I am alone in the forest. Focused on the task at hand. A cascading waterfall flows into a stream. I use all of my senses to gauge the situation and potential photographic opportunity. Next I go through my mental checklist to set up the shot.
Leveling the tripod, using the live view, dialing the settings and exposure just right.
Checking the frame’s corners, fine tuning the lens focus, and..
A dog barks, a child yells, a breakaway from focus.
You were 110% sucked into your craft, time felt as though it would cease to exist or matter. Your eyes began to have “tunnel vision.” Then there was a simple noise or distraction and your attention was violently pulled back into reality. Did it ever feel the same after that lapse in focus? Probably not.
As defined in this article by Psychology Today, flow is “an optimal state of consciousness where feel our best and perform our best.”
While I am just mentioning photography here, any artist or athlete can enter the “flow state,” whether they knew it or not.
This is a strange mix of being hyper-focused and yet seemingly detached from surroundings that are around you.
Typically tense or stressful events can cause our brains to become laser-focused, awareness grows and our performance of that which we do becomes paramount.
I believe this behavioral trait goes back to Darwinism and early homo sapian times, when hunting animals meant that our attention had to be fully given to our actions, lest we become eaten.
Essentially, life or death.
Some studies suggest that people are more creative during flow, and that they feel more creative the day after a flow state.
First, what is one thing you like to do? I mean, love to do.
An activity or hobby that requires intense visual coordination. In a nature photographer’s case, maybe tracking a bird in flight through the viewfinder, or how the evening light plays out as it changes every minute before sunset.
Flow is the reason I spend 8 to 10 hours a day out in nature. I have found some of my best work comes out of creative states of mind such as this.
While all of this may make it sound like I believe Flow is the best thing to ever happen to my creativity, this isn’t always the case. To be honest, Flow can be quite maddening. While I cannot personally recall a time, Flow can divert your attention from nearby dangers and put your safety at risk. All of this single-minded attention may just steer you away from other obligations like a day job, family, friends, and relationships.
Despite this, the creative state known as “Flow” is a fascinating way of mind that most creatives will have to live with. Enjoy its’ presence, as it is quite possibly what keeps you staying energetic and passionate about what you love to do.
How does Flow affect your creativity? Love it? Hate it? Feel free to chime in down below in the comments.
This will be a very off topic blog entry. Photography will be mentioned but not be discussed in this one-off post.
Consider this your warning.
Am I overstepping boundaries? Maybe. But hey, this is my blog after all. One single post won’t hurt anyone.
I would consider myself a very private person, something of a recluse by nature. After socializing for too long at a time, I devote myself to three things: either in front of the computer or on the trails..
..and the third thing has been music. Time and time again, I find music to satisfy that creative itch when I need to escape or reflect. Music stirs up as many emotions as would a compelling photograph, mine or otherwise. Daily music listening of any kind helps me function as a person.
Without it, life would be duller and photography would be harder.
Fortunately, I am always on the lookout for new sounds to grace my ears and inspire the entire creative process. While this isn’t the only music genres I listen to, this is perhaps a fine representation of auditory compositions that remind me of nature and art in general.
I am not a trained musician so bear with my descriptions of these songs.
The majority of these are instrumental tracks from soundtracks and other soundscapes, ranging from ambient, pop, electronica, indie and rock. In no particular order, here is the curated compilation. Enjoy the listening!
For very warbling and moody electronica, look no further. Color Therapy is from the mastermind of Adam Young, a man with countless side projects. You may have heard of Owl City, as well as Sky Sailing, Windsor Airlift, etc. I am a big fan of just about everything Young has created, but the Color Therapy’s lone debut album Mr. Wolf is Dead is perhaps one of the finest single works he has put out to date. Like the above video, I am instantly teleported to nature and exploration. If music is therapeutic, then this is it. For more recommendations, check out “Drive vs. Fly” and “Yachats.”
Another side project from Adam Young, this one resembling the “soundtrack of my dreams.” More ambient-influenced, there is a variety of synths and sounds to adore here. “June Bug” is the perfect example of a beatless instrumental that is a joy to hear. For other tracks, check out “Juneau”, “Parking Lot Fireworks” and “Pond Skater.”
