winter months... and, now I was plenty inspired!

Next time you're in a creative slump, perhaps you'll try giving yourself a daily goal that is fun and low-pressure to get you practicing more? There are endless possibilities as to how you can challenge yourself... but, I can definitely see myself doing another Sunrise Challenge next time I'm in a motivational slump with nature photography!

Happy adventures! Please leave a comment or send me an email if this inspired you in any way!

Balsamroot flowers and Lake Billy Chinook, June 2019

(Thanks to Pete Alport Photography for the fun sunrise challenge idea!)


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