5 Ways To Upgrade Your Creativity in 2018


“Great art picks up where Nature ends.”     – Marc Chagall


5 Ways to Upgrade Your Creativity in 2018


1) Purchase a yearlong calendar and plan your creative year.

Buy a month by month calendar that displays beautiful, inspiring photographs. As you flip through the scenes consider what creative goals you would like to work toward this year. Would you like to travel to places you have never been and record new sights? Are you interested in working with night time photography? Would you like to record every sunset for an entire summer? Are there skills you need to develop or improve to attain these goals?

Once you have determined your goals, break them down into small manageable pieces. Do you need to purchase supplies, adjust your schedule, obtain education or coordinate with others in order to make things happen? Set a time table to achieve each of these pieces and use the calendar to mark down your “Complete By” dates.

For example – If you need to purchase an art tool, break the cost into monthly increments. Mark your calendar to save that amount each month. Set your Completion Date for the purchase and mark that date as well. Once the tool has been purchased, mark your calendar with the dates you will use it.

You might decide you would like to photograph every full moon for the entire year. Use your calendar to record the full moon rise time and dates. Plan your schedule to be available at those times. Decide what location would be best to shoot from and list that information as well.

Remember the age-old axiom, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”


2) Be In the Now

After all of this far ahead planning, you must remember to Be In the Now.

We can only live life in the present, but because the world runs at warp speed with so many things going on all at once, we miss much of it. A customer once asked me where a photo was taken. When I told him he said, “I drive past there every day and have never seen that.”

Today’s accepted focus is multitasking. We try to accomplish three times the chores in half the time. Haven’t we all seen the person driving down the highway while talking on the phone and eating a sandwich? Did they even taste the food?

We must learn to turn off the “autopilot” setting of our life, slow down a bit and PAY ATTENTION to what is going on right NOW. Once we slow down enough to perceive our surroundings, we suddenly notice the striking way the sun highlights those simple trees we drive past every day.

3) Learn Something New

When we do the same thing the same way every day what happens? We take things for granted. We get stuck in a rut. We stop growing. We lose our creativity. How can we become a better artist if we never challenge ourselves to improve by learning a new technique, changing our tools or experimenting with new methods?

Stimulate creativity by learning something new. Try traveling a different route to and from work. Go driving in the countryside and take random turns down side roads to see where they lead. Have you always used Lightroom to process your images? Experiment with On1 Raw or Photoshop instead. Have you always used a three light set-up in the studio? What can you do with only one light? Shoot twenty photos of a coffee mug that are all different. By number twenty I guarantee you’ll be getting creative!


4) Let Go of Negativity

Have you ever said, “I can’t do that?” I bet you have.

The problem is, when you say, “I can’t do that,” you are self-sabotaging. You are taking careful aim and shooting down your creative goals before they even have a chance to blossom.

I’m telling you Of Course You Can!

The first time you try something you may not be an expert, but how do you think the expert became one? Being an artist is about the ongoing process of creating art. There is a development curve involved. When you first begin your art it will look a certain way. After you’ve spent some time working it will become more polished. Every time you create you learn and grow. The only way to fail at creating art is to stop trying! Can you try? Of course you can!

Another potential pitfall with negativity… other people. Who in your life is whispering into your ear that you won’t succeed? Maybe they don’t whisper, but say it directly to your face or in front of all your friends? Have you been told, “You can’t do that?”

Don’t listen to them! Let go of or avoid anyone who tells you that you can’t accomplish your goals. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who encourage you to be your best.


5) Revamp Your Space

When you walk into your creative space it should make you sing with joy. It should support and stimulate your creative juices. The space should say to you, “Create something!” It should not make you feel tired, overwhelmed or leave you thinking, “Geeze, I really need to clean up this mess.”

If your space is cluttered, clean and organize it. If it is dark, add lights. Fill the space with things that inspire you to create. Hang some photos of your creative heroes. Post some beautiful images you admire and wish to emulate. It is not about getting it “right” because there is no “right” way to design this space. It is all about customizing a work space that inspires you to do your best creative work.


Apply these five creativity basics and make 2018 your New Year to Create!

A New Year Begins


A New Year Begins

In 2017 the site had problems with downtime. Multiple hacking attacks and ransom ware issues took their toll. It required a lot of time and effort to reclaim, repair and rebuild everything.
During the process of recreating the site, I had plenty of time to think about ways to make it not only more secure but to improve the content as well. I have given a lot of consideration to my goals for the site and how best to achieve them.
So much of what you see in the world these days is negative. We go about our lives with a list of worries too long to recite. Most of the things on that list are outside our personal control, which only adds to our distress.
In my view of the world, I prefer to focus on the things that are Right vs. Wrong. I choose to see the Beautiful vs. the Ugly and to think about the Best, not the Worst.
As part of this philosophy, I would like my site to be a source of positivity and beauty. A place where people may come to view images of natural wonder, think a few uplifting, positive thoughts and move on feeling refreshed not distressed.
With that goal in mind, in 2018 I am taking the blog in a new direction. My focus will be more on creativity and beauty, less on technical and commercial issues.

As you may know, I am a professional artist working in several different mediums, including photography, stained glass, and painting. I have found that there is a commonality to all these mediums and in my opinion to all art forms.
You must first learn to master the basics, the mechanics if you will, of your chosen medium before you may then strike out on your own to express your unique vision of the world.
There are many places where you can learn these basics, things such as how to use a camera on manual settings, how to cut and grind glass, or how to mix almost any color from a limited number of paints on a pallet.