Jon Hopkins is an English producer/musician of melodramatic electronic music. Immunity is an impeccable example of electronica with heart and soul, as if playing out like a movie soundtrack. The titular track above is a fantastic closer to the entire album however I would recommend a straight listen through this entire piece of art.
A rather lowkey producer of “sweet dreaming music.” Charlie Dreaming is a Canadian music producer of beatless, droning ambient music. The compositions are rather short yet leave you craving for more. At the time of this writing he has about enough music to listen to in half an hour, but it is all very solid and consistent. I would highly recommend it for reflective creating of your own work.
This track has nature written all over it. The song was literally created for Sustain Music and Nature. The music video features footage of the refuge itself and the song is intermixed with the bird calls of various waterfowl from the refuge. Echoing piano and soothing lyrics mixed with gorgeous cinematography. This indie song pays incredible homage to the song’s namesake refuge in Utah and to nature in general.
The key to Ulrich Schnauss is crescendos and progression. Over this seven minutes sweeping electronic romp, we are given a hypnotic drum loop over light and airy synth lines. Halfway through right at the seemingly climax is happening, the track dials back only to pick up right where it left off before truly sounding off. For other favorites of mine, listen to “Knuddelmaus” and “Suddenly the Trees Are Giving Way.”
While well known for his dance-influenced club music, Joel Zimmerman can create some very ambient experimental music. The track above is an altered rendition of a former progressive house number with fully orchestrated pieces this time. I fondly remember walking through Autumn woods while listening to “I Forget” as leaves fell all around me. “Snowcone” to me inspires the awe of visiting someplace new. Like the snow-drifted mau5head in the video and the cold-tone synths suggest. This track reminds me of cabin fever and finally emerging out into the cold world we inhabit. His music inspires me through and through.
Tycho is the brainchild of Scott Hansen. Under the name ISO50, he was a photographer and digital artist at first before expanding into music. The brilliant visuals often accompany all the branding and artwork for Tycho’s music. “Receiver” helps me recall a time when I was listening to it while walking through a small patch of woods near my house. Leaves blowing all around and the sunlight hitting my face.
Trent Reznor is at the helm of all things NIN, and Ghosts I-IV is no slouch to being its’ own instrumental album. Tracks like the above “02 Ghosts I” really embody a style that I find endearing to listen to. Some of my first YouTube videos featured intros and outros of music from this album.
The legendary Thom Yorke from Radiohead fame has made himself well known through his solo releases. Much more electronic and moody, “Twist” is a dizzying romp through a seven minute soundscape of synthesized beats. Definitely a track to get lost in and focus on working at the same time!
Picture this: a cold rainy day or night. Time seems to slow. The Social Network Soundtrack always held such a feeling of strange darkness. The opener, “Hand Covers Bruise,” transport you to the grim world. A world where a person is trying to make something big happen, all the while conquering his inner turmoil and winning/losing friends. Who else can relate? Powerful music coming from Mr. Reznor and Ross.
Angels & Airwaves is a band that has a timeless, positive vibe to their sound. While more or less inactive at the time of this writing. They are a main reason I got out exploring with photography. I would ride my bike to local nature reserves as often as possible during the spring and summer while listening to AVA. If you want to conquer anything, listen to “The Adventure” or “Heaven.” In the case of “Diary,” feel how beautiful and fragile life is, like birth to death in eight minutes. You write your own story when you hear it.
In regards to when I am doing computer work, i.e. post processing or writing on the blog like this, I may listen to a mix of bossa nova jazz or lofi hip hop music. Either one is useful to study and focus on thinking-intensive tasks.
I hope you found some new music to enjoy. Art to me has always been a universal creative endeavor. This is why I use many types of media and mediums to express my love of nature and the outdoors. Art has the power to transcend labels and inspire everyone around us.
Do you have any music that inspires your creativity?
Drop a link down in the comments. Have a great day.
My first DSLR camera body was a Canon EOS Rebel T3. With a whopping 12.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, this is where I got my start with photography (megapixels don’t mean a whole lot). I had the choice between the Rebel T3 and a comparable Nikon model, I stuck with the Canon and have ever since. Nikon’s don’t feel comfortable in my hands.
