If you are like me, you may find that sometimes you get into a bit of a photographic rut. I often find that I have been taking pictures of the same sorts of things, or even the same exact things, and not giving myself any variety or creative freedom in the process. It's almost like I get into auto-pilot mode (HDR, landscape - check!) and just shoot, instead of contemplating what I want from a shot, or perhaps more importantly, what I don't want from a shot. Sometimes this is a result of being static physically (i.e. I find it easy to get inspired when on the road, as all sights are new sights and therefore they inspire me) - but more often it is a result of being static creatively.
After a while, I get bored and think that maybe I should spend my time on something else. But, I love photography, and I want to continue to improve my skills and I genuinely enjoy the entire process, from scouting a location to processing my images. So, here are some ideas that I have used (and still do use pretty frequently) to help me get out of that rut and get back to this fun art of photography. It is fun, after all, and changing things up helps keep it fun. For me it's all about changing the way I look at things.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. - Wayne Dyer
1.) Get up close. By that I mean to try your hand at macro photography. Even if you are somewhere where the obvious shot is a big wide landscape, get that one but also look around for some macro shots. It really is fun and does cause you to look at things differently (and to look at different things). Flowers is an obvious choice - and a good one - but don't overlook simple things. Get down on your knees, or your stomach, and look at things from a new angle. When you look closely at things, you see textures and details you would normally miss. Now I get the big landscape shot but scout around nearby for the overlooked gem too.
2.) Shoot a subject you have never shot before. This could be birds in the wild, or macros (see #1), or portraits - anything really. The point here is to expand your skillset and learn something new. Don't hesitate to experiment. I haven't really tried to shoot animals, and don't really ever see any, except at the zoo. But at the San Antonio Zoo I had a great time trying to get creative shots of these wonderful creatures. It was hard for me - being typically a landscape guy, I am used to my subjects being still! It forced me to make all sorts of adjustments that I never have to make, and (hopefully) I learned and grew as a photographer in the process. Guess what? I also really enjoyed it. The exact same thing happened to me at a Native American pow-wow in Taos, NM.
3.) Quit being so focused. I know that focusing on something is the primary goal in most photos, but I have been exploring the art of bokeh (the blurry or out-of-focus portion of an image) and really enjoy it. Normally bokeh is utilized in the background of an image to help the subject stand out (sort of a selective use of bokeh), but I have also used the manual focus setting to blur the entire image, producing complete bokeh that I find pleasing (complete bokeh or "pure blur"). For the best results I recommend doing these "pure blur" shots at dusk or at night, with some sort of lights in the background (preferably colorful ones). Regardless of your tastes, you can use various applications of bokeh (complete or selective) to help fire your creative juices. I try to leave some semblance of shape in the photo, but only because I like it that way.
4.) Go inside or under. To be specific, go inside a church or under a bridge. Churches make wonderful subjects, and many folks photograph their exteriors because the architecture is awesome, but if you get a chance go inside and see what beauty awaits you. I highly recommend Catholic churches by the way. They are just gorgeous. As for bridges, it is the same thing. Everyone takes a photo of a beautiful bridge, but if you can make your way underneath it you may be surprised at the fun and interesting shots that can be taken from directly underneath. If nothing else, in both cases it is worth a look!
5.) Go on a photowalk. If none of the others suggestions help, try going on a photowalk. This is just an informal meet-up of photographers with the goal of walking around and taking photos together. It may sound goofy, but it is a lot of fun. There is a big group of folks here in Austin that meet up from time to time, and I always really enjoy it when I attend. We walk around somewhere, like the downtown area, and take shots of whatever we encounter or get inspired to shoot. We spend a lot of time talking about photo techniques, and equipment, and software, and our travels...and it's fun. You can learn and get inspired by hanging out with like-minded folks.
Well, that's it for now! Hope these tips help you get inspired to try new stuff and keep learning!