The “ART” part is what’s different.

How do I learn to see what would make a captivating photo? How do I make it look so natural that people feel as if they were standing inside the scene?
What subject can I paint that has not been done before? What vision of reality can I conjure with oils on a canvas?
What glass panel design can I produce that is not already in a pattern book? What pattern of transmitted light can I use sunlight to create?

To paraphrase Edgar Degas, “Art is easy until you know how.”

The easy part of ART includes the tools and equipment. All these physical things can be purchased, owned and used.
The difficult part of ART is the emotion and vision. These intangible things cannot be bought and are best when shared with others.

So… In this New Year, the focus of this blog is changing. It will speak much more to the ART side of things. We will discuss beauty, vision, creativity, emotion, elegance, grace and the journeys these elements take us on.

Spring Flowers in the Smoky Mountains

Spring flowers in sunlight at Cades Cove

It is pushing 80* right now down here in the mountains.
Not bad for the end of February.
Now, picture in your minds eye driving through Cades Cove and seeing a bright spot of light off to your left.
Pull over to get a closer look, and find some daffodils blooming in a spot of sunlight.
You would do the same thing that I did…get out your camera and create this image.
I just had to share.

Why take a Photo Class ?

Forest Path

Why take a photo class?

Do you own a digital camera but are so overwhelmed by all the bells, whistles, and buttons that you give up and leave it set on automatic?
Would you like to be able to make excellent images instead of the average snapshots you get from the automatic settings?
On the first night of one of my beginning classes, a student expressed the opinion that he took good photos. After 3 lessons the same student stated that he now realized what a good photo looked like and that his work was greatly improving.
One of the primary reasons to take a photo class is to learn to appreciate and identify a quality image. This gives you a tangible goal to aim for.
A second reason is to learn the technical information required to create a quality image. An excellent result is based on proper knowledge and correct application of photographic principles.
A third reason is to receive feedback and support as you develop your photographic talents. A good instructor will guide you to create your best work.
The last but not least is to HAVE FUN!  Enjoy and share your photos of family holidays, reunions, friends, your pets antics, vacations,  and gorgeous sunsets.
The next session of classes begins Jan 2nd. You may sign up by using the Paypal link in the right sidebar. I hope to see you in class.

Greenbriar Glow

sunset over Greenbriar in the Smoky Mountains
Sunset over Greenbriar in the Smoky Mountains

To be in the right place at the right time is the responsibility of the professional photographer.
Knowing what to do when you are there is the next big thing.
Then taking the image into post processing to achieve the previsualized result is the last step.
When everything works just right….a really stunning image can be the result.
Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together.

This is a sunset over the river in the Greenbriar section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It took several days until all the elements of the image were in the correct place for what I had in mind.  

This image is available in several sizes in our gallery. It is also available as a metal print for the most impact.

When you are next in the Smokys be sure to drop into the gallery. We are located at 744 Powdermill Road. Just off of Glades Road on the Historic Artist’s Loop in Gatlinburg.

Urban Artifacts

“A perfect day for a road trip.”  My friend told me as we were headed out with our cameras.
It turned out that he was correct. Not only did the day, read weather, work out very well but
the subject matter was the type of old, rusted, gritty, weatherbeaten, urban artifacts that I love to work with.
A bit of contrast was all that was needed to tell the story of a hard working truck that had seen better days.
Here are a couple from the day.

Urban Artifacts
Terminal Truck Cab


Urban Artifacts
Terminal Truck

Cades Cove View


Wetland Wonder
Wetland Wonder

We arrived in town with just enough time before dark to take a drive through Cades Cove in the Great SmokyMountains. With the rain pouring down we had the place all to ourselves, which is a rare treat now that the season has officially started. This is a wet view from the Cove with storm clouds and a bit of rain in the background.
This trip we have placed a lot of new stock in the gallery. If you are in the Smokys drop by to see more of my work. Our gallery space is inside  Smoky Mountain Pottery, located at 744 Powdermill Road just off of Glades Road, the Artist Loop in Gatlinburg.

Happy Holidays

Holiday Highway

Wishing you Happy Holidays from Stephen Carl Photography.
This bridge, decked out for the holidays, is located just outside the
Greenbriar entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The print of it, called Holiday Highway, is a best seller for me.
It is available on my Etsy site or, if you are visiting the Smoky Mountains,
you may purchase a copy at the Smoky Mountain Pottery store.
Located on the Arts & Craft loop in Gatlinburg.

If you are anywhere close to Dayton, Ohio…
remember that my photography classes start on Jan 4th  2016.
You may sign up here in the right sidebar by using the Paypal link.

Valley View

Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains
With autumn on the way don’t you want to be out taking wonderful photos of natures’  beauty?  

You can learn to take great photographs in just a short amount of time.
Just sign up for the next round of classes. 

The new term starts on October 12th. Just two weeks away so, do not wait…
Go over to the right sidebar to the Paypal button and register for the next class.

Misty Memories

Log Cabin in Fog on Blue Ridge Parkway
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Misty Memories,  Does this image stir up memories for you?
Did you ever wonder how long it takes to get a good image??
This is a good example of the process…..
It took three years to capture this image of a cabin in the fog along the Blue Ridge Parkway. When I saw it the first time it was OK, but no fog….1 year later it was pouring down rain….1 year later it was so foggy that the road was closed….at last, after 3 years it was just right. Yes, the road was closed and we had to walk about a mile to get to it but I think it was worth all the trouble. This is the image I saw in my head three years before.