The reason I wanted a DSLR of my own was from recently taking photography classes in high school. We were allowed to check out Nikon DSLR’s which I did as much as I can. While this wasn’t my first encounter with photography itself, this sealed the deal for me. I was suddenly very interested in creating with a camera whenever I could.
Here comes Christmas 2013, my only gift that year was this Rebel T3. Rightfully so, as the bundle it was in costed $500. My parents only allowed for a $500 limit.
Little did I know this would be one of the most important gifts I would ever get.
By the time I got my hands on this wonderful piece of tech, there were already new editions in the Rebel EOS line that surpassed this one in performance. None of that mattered to me anyways, I was glad to have a real camera.
This came in a B&H Photo bundle with a standard 18-55mm kit lens, a pretty common beginners’ lens, which I sold a couple of years ago. Kit lenses are great for beginners but I “outgrew” it and began to see all the limitations. Plus, they’re practically worth nothing as they are mass produced for almost every entry-level camera. Also included was a small Ruggard sling bag which fit all the gear.
After photographing myself in the mirror, the family dog, and household objects for a week. It was about time and I was itching to get out of the house into the freezing cold to take pictures.
Here comes New Years Eve, and my first venue of choice was Rotary Park, a fairly large and popular spot a few minutes away from my house. I bundled up in layers of clothes and biked down there on an overcast and chilly day. Just about no one was in sight.
Shooting the whole day in full automatic mode and saving as .jpgs, I walked around the various trails in awe, pointing the camera at anything that caught my eye (no wildlife if I remember, this was before I had patience.)
The trails are rather muddy yet that didn’t stop me, this day was like I never skipped a beat from high school photography class. The muscle-memory of point-click-review that digital photography holds became ingrained through brain.
A Lesson Learned
Due to a memory card failure a couple of years ago (that was totally my fault – back up all of your data!!) I no longer have those first batch of photos or some of my other earliest non-nature related work.
I can assure you they were nothing to be proud of, if anything they showed how far I’ve progressed in the past few years.
Everyone Started With Something
What was your first camera? Do you still own or use it? Any fond memories with it? Do you remember or still have the first picture you took with it?
Share it down in the comments. Thank you for reading.
Note: All photos are from the October 2017 trip unless otherwise captioned. I have made a handful of repeat visits since then.
My first trip to Oakes Quarry Park was in October 2017. Located in Fairborn, Ohio. This is a stunning location for Southwest Ohio. Filled with natural history and wonderful hiking trails.
You may be wondering why I chose to blog about this nature place in particular compared to all the others I’ve been to, and it is simply because of the emotions and feelings felt were a little different. This place is unique for what it is.
Simply put, the first trip was quite a revelation for me. Oakes Quarry is unlike most other natural and scenic spots in the Dayton area. I was so used the wetlands, prairies, meadows and woods. This location has a dry and sparse, almost “desert” feel to the landscape and topography that I cannot resist enjoying.
In contrast, Oakes Quarry is the second largest park in Fairborn. Features include horseback trails and footpaths that take you around limestone fossils and fairly steep cliff faces. You may also fish here without a license. There is also a loop trail near the parking lot. The perimeter trail is 2 miles long and worth the repeat hikes.
A back trail at the northern side of the perimeter loop takes you through a densely wooded area with a stream crossing along the footpath. Eventually this leads to an opening at the neighborhood connected to Oakes Quarry.
A variety of bird and other wildlife are present there. Many woodland and grassland birds are found here along with white tailed deer, cottontail, red fox, coyote, raccoon, and red tailed hawk. Below is a small selection of birds I have been able to observe and photograph.
Invasive species removal and reforestation efforts have taken place over time to conserve and protect park developments. I hope this 190 acre park is preserved for decades to come.
Next let’s go back in history..
In 1929, the entire area was surface mined for limestone to make cement, eventually the land was sold to the Oakes family in the 1990’s. Then the family donated the land to the City of Fairborn in 2003.
So I made my way up north on a warm Autumn day. A sunny day with a gentle breeze.
This is the first real view of the park as you make your way through a narrow and (mostly) muddy trail. Soon you will make it to a clearing where you can diverge to the left, right, or straight ahead. I first chose to go forward where you make it to the edge of this lake.
Just stand there and take in the sights and views. Imagine stepping back in time 440 million years ago. Oakes Quarry was a coral reef in a shallow sea. It is simply amazing.
Next I took the way right down the middle to really feel the scale and size of this area. You can see from the image above in the center past the pond, there is a smallish hill that takes you towards the right of the perimeter trail. The rocks are where I stopped and took these photos.
Choosing to press on down the middle of the park, I made it to the far side where tall limestone cliffs are met with crinoid fossil piles. You can spend hours searching the fossil piles and discovering new ones underneath.
A few small hills lead you up to the grand view and spectacle seen below..
It is from this perch where I sat and read a National Geographic Traveler magazine as the sun went down. I spent the majority of that day hiking in awe of this place. Every subsequent visit has been met with this same feeling. Nature is a powerful force to experience!
Oakes Quarry Park is the northernmost section of the Beaver Creek Wetland Corridor and presents unique habitat and green space. Lovers of geology will find the crinoid-era fossils at this site to be one of the best to study in the U.S.
Fossil-diggers, hikers, birders, nature photographers, a quiet evening with your loved one, the list goes on and on. You get the point, I adore this place, and you might too.
Disclaimer: I am not being paid or endorsed by NYIP to write this, I just really believe in the value and education they provided me. Think of this as more of a review or write-up. Find more information at http://www.nyip.edu – Enjoy.
Time Began in a Magazine… The New York Institute of Photography (referred to as NYIP henceforth) is a nationally-accredited online-based school. They host a myriad of photography-related classes ranging from portraiture, weddings, videomaking, business, and Adobe Photoshop. I first heard about NYIP while flipping through an issue of Popular Photography magazine at the local public library.
It was a neatly placed advertisement along a right-hand page margin. I try not to be swayed by simple ads, but this one stuck out to me. The bright and bold red-grey-black colors and letters caught my eye.
The ad touted having exclusively online photo courses for demanding schedules as well as affordably low tuition. At this time I was not enrolled in any sort of college or higher education.
NYIP describes itself as the oldest photography school still around, getting its’ start in 1910 teaching film photography, when obviously digital wasn’t around. Now having progressed to being an online-only school with only an office building located in New York City. Digital photography is their main focus, and they do it well.
All I had was a lot of (read: expensive) camera equipment I had bought and used extensively for many hours.
And free time, lots of it.
This was definitely a “why not?” situation…
…and so I did it.
I made the choice within a couple weeks, and soon I was enrolled and fully paid off; just over $1,200 for both courses. Very affordable compared to a traditional community college or university photography class.
At the time of this writing, there is ten different courses to choose from. While there is some overlap, each one presents a different genre or subject of digital photography. I settled upon the Complete Course in Professional Photography and the Intensive Course in Travel Photography.
In retrospect, the Nature & Landscape Photography course would’ve suited my portfolio and style a bit better. When discussing the school with my mother, she even agreed to that. Fortunately both the courses I took discussed nature photography to some degree.
The nice part is that NYIP alumni are always welcome back to take the other courses (at a discount too). I could always take the nature course in the future, however I feel actual in the field experience is what I need to devote myself to now.
This is How It Went..
I eagerly began the classes, and it was love at first sight. I could work and study on my own terms, going at my own pace through the wealth of material.
The assignments (which I am showing throughout this blog post) really challenged my creativity and typically involved getting out of the house to complete them, although some projects were more studio-based or required artificial lighting.
I bought some new equipment within that time, some of it needed to do the assignments.
The good news is you can invest in as much or in as little as you want or need. Meaning, you can go through the course with a point-and-shoot or “prosumer” camera or a full-framed one, or something in between. The choice is yours.
Despite taking a two month break in between, I somehow managed to push through and complete both courses in about 12 months to my surprise. That’s about half a year before the first deadline.
