Another fruitful approach is to just shoot and see what happens. Become one with your camera. Enter a zone of total immersion and allow the flow to carry you along. Don't take pictures, don't even make pictures, just be the image. Shoot from the hip. Okay, this has gone far enough. In all seriousness, I do think that fooling around without being quite sure what you are hoping to capture is - once in a while - a perfectly reasonable way to revitalize your creative impulses. Also remember, though, that thinking through the process, both artistic and technical, is an important skill that needs practice.
So, I tried to take some of my own advice today. I drove off in the late afternoon light. I had decided that a certain barn might look good at that time of day. Here is a basic, almost head-on shot with a "normal" perspective. It was actually done after the photo below it, when I was surprised to see that the cloud cover had almost completely disappeared in a short time. I've reversed the order for presentation because this one is so much less interesting. A portfolio should begin with one of your best creations, but this is just a blog, of ideas as much as of images. Also, I should mention that I never do well at judging my new photos the day that I make them. I always have to live with them for awhile before I can decide anything beyond the obvious characteristics. Well, here they are, out in the open, so you can help me with my judgment!
The atmospheric front was moving in from the northwest, and the heavy cloud cover rapidly began to clear. I was scrambling to set up this shot (level the camera, focus, shift the lens upward to cover more sky and less ground, set exposure) when I heard a small plane. I saw it come out of the clouds just as the shutter opened. Serendipity! I like it (so far).
I saw possibilities in the way the setting sun was throwing golden light on the building and the side of the tree, in spite of the sky to the south still being blue.
A different approach: get closer to the tree to really show off the side-lit texture of the bark.
Back to the barn. Focus on details and abstract the shapes into two dimensions instead of an implied three.
Take it further by heightening the color saturation:
Back to the old building with a similar approach.
Oh, and I can't forget about the horses! Here are two quite similar shots, but note the differences in composition as I changed my position.
And two approaches to a more comprehensive view.
Realizing that the western sky itself would not be providing much of a light show, I spent the minutes approaching sunset toying with the light playing on the remains of the windows of the shack.
Content with what I'd gotten for the day, and with fingers too frozen to operate the controls any longer (lack of proper clothing on my part), I drove off into the sunset.