getting zen

All photographers go through it — the sneaky hate spiral of not producing any good images for a period of time. It's tough and it's hard, but it's important to have. Patrons enjoy ice cream, donuts and other goods on the steps of the Sugar Tree County Store in McDowell on Saturday, March 9, 2013, during the Highland County Maple Festival.I've been thinking a lot lately about how we produce our best work and what that says about us. Lately, I've just been feeling like I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off on assignments. I'm either overwhelmed or underwhelmed, and my head is abuzz and I just cannot focus. I cannot get "zen."

Maria Brown, 7, stands next to a maple tree during a tour of Duff's Sugar House on Saturday, March 9, 2013, during the Highland County Maple Festival.This realization has led me to another thought — do we produce our best images when we are at our happiest? I love my job here and really enjoy this community and cannot make the excuse that I'm not shooting good assignments, because I have been working on some wonderful things. But I wonder sometimes if being away from my family and friends is affecting my work more than I would like to admit. And, if that is true, is my sacrifice of being without them to be here for this job in vain? And if so, I'll be really annoyed.

A boy plays with a typewriter behind the counter at Sugar Tree County Store in McDowell on Saturday, March 9, 2013, during the Highland County Maple Festival.Perhaps it has nothing to do with being happy — I was so happy at this maple festival I shot this past weekend. I don't think I made stellar images, but I like them and think they're OK. And that's OK that they're not the greatest images in the world. Because if we didn't shoot mediocre images, or even shitty ones, we wouldn't be able to compare it to our best work. And I ate some really good donuts at that festival, so it was totally worth it.

Different grades of syrup sit in the windowsill at Laurel Fork Sap Suckers on Saturday, March 9, 2013, during the Highland County Maple Festival. The sugar camp is in its second year of business, using an old-fashioned method of syrup making without electricity.I guess it just sucks when you've had a dry period for months and cannot get out of it. But it's not the worst thing. Because it will get better, and you'll be a better photographer for it.

A girl plays around a display case at Highland High School on Saturday, March 9, 2013, during the Highland County Maple Festival.I'm really usually not very candid in my blog posts. I'll talk about how things happened, or provide some backstory, but I don't usually talk about feelings. As open as I am as a person, I'm actually not fantastic with talking about feelings. But I've been appreciating a lot of blog posts lately from another young photographer, Patrick Breen. I feel like he's always talking about what's on my mind, whether it's about photo contests or having your first job with no idea on your next step in life, or describing what it's like to photograph really difficult spot news situations.

An employee at Laurel Fork Sap Suckers shows off the consistency of the syrup as it boils off water on Saturday, March 9, 2013, during the Highland County Maple Festival. The sugar camp is in its second year of business, using an old-fashioned method of syrup making without electricity.So, I figure, if I'm feeling this way, I'm sure that someone else is, too. And it's doing me no service to myself to keep it bottled up, especially since I'm no longer surrounded by 30 photographers at any given time — I'm no longer in school. The worst I'll probably suffer from writing my feelings is that in three months I'll return to this blog post and think, "Wow, I was really dumb," just like I do with anything I write. Because we grow and we change and, hopefully, we improve.

Jewell Anderson of Hot Springs VFW 4204 passes out popcorn in downtown Monterey on Saturday, March 9, 2013, during the Highland County Maple Festival.