I completed the Professional Photography course in September 2017 and the Travel Course in October 2017, not too far off from what would be the 1 year mark in November.
The important thing was that it narrowed down my career path for me, which would be wildlife, nature, and landscape in a fine art and conservation perspective. That same SmugMug site I created for my final project portfolio (which I entitled “Living Things”) became the actual website I used thereafter (www.ryanltaylor.com)
I obviously kept the site and tweaked it after finishing both courses, with it being the platform to share and becoming the next stepping stone in my overall career.
How It Feels to Be an Alumni
I am proud of all my progress in that single year, as I have framed and hung my two certificates on the bedroom wall to remind me often. Display your achievements with pride!
I still try to contribute to the student forum
whenever I can, a nice community of students trying to hone their craft.
If I ever travel to New York someday, I will
surely make a stop to say hello.
To End On a Cliche
The takeaway for you is that some impulsive decisions can turn out good, and you may want to go with your gut feeling.
I was somewhat lost before enrolling, and by the end of my term I had carved my photographic niche.
Who would’ve thought that reading that magazine would turn into enrolling in photography school.
It just sort of happened.
Take the chance, will
Is Proper Education Necessary to Succeed?
Personally, I think online classes (or any in-person ones) are worthwhile if you are self-motivated enough to succeed. This is definitely a case of “you get what you put into it.” So make a conscious effort to do your best. Take the classwork seriously, read it, study it, but have fun! The photo assignment are where you creativity and special style can shine!
Do you have a formal education in photography? Where did you go to school at? Are you self-taught?
Everyone has a story of how they came to be, professional or amateur.
Tell me your story down in the comments below or drop me a note at my email.
Writers get the dreaded “writers block,” painters get the annoying “canvas shock,” and photographers (like me) just get burned out homogeneously shooting the same thing.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting the same results.”
Not surprisingly, I stared at this blank page waiting for the right words to come flowing out.
I tend to get inspired pretty easily, in turn making me become overly-motivated and being overworked. Obviously there is a fine line to dance along here, so here’s one take on the subject matter…
First you must ask yourself “am I being lazy or am I burned out?”
If laziness is occurring, you probably don’t have a strong desire to work on any creative project at all.
If acting lazy is the case, then you should reevaluate why you are creating in the first place.
The answer is for you to decide, and it probably will mean you should move on. Why do something you do not like?
However, burnout would be where you feel exhausted yet you feel compelled to continue working.
Big difference, right?
I have found that this is the case for me. My actions become robotic and frigid, like I have no control yet I cannot stop.
The work should feel (mostly) like play. But when your creative pursuit begins to feel like a creative hump… It becomes time to put a full stop on your time. For me, not knowing when to take a break becomes a trouble.
The life of a nature photographer isn’t exactly glamorous. Yes, we love what we do. But that is at the expense of being weeks or months away from family and friends (at least for some professionals.) We have to endure long hours or waiting and turbulent weather. Many miles of driving to and from locations. The list goes on..
This becomes apparent when having to do a lot of repetitious work.
In the case of art & craft fairs, I spend many days printing, matting, and preparing prints, greeting cards and the like. You essentially have to build up a moderately sized inventory of items to sell.
Let’s not forget the countless hours editing photo/video, the marketing/promotion on social media and elsewhere, all that time in front of a computer.
You get the point, there’s a lot of hard work.
The trick is to not swept up in being busy for the sake of busyness.
I have forced myself to work before, and the results can come out horrendous.
The three examples here are of what I am not quite sure was the goal. The matting choices and layout were just all “off” or uninteresting. The weird and uncommon sizes didn’t help either. OK ideas; bad execution. Safe to say I was stressed and burned out quite a lot when I made these prints.
You can produce your best work while under some pressure, yet forcing yourself to create often result in a total mistake you wish to forget.
Reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way has influenced the way I think about mental blocks. She draws conclusions about how most of our creative struggles come from within. Everyone is an artist in some way, and every one of us has an “inner self-critic.”
By journaling every day and writing down positive affirmations, we can let go of the stress of succeeding and pressures to work harder.
“Work smart, not hard.”
This the key takeaway from the book, by working less, we do more.
