We All Start Somewhere…

Sunset, Entlebuch, Switzerland 1997

Sunset, Entlebuch, Switzerland 1997

I was hanging out at my parents house the other day when I went downstairs, down the hallway that led to my old room. On the way, I noticed my first print “exhibit” on the wall. Placed there nearly 15 years ago, this was a veritable blast from the past, and one I couldn’t help but study and ponder. Wow–talk about photography 101! I gazed at the images sheepishly, wondering what I was thinking with the blown highlights here, centered composition there and numerous other nitpicks in between. And then it hit me–I wasn’t thinking. I was simply shooting.

Sunset, Eiffel Tower, Paris, France 1997

Sunset, Eiffel Tower, Paris, France 1997

It was a simpler time during my senior year in high school. I had taken my only photography class the year before and had learned just enough to operate my father’s old Canon FTB. It was a literal aluminum tank that hung from my neck, with a light meter that bounced up and down in an unsure motion as I panned across shadows and highlights. To this day, that photography class at Highland High School remains my only formal education on a medium that would one day define my career. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

Fall color, Mill Creek Canyon, UT 1996

Fall color, Mill Creek Canyon, UT 1996

This is less of a “look at me now” post, and much more of a “look where I started” reflection. The simple truth is this: we all start at the same place. A place unfamiliar, curious and rarely comfortable. It’s an insecure place, where one is pestered by self doubt and a lack of knowledge. Conversely, however, this place also bursts with a desire to create and explore. It’s a place illuminated by the glimmer that comes from rounding every unknown bend, and returning with a new morsel of skill or knowledge…

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France 1997

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France 1997

Times have changed a great deal since I first picked up a “real” camera. Film has been replaced to a large degree by digital sensor. Notepads with scribblings of apertures, shutter speeