Passion: What separates the meaningful from the mundane

“You’re not hiring me for my shutter finger–everyone can push a button. You’re hiring me for my creative vision and my ability to convey a particular message about the (blank) experience through unforgettable imagery.”

This is an excerpt from a recent email to a potential client of mine. And really, although the word “passion” isn’t even mentioned, I think it sums up nicely what separates an exceptional photographer from many of the good photographers out there. Regardless of your technical prowess, your lens collection or your abundant knowledge of a certain location or activity–without passion for the medium of photography and the action of capturing timeless moments forever, you will fail at connecting with people as they view your work. It’s as simple as that.

Matt Warner revels in a fisherman's paradise on the Middle Provo River, UT

Matt Warner revels in a fisherman's paradise on the Middle Provo River, UT

Sure you could probably shoot skiing if you don’t ski, but would you really capture the subtle nuance of an epic powder turn? Or would you simply be documenting it…

Brant Moles. Happy. Alta, UT

Brant Moles. Happy. Alta, UT

Sure you could probably shoot fly fishing if you don’t fish, but would you really capture the connection between man and water? Or would you simply be going through the motions…

Bryan Gregson casts in early morning light on Currant Creek, UT

Bryan Gregson casts in early morning light on Currant Creek, UT

Sure you could probably shoot scenic imagery without a personal connection to the landscape, but would you really personify Mother Nature in your imagery? Or would you simply be tracing an emotionless empty stencil onto a digital sensor…

Evening skies light up over Utah's Middle Provo River

Evening skies light up over Utah's Middle Provo River

We are not just photographers. We are interpreters.

Images with Impact

I’ve been thinking lately about all of the millions (billions?) of images out there lately and what separates the cream of the crop from the rest. More than anything else, I think it’s about creating an image with impact. Regardless of the type of imagery you shoot, if you can create an image that touches someone in any meaningful way, you can’t help but leave your mark. The best part is that with all the billions of people in this world having all of their billions of experiences each and every day, it is inevitable that you will connect with someone if you shoot with impact in mind. Impact, for me, occurs in the grandiose and the minute. The spectacular, and even the mundane. If you can evoke an emotion, you can have an impact on people. Nuff said.

Feeling small on the Navajo Loop trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Feeling small on the Navajo Loop trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Andrew Swindle waits for the sip on the Weber River, UT

Andrew Swindle waits for the sip on the Weber River, UT

Handcarts in late light at This is the Place Heritage Park, UT

Handcarts in late light at This is the Place Heritage Park, UT

Old Mill Golf Course at sunset, Salt Lake City, UT

Old Mill Golf Course at sunset, Salt Lake City, UT

Capture Complete Images with Singh Ray Filters

Below is a blog post that will go up on the Singh Ray Filters Blog shortly. Might as well give a sneak preview here.

As photographers, we are always looking for that image that will make people do a double take. Spectacular color, irresistible light and engaging compositions are useful components in capturing that “perfect” image. Unless, however, we are able to combine several or all of these components together, our images will still be left lacking that special spark.

Perhaps more than any other tool, Singh Ray filters have been instrumental in helping me to capture complete images. Yes, they are instrumental in extracting that extra dose of color and registering skies that will make jaws drop. They are also instrumental in simply achieving balance in an image. Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t help us as much as she should, and we have to help ourselves.

This image of Delicate Arch is no revolution to photography. It’s been shot to death, and then some. That’s ok though, as I’d like to think that no one has captured it as I have. We all know that’s probably untrue, but it’s the mentality one must take when shooting an icon. By the time I set up this shot, the throngs of bustling photographers and tourists had all but gone home. The sun had set, after all—and what was there left to shoot with no light? In a word? Plenty.

Delicate Arch at Dusk, Arches National Park, UT

Delicate Arch at Dusk, Arches National Park, UT

Our camera sensor picks up light the human eye cannot, and with longer exposures at dusk, colors saturate and some things come to life that are otherwise dead when the sun is up. I shot other frames with electric light on Delicate Arch, but what completes this image for me is the stark contrast between the white snow of the La Sal Mountains in the background set against a royal sky and warm redrock. This scene was not present when the light appeared best to most of the other photographers. The sky was washed out, thus sapping the mountain peaks of the contrast achieved in this image.

I used a Singh Ray 2-stop soft step Grad ND to deepen the sky, and pull out every last bit of detail from the mountain peaks. The soft transition renders the filter line virtually unnoticeable except to the most trained eyes!

This next image was captured at Dead Horse Point State Park. Again, an oft-shot location with little lacking in the way of breathtaking beauty. Skies were uninteresting and clear on this particular morning, which forced me to search for compositions that would isolate the fiery glow on the buttes below.

Dead Horse Point State Park in early light.

Dead Horse Point State Park in early light.

The light hitting the butte in the upper third of this image was so intense in relation to the rest of the scene that it required a 4-stop soft step ND grad to balance the exposure. I held the filter at an angle as to not overly darken the mid-ground in this image. I am a stickler about hiding filter lines! Do your very best to make it appear as natural as possible.

What completes this image for me has partly to with the beautiful light and winding river with reflection. Mostly, however, it has to do with the balance created between the lit butte in the lower left hand corner and the (almost) overpowering butte in the upper third. This goes to show that even when shooting a long lens landscape, we can search for separating elements that contribute to the overall balance of an image.

A storm front moves in at sunset in Canyonlands National Park, UT

A storm front moves in at sunset in Canyonlands National Park, UT

This last image was captured at Canyonlands National Park. I was pleased to finally have dramatic skies to work with after a literal multi-day cloud draught. As this storm front raced into action, the sun descended at an equally rapid pace, lighting up the horizon with an intense glow. This combination of light on the horizon and dark clouds above created the perfect storm for my 3-stop Reverse ND Grad. Had I used a normal grad ND filter on this scene, the already dark clouds would have been rendered unnaturally dark. With the densest part of the Reverse ND Grad filter placed just over the horizon, I was able to maintain a dramatic, yet believable feel to this image.

Perhaps one of the more “complete” images I’ve captured this year, I was drawn to the contrast between the bright, wind-bent grass tufts and the ominous dark clouds overhead. There is a relationship here manifest in the subtle motion displayed in the tips of the grass—obviously affected by the approaching storm. Special care was taken to ensure the horizon line was not placed in the middle of the frame—an important aspect to remember when gunning for that complete image.

Look for that complete image each time you venture out—be sure to have your Singh Ray Filters on hand, as a sure knowledge of how to use them best will give you an upper hand on coming home with a (complete) keeper.