I went to Tempe Town Lake on Saturday, to take some photos for an article I needed to write for a new client.

When I left, I wasn’t in the greatest of moods. I wanted Bill to come with me, but he was entrenched in football. I called him from the truck and suggested he ride his motorcycle out to Mill Avenue and meet me for a drink, and he just didn’t want to. Not even a motorcycle ride on a sunny day was enough to tear him away from the playoffs.

So I pouted for a minute. Until I remembered that we don’t have to want to do the same things, together, all the time. I can do stuff by myself and have fun, too. I used to do it all the time.

Oh, yeah.

So I drove to Tempe singing along to a new mix CD. I drove up through the college roads, for once not really minding the traffic that kept my pace to a measly 35 mph. I circled the park, parked, got out, and loaded myself up with my camera and a tripod that I didn’t end up needing. I walked briskly to the water’s edge, feeling in a hurry and a little annoyed that the exact shot I needed didn’t make itself immediately apparent. There were people, and dogs, and boaters, in every direction I looked. I needed foreground interest and a stable, unoccupied and attractive landscape with which to practice focus stacking. People were in my way. The grass was brown. Landscapes were interrupted by passing cars and power lines. I turned a full 360 degrees, and felt myself getting frustrated again.

I sat down on the cement wall that runs along the man-made lake. Brought my camera up to my face. Looked through the viewfinder. And started seeing shots that had nothing to do with my assignment, and everything to do with just recalling the enjoyment I have always experienced in taking pictures. Since there was nothing stopping me from taking any darned picture I wanted to, regardless of its relation to the article, I started looking around myself with new eyes.

I love reflections. And bridges. Lines and angles. So I let myself play, and recalled that it is the simple act of shooting, of loosening up and enjoying myself, that has always lead to productivity and creativity. When I was finally ready to get down to business, I tried a handful of scenarios for my article. They all worked, technically. But they didn’t work, aesthetically. I was dissatisfied and decided to scrap the idea altogether.

I stopped at the store on my way home and bought a bunch of flowers, and practiced focus stacking in macro photography instead of landscape. I finished the article, submitted it to the editor, and he responded with delight. Which just served to make me recall another lesson I’d forgotten – sometimes the best thing to do for your plan is to scrap your plan and start all over again.

So, I didn’t come away from the afternoon with what I’d sought in the beginning. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t productive or beneficial. I took the photos I’d captured for fun and turned them into a lesson on leading lines for Beyond Megapixels (publishing on Wednesday the 9th if you want to take a look). And still got photos I needed for the article, just in a way I hadn’t initially prepared for. Frustration in the slow progress of a single goal turned into material for two articles instead of one.

And a nice afternoon spent by myself made me remember that I’m pretty darned good company.