I can keep myself busy all day long, whether at the home office editing and printing, or hiking out massive state parks. It can feel like I’m being productive, but will the quality of the work even be halfway decent?
I would recommend a small daily walk, about half an hour, I find helps immensely to detach from all the commotion and ideas streaming through my head. No music, no phone, no distractions. Simply walk and take in the smells, sights and surroundings in the real world.
I am not ashamed to show and talk about my worst work right beside my best work, all of it make’s me who I am.
Have any burnout stories to share or tips that helped you break through? Leave a comment below or send me an email.
100’s of hours preparing came down to 30 Photo frames, 30 loose prints, 28 days, 2 hours for a reception, and my first success into the public (and local) spotlight.
In this moment, nothing mattered quite as much.
OK, let me step back to six months before this…
It was July and I happily submitted my first-ever application to an art gallery located about 10 minutes from my home.
Wanting to impress the gallery directors, I opted to submit the application via mail. I wanted to make a distinct impression in a world that was saturated with email and digital photo files. So I filled up a tiny self-addressed envelope with five 4×6’s of pictures I took of frames…printed pictures of pictures. Narrowing my now diverse collection of prints to just five to show was quite the task.
Within several weeks, I got an email from the gallery coordinator saying they’d be happy to exhibit my work. The earliest being February next year.
I was quite excited yet a little bummed I’d have to wait six months, however this would prove to be worth the time waiting.
Things in the art world seem to move rather slow. What I mean is you have to apply and schedule out events many months in advance.
I spent the next 5-ish months preparing more and more for February.
Opening day was here at last…and of course that would be too easy. Several inches of snow fell and there was a water main break on the way there forcing a detour.
Not only that but one of the frames fell and broke..
Fortunately, I replaced the parts and worked it out before reception night.
Then comes reception day, nerves were running very high for the 24 hours before the reception. Besides one of the framed pieces falling six days before, there was nonstop rain all day, and did it pour hard with no signs of letting up…
To be honest I wasn’t quite sure how many people would show up, and if the rain would change their minds. Basically all my friends and coworkers were aware of the event.
Safe to say, the reception night was a success, five personal friends came and five members from the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association to my surprise.
Overall it was fun and I happened to make a sale from a friend!
So, would I recommend you exhibit your artwork?
Absolutely! No matter what medium you choose, the self-satisfaction of seeing your creation(s) outside your house on a public wall is worth the expense and effort. Not only that but seeing others’ reactions makes me joyous as well.
Galleries really aren’t the best sources of stable income unless it’s an established and high-end gallery or you’re a big name in the industry. However, see this as an opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals and to network!
Find a gallery near you and apply! They are certainly everywhere and would be happy to share your work with the world!
I’d say give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Countless times I accidentally spooked and scared wildlife away. Get as close as you can without disturbing them!
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.
This question was begging to be answered. I suddenly had a burning desire to know “the why’s” for which I do what I do. Even though I had an idea of why, did I truly know the reason?..
Why does photography matter so much to me?
Why do I even bother waking up before sunrise? Is it worth it to brace whatever weather may come? The dry humid summers, the bitter cold winters and everything in between? Putting it all off and sleeping in is much more attractive.
To be completely honest, my inner-critic talks me out of getting outdoors with the camera: every. single. time. You wage war with yourself just to stay at home once again but until you overcome that hunch, you’re creatively deadlocked and will never further progress as an artist.
I don’t believe I have ever truly regretted going out to photograph. A lot of days start out with me being tired and cranky, but by the end I am still tired, yet fulfilled and satisfied. Big difference for sure.
In order to nurture this symbiotic relationship with the art-form and life itself. I sat down for about half an hour and jotted away in my journal. Paper and pen seemed to be the best medium in which to start this journal prompt before being translated to the keyboard and screen. I had to strike a delicate balance between my thoughts racing to “throw up” on the page before my hand could even keep up. Once I started, there was really no stopping..
Four pages later, I had a sufficient enough response. Here it goes.
