Let’s Have a Chat About Setbacks

This will be fun to write.

As a fun little challenge, I wanted to write a list of setbacks big and small that have happened throughout my photographic career thus far..

Disclaimer: I have done a lot of stupid things over time. Some of which I may laugh about now but some I truly regret. Never put the well-being or safety of you, others, or your gear in harms way. Follow any trail and park rules and have fun! But think before you act.

In no particular order and without further ado, let’s get started..

  • I dropped a camera and lens a couple feet above concrete in a parking lot. (it fell straight down lens-first too.) An attached CPL Filter took all the fall and damage away from the lens and camera.
Amazing how an $8 filter can save hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of gear. I glued and mounted this to a small square of matboard as a reminder of what could happen with negligence.
  • My Canon 75-300mm telephoto fell out of a lens pouch strapped to my pants while doing some impromptu rock climbing after dusk to get to the car. I was hoisting my backpack and tripod up as I went. Yet it rolled and tumbled all the way down to the bottom of the slope however luckily avoided any big stones on the way down. Leaves seemed to blanket the rolling as well and no damage was done. I just had to move all the way back down to retrieve the lens..and this was the end of a very long day outdoors so exhaustion was at its peak.
  • I tried to photograph lightning from a distance only to not realize how fast approaching storms move. I biked (this was before owning a car) very energetically and fearfully home as lightning was striking in the clouds above me.
  • I slipped on the slanted exit ramp of a fiberglass boardwalk that had a layer of snow on top. The battery grip took all of the impact in the fall and so it was totaled.
Video excerpt from the photo op right after it happened.
  • While hanging up my first gallery exhibition, a 5×30 panorama fell and shattered the glass which also scratched the print. Due to my own self-imposed deadline I had in replaced within the week. This time with plexiglass…
See the scratches? The glass really messed up this print.
That’s a canvas texture finish I added when ordering.
Now this print resides on my bedroom wall.
  • Wandered into a public hunting area (more than once) during hunting season without wearing brightly colored clothes. Nothing scares me more than hearing gunshots or walking around a corner to see a fully camouflaged man sitting there looking at me.
  • I have lost numerous smaller items out in the field, such as lens caps and the rubber viewfinder cover. Lens caps have fallen out of big pockets when hiking around. In another instance I had a DSLR mounted on a tripod externally on my backpack. A bare twig must’ve snagged the viewfinder cover right off the camera and with several miles hiked in between the last time I saw it, I was hard pressed to go backwards and try to find it. Fortunately these are small and affordable replacements. I have even resorted to making DIY lens caps out of foam board and electrical tape. Anytime I lose something, I get frustrated trying to retrace my steps to where it went off to. It is best to hook and clip everything onto your person, have smaller keepsakes in zippered pockets, and make sure everything is secure.
When hiking out in the field alone, you’ve got to keep your wits about you and make sure all items stay with you at all times.
  • I use a very affordable wired cable release I have had for over three years now. Miraculously, it has survived well over a dozen dips into water when it slipped out of my hands photographing long exposures. While I don’t recommend field-testing your cable release like this (these have all been accidents) I am surprised how resilient and durable this little plastic stick with a button has held up.
This lovely $10 or so cable release is a piece of kit that stays with me at all times. Due to my shaky hands, I use this for water long exposures, landscapes 
and everything in between.
  • A million and a half times I missed amazing shots due to simple operator error. E.g. wrong exposure settings, lens cap was still on, camera wasn’t even turned on or out of my bag, too distracted from reading a magazine/book (NEVER do this!), or plainly just zoning out.
I had this shot lined up perfectly with a vulture soaring right by the moon yet after shooting off a round of images. My settings were all overexposed, leaving results that simply couldn’t be recovered. 
While I still like the image alone, the bird in flight would’ve been icing on the cake!
  • Countless times I accidentally spooked and scared wildlife away. Get as close as you can without disturbing them!
You should never stress wildlife or put them in dangerous situations just for an action-packed photograph. Do your best to learn the signs that they may be distressed and avoid it.
  • In 2016 which was early on in my photography journey, I somehow ended up deleting my entire photo library when resetting my laptop. I never backed it up anywhere, had no recovery software to retrieve it, and was absolutely devastated. It had some of my first images on there from when I started. I frantically visited a few locations where I knew I could recreate them and got it redone, but some were long gone. One was of a very patient toad on my front porch that I wish I still had. This is an important lesson I would argue everyone needs to go through. You’ll understand why it is important to have both local storage backups and cloud storage off-site. Find ways to keep your files in different areas. I have two local hard drives that sync with each other, my website backs all of them up in the cloud, and other social media sites have a few copies of images I’ve uploaded in case all else fails. You can never have too many backups.a
  • The infinite amount of times I have gotten lost before, alone, sometimes without a map/compass or any form of emergency communications and after sunset as well. From now, I carry a compass with me at all times. I usually have a physical map (in case phone battery dies) or a PDF of the map on my phone. I would even recommend that you tell someone of your plans, your start/end times, the location, etc if you’re going alone. Almost all of my trips have been by myself, I simply prefer to work alone. Sometimes you have to get creative and keep your wits about you. I ate snow (the white kind) just to keep myself hydrated once. Have a basic understanding of bushcraft and backpacking/camping skills if you ever find yourself in a true survival situation. Although I’ve never gone in the backcountry (yet) I have ended up in some could-be dangerous scenarios. Be safe when you get out there.

Now, having said all of that, take the list and reread it. Have some humility and chuckle a little. Life doesn’t have to always be so serious.

Then,

Throw it away.

Yes, trash it, toss it, remove it, burn it, whatever you gotta do.

Just let it go.

Forget it all.

Now, the next step.

Starting anew, write a list about all the accomplishments and achievements you have made in your photographic career or whatever your profession is.

Allow me to start…

  • Built a massive portfolio over several years (and counting!) of hundreds of unique images, documenting and experiencing beautiful moments.
  • Tirelessly worked on putting together my first gallery exhibition and had a successful reception night.
  • Hiked countless miles across Southwest Ohio. Exploring tooth and comb what outdoors has to offer in the Buckeye State. To say the least, this state is amazing.
  • Met many amazing people, both on the trails and elsewhere, who have helped out or gave advice. Thank you so much!
  • Found my passion (or maybe it found me) from which I wanna spend the rest of my days living for.
  • Created a website from the ground up and designed to my liking.
  • Putting all my savings on the line to pull off this living, and I can already see the payoffs beginning.
  • Overcame personal hurdles (ex: fear of talking in front of camera) in order to produce video content.
  • Used social media to communicate with other photographers to share advice and questions.
  • My love and appreciation for nature has only grown with time. Caring about something bigger than yourself helps you grow as a person.
  • I’ve learned how self-sufficient and mentally/physically resilient I need to be to work alone.
  • Like mentioned above, lessons learned in how to shove aside setbacks and press on anyways.
  • Enjoying every single second of the process, all of it. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

I’ll stop the self-indulgence right there but you get the idea. The best thing about all of this is the list will evolve and expand with time.

So I’ll leave you with just this phrase..repeat it as a mantra if that helps. Perhaps every morning.

“What you choose to focus on grows.”

Make sure what you do today is something that the ‘future you’ will thank you for. No matter what you choose to do in life, always remember that.

Keep that focus, don’t settle.

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Published by Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor is a 25 year old photographer located in Beavercreek Ohio, United States. Specializing in wildlife and landscapes both big and small, Ryan has sought to capture many different natural locations throughout the Buckeye State and beyond.

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