ARTICLE

Take 2,400 steps to cure your creative block

Earlier this year, photographer Travis Hodges was suffering from a creative blockage so, to get off his plateau, he decided to take a novel approach he'd learned as a photography student. He grabbed his camera, walked in a random direction, and started shooting. Using this combination of formula and chance he fought his way out of his creative fug and, here, explains how you can use his technique – known as the 2,400 Steps exercise – to do the same.

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A security guard makes himself comfortable at the start of a long day. Taken in Hanoi, Vietnam with a Canon 5D Mark III with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. © Travis Hodges

"I started using the 2,400 Steps exercise in my student days while still working with 35mm film – the premise is based on the restrictions of a single roll of film. It’s much harder to keep to only 24 exposures when working digitally, but when you do, it changes your usual habits and working process enough to allow new and unexpected results."

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Tea and Candy Crush. “I have a fascination with technology and its impact on our everyday lives, so I’m always on the lookout for images within this theme,” says Travis. “I spotted these two guys engrossed in their phones and completely ignoring the potential for conversation.” Taken in Hanoi, Vietnam with a Canon 5D Mark III with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. © Travis Hodges

How 2,400 Steps works

"Start by walking 100 paces in any direction and make a single image. No pressure, no rules – just a single image of something that grabs your attention. Now repeat the process 23 times, starting from your last spot, walking 100 paces before making another new image – you will end up with 24 images. It works well if you’re exploring an unfamiliar area and you can adjust the rules to suit your location, shooting style or aims – shooting 24 portraits or 24 architectural images would be equally valid."

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“This exercise is about breaking my usual shooting style and process,” says Travis. “While most of my work focuses on people, I was drawn to the abstract shapes in this shop display.” Taken in Hanoi, Vietnam with a Canon 5D Mark III with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. © Travis Hodges

"How meticulously you follow the rules is a personal decision. I find that a strict set of shooting rules helps to focus my efforts. One thing I wouldn’t advise is stopping at exactly 100 paces – a few steps around the area as you search for the best shot is perfectly acceptable."

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Dancers practise their moves by the lakeside. Taken in Hanoi, Vietnam with a Canon 5D Mark III with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. © Travis Hodges

2,400 Steps in Vietnam

While working on assignment in Vietnam, Travis set out across Hanoi early one morning to see what he could find during his own 2,400 steps. These are some of the 24 images he shot on that walk. They aren’t meant to be special, or even particularly good – the idea is to explore a new area and hopefully find themes worth developing further.

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Every morning people gather around Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the old quarter to exercise. This ranges from gentle t’ai chi to group aerobics and dancing. Many people make use of the street furniture available to aid their elaborate routines. Taken in Hanoi, Vietnam with a Canon 5D Mark III with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. © Travis Hodges

"I always recommend reviewing and editing work from prints. Our lives are so interwoven with the computer or camera screen that a set of physical prints will give a better perspective on the images. Sit down with a coffee (Vietnamese coffee with lots of condensed milk for me) and review your shots with your next step in mind."

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Valle believes that he was the first person in Hanoi to get his face tattooed. Taken in Hanoi, Vietnam with a Canon 5D Mark III with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. © Travis Hodges

"For this walk, I was seeking out inspiration for larger stories and for different project ideas that I could work on. Some stories stood out clearly and are already in development, while others will sit in my notes until they become relevant."

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Daily news on display for all to read. Taken in Hanoi, Vietnam with a Canon 5D Mark III with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. © Travis Hodges

Fine-art and documentary photographer Paul Graham said: 'Photography is easy, photography is difficult.' In fact, that was the title he gave to an essay of his that was published in 2009. Because of the technology available to us, the act of taking pictures is simple these days, especially for those of us who do it full time. Sometimes the difficulty comes from over-thinking.

“The 2,400 Steps exercise creates an easy set of rules to follow, a purpose and direction that can help us get past creative block by giving our inspiration that kick it sometimes needs. It all starts with just one step.”

Skrevet av Travis Hodges


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