In my workshops, I’m asked time and time again in one form or another, “Where do I find inspiration?”

Here are a few of my secrets that are

filled with the really right stuff that give

me a constant source of inspiration.

Outward Simplicity

The stark landscape in winter has quieted and is perfectly simplified to see with more clarity.

The palette of muted colors allows light and shadow to play a greater role.

Let basic form guide your eye in making clean, graphic compositions. This is a good rule-of-thumb year ’round; winter is just a great time to let Mother Nature lend a helping hand.

I’m extremely fond of trees without leaves. I find the architecture of the bare tree to be truly sublime. This type of connection feeds my minimalist nature as an artist and inspires me to “collect” tree photos all season.

Be inspired to celebrate simplicity and find joy in collecting it with reckless abandon.

Poetic Eyes

Basho, the great Japanese poet from the 17th century, once penned, “Winter solitude—in a world of one color, the sound of wind.”

Poetry, in all its forms, whets our appetite and awakens our creativity. But using poetry, particularly haiku, as a photographic “prompt” is a game changer.

Poetry has the power to open our minds to new possibilities; from simply allowing us to consider new subject matter to literally translating the verse to visual concepts that are photographable.

Traveling with your favorite poet in one form or another gives you immediate access to their words. I will sometimes copy a particularly moving haiku on a Post-It and place it on the dash of my car, or I’ll make a point of reading a poem or even just a single, meaningful line before I head out to shoot.

I’ll find myself repeating a verse in my head like a mantra.

Let poetry inspire you to see with fresh eyes and fall in love with the process of discovery.

Musical Conduit

Music is a direct conduit to our emotional selves. It seems to have the ability to change the ions around us and reset our emotional destination.

There is one piece of music I play whenever I need to swipe my mind of all the noise from modern life.

My magic bullet? “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber. It is nine minutes and fifty-five seconds of pure transcendent bliss. It never fails to get me moving artistically.

The first time I heard this piece was live, and I was in my twenties. As I sat in a worn, red velvet seat, I was utterly and completely moved. I knew, when I walked out of that hall, that I just experienced something quite profound.

Over the years, I have discovered one or two other special pieces of music, but the Barber piece is still an “express lane” to my artistic self. It also is a direct conduit to my younger self, eager to begin a creative life. The music is as much of a thread of connection as it is inspirational and mind focusing.

Finding a single track or an entire album, from jazz to rap to Bollywood to Kabuki—whatever moves you to your creative place—music is the ultimate energizer, filling you with head-to-toe enthusiasm.

Fueling Courage

Finding the courage to get out to photograph in winter can take every ounce one can muster. So to make it more appealing, pair an outing with a meal. It is the literally a “dangling carrot” that can transform an outing to a delightful experience.

It inspires me to get out and shoot, say, early at Three Springs Nature Preserve and hike through knee-deep snow knowing that if I time it just right I can get a latte and croissant at Base Camp in Sister Bay and warm up by their little cast-iron stove just after they open.

Or I’ll plan an afternoon at Peninsula State Park, entering in at Ephraim, and work my way down through the park, ending in Fish Creek where I can treat myself to an early dinner at Wild Tomato.

Food is the perfect stimulus to work hard. It can successfully inspire even the faint of heart to get out as the temperatures dip well below freezing to earn this feel-good reward.


Be it a line from Robert Frost, a Beethoven piano sonata or a slice of wood-fired pizza, finding your recipe for success and inspiring your photographic practice will be as unique as you.

The real secret in finding inspiration to see deeper, find meaning and actually get out, you ask?

It’s starts here in Door County—in winter, when the ground is covered in white, with loads of space to clear your head, time to luxuriate with the written word and when there is barely a line to get a seat for a great meal—where you can decide, while you wait for your order to arrive, what path you’ll follow tomorrow.

It can make all the difference, photographically and otherwise. Cheers!