For Heaven's sake, Rob, stop worrying about concepts and meanings. Stop worrying about what's art and what's not art. Stop worrying about beauty and ugliness. And, above all, stop worrying about originality. It's impossible to make an image that doesn't at least remotely echo something someone else has done before you, with a camera or with a brush. Lou's right, and so is Slobodan. Get your ass out there with a camera. Don't try to "construct" or "create" a picture. React! When you see something that strikes you, don't think. . . SHOOT! I know, it's very different from what you used to do in a studio, but try it, you might like it.
Russ, I can only offer the OP the understanding that I have of photography - not the views of another person.
I have worked more or less equally between studio and exterior and, by far, I prefer the great outdoors.
As far as my own shooting goes, I hardly use the dslrs anymore because what I shoot has no intended life beyond about 600 pixels at max. on the web. I donít want to burden myself with weights for nothing Ė were something Ďrealí to come my way, of course, that would be different, but for what I do, what I use does.
Advising someone younger than myself (I hope I am!) to follow his own star is what Iíve always recommended here in LuLa, as a check will confirm. In my opinion, thereís no other way to live with photography: you canít be anyone else, so you may as well be yourself.
Angst about meaning etc. is real, and itís whatís in my makeup. I canít be otherwise. Those silly little cellpix things I make only happen because of one of three reasons: a caption is in my head looking for a visual expression of itself; the visual is there in front of me and inspires an instant verbal reaction; something simply amuses me or makes me giggle for whatever reason. Which, as far as I can see, is pretty much what you are suggesting. As for going out with a preconception deeper than caption, forget it: even in my fashion/calendar days we just got into the car and had faith that Dame Fortune would deliver, and she mostly did. I read recently a photographerís credo about the making of pictures; it might have come from Duffy, but Iím not sure. Anyway, the gist of it was this: thereís nothing to do
in photography: it just happens.
Iím 100% in agreement with what Walter has to say on the matter; I think we both share the view that technique can be learned but the message comes from within or not at all. In fact, I know thatís also your opinion, so none of us is far distant from the others on that score.
But this post is in danger of turning circular, so Iíll get off the inquisitional typistís chair, stretch some circulation back into the legs, lie down with my head back and waste the next fifteen minutes putting drops into my eyes.
And you hoped for inspiration?