“Photography is important to me in that it gives me an excuse to get off my behind and explore the outdoors. This hobby seemingly overnight carved a divine and special niche in my psyche to where it is now a lifestyle. No other artistic mediums have quite dug deep enough into my soul as this one has. Through photographs, I am given a second chance to cherish and relive those would-be forgotten memories I have experienced. A new appreciation is gained for how small and insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. Putting ourselves into perspective of which we must be eternally grateful every passing moment from which we breathe.
Photography gives me a voice and a platform of sorts from which to speak and share. Photography gifts me with better vision, both in the spacial/seeing sense as well as the acute mental awareness. The world we inhabit is perfect in its’ imperfections, beautiful as it is ugly. Therein lies the solution: the actual act of pressing the shutter is a combination of numbers and technical know-how. The other side of the coin is the creative inspiration and driving motivation to express your ideas.
Photography seems like it should be work. Don’t get me wrong, this is perhaps the most challenging task I have endured in my entire life. The stress and decisions made everyday want me to throw in the towel. For some reason, photography still feels like play. More than it should, drop me in a natural setting and my eyes widen up like a child in a candy store. How is it that something so mentally-taxing and draining be so creatively and existentially rewarding?
Photography harnesses a possessive undertone between the capture; this is my photograph, my unique vision and ideas poured in and bleeding into fruition. Literally no one else can produce the same image. A dozen other photographers could attempt to capture the same scene and their sets of eyes would automatically see something different. The collective results would be so far removed from one another! If I’m quite honest, there is a sense of ownership and entitlement in that sentiment. This isn’t to say my work is any good or particularly better than anyone else’s. It means that “I created this” from which there is an obligatory responsibility to own up to the artwork produced.
Photography for me is to acquire an intensive thirst to explore and an innate curiosity to learn. To go on an adventure, one does not have to travel far away to realize these desires exist. If you are strong-willed enough, you will make this become your reality. A backyard can quench this thirst with a myriad of photographic subjects. I could spend all my time here and still would have more than a lifetime’s worth of inspiring photos! Think about this: we all have 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year. The only exception being is the different stages of age and life we may be involved with. For me, photography fulfills this existential craving to preserve my memories, to preserve some sort of legacy. Once again, not because I am an idol but rather a legacy to prove my own inner worth. I may very well die with a camera in my hand and would full and well accept that possibility. Regardless of subject, barring any self-imposed genres or labels. At the end of the day, I feel internally invigorated everytime I get to hold a camera, no matter where it may be pointed at.
Photography is an art using mechanical tools. This little box with folding mirrors and prisms somehow becomes an extension of my life. Sometimes you don’t need a reason. No one is forcing me to travel down this path…this path chose me. The ball is in my court, and I took it and ran with it.
Photography showed me the lights and shadows of my existence without me asking for that guidance. In return I will show the camera the best use of what light and shadow is given.”
I could’ve wrote ad infinitum about this topic but there needed to be a finite ending of sorts.
I would insist that you go on a reality check every once in a while with this question. This has helped “ground” me more and more in what I do. Ask the difficult questions: Are you still having fun? What could I do to improve? What do I not like shooting? Etc.
Listen with both your heart and mind as you click that shutter, and you will certainly never be wrong.
This will be a sort of long-winded story of my start in photography from the time I was a child to the present. (Early 2019)
From an early age, photography was something that would come and go in my life. It only made sense when connecting all the dots afterwards. I originally aspired to be a fiction writer. I also grew up loving to draw and paint. Simply put, I yearned to create stories and art to express myself and that others can enjoy.
Photography came into my view when I vividly remember being told by my elementary art teacher Mrs. Cooper that everyone in the class should take photography class in high school. She mentioned that it was fun and worthwhile. I didn’t give it much thought until years later.
In junior high I was given a disposable camera from my parents to take pictures of a zoo I visited on a field trip. I can’t tell you what the pictures ended up as because the roll of film sat in that plastic camera body for over eight years and was ruined when I foolishly opened it, overexposing the entire roll. I doubt they were any good but this was an important step in my journey. Photographing animals seemed to be a lot of fun!
My photographic interest heightened ever more due to a video game system. 2009 rolls around and I am gifted a Nintendo DSi for Christmas that year. For anyone who doesn’t know video game handhelds, this was the first Nintendo DS with a built-in camera. Equipped with a whopping several megapixels, let me just say I probably spent more time taking pictures and using the goofy special effects than actually playing any games! Over the top editing expanded my creativity and augmented reality photos in real time took up my time. The next couple years I used this little device to nurture my early composition techniques. Finally the photographer in me was being birthed.
Now a sophomore in high school, I recall the early exposure of being told of photography classes. Enrolling in two semesters, the first being with film and the second with digital. I was completely enamored to say the least. It was fun and engaging, all the more with a supportive teacher. I still have computer scans of my first assignments using film. These proof sheets show some rather blurry captures, some over or underexposed, and a select few sharp and in focus. The second had us working with landscapes, so my mother drove me to what I later know was Siebenthaler Fen not too far from my house. This early exposure to nature once again tapped me interest and abilities. During that first semester with film, working a traditional darkroom however was not coming easy to me. Plus the smell of fixer I can never forget!
Anyways, I later quickly picked up digital photography with ease. Using a loaner Nikon DSLR for much of the digital assignments, my first time using a real expensive camera. The colors, the instant feedback of checking my progress. My ideas were set free and flourished. Most of my work at the time was still objects and pictures of my mother and I, not so much of nature although I did experiment with that. This is the time period where I learned how to take self-timer portraits, created a photo series, and wandered my backyard and town in search of imagery. Using a copy of Adobe Photoshop Premiere Elements at school, I sought for a lot of wacky and over the top effects that would not go over too well in contests. But I didn’t care, this for me was as good as art can get. Capturing an image and using post processing, the process was neat. The cutting mats, the paper trimmer, choosing mats as well. Where drawing and painting was too slow for me, photography became my field of choice. It felt as though I had a sore throat my entire life and now I began to have a voice. Digital photography was the medicine I needed!
Now, I first began diving deep into the art of photography at the end of 2013. I was gifted a Canon Rebel T3 bundled with a Canon 18-55mm kit lens from my parents. Moving hastily around the house taking pictures of every still object, the dog, with my first photo taken with it being me in the mirror. After exhausting all indoor opportunities. I became very eager to get outside in the freezing cold and explore the local park a few minutes from my house. This was before I had a drivers license, so I made my way via bicycle. Both fun and carefree, it didn’t matter how cold I was. This single trip was a photographic bonanza for me.
Graduating high school in 2015 left me directionless and confused as to what I should do with my life. The multitude of options froze my decision-making that I ended up taking a year off to hopefully “find myself.” This was obviously not an overnight endeavor. 2016 seemed to be the catalyst for everything I had known to that point. All the pieces fell into place when I made a little spot in the local newspaper with a simple Canada Goose portrait. This was also the year where one of my best friends and I went to John Bryan State Park for a day where I was floored by the enormity of the park and what was possible. That Autumn I made a conscious decision to enroll in online photography classes with the New York Institute of Photography.
The year 2017 was when things started to look up for me. That same best friend and I drove up to a place called the Narrows Reserve for a day where my skills were further enlivened. I finally got my drivers license that year and out of excitement explored tooth-and-comb every nature location around my county and eventually beyond. I managed to graduate from NYIP in a year The two classes I enrolled in really took me to where I am today. I will soon have a separate blog post detailing my experiences with the school.
I set a goal for 2018 to be the year I took this passion seriously and fortunately it paid off. This was certainly been the hardest working year so far, with each one subsequently becoming more and more.
You can clearly see that in three years, my gear and clothing reflected my passion and drive to pursue photography head-on. 2016-2018 were what I now consider my “baby years” where I developed the skills and experience necessary to achieve great imagery. So far 2019 is looking to be my first big break in the local public and beyond.
To this day I am ever more grateful of all the people I have met along the way during my career. The most exciting thing for me is watching my skills increase and style mature with time. In a couple years it already has! Personally for me, the journeys and experiences when taking the images are equally as imperative as the final photo itself.
Looking onward, I wonder what is next?
“To create photography is to draw with the light, so I guess that makes me a light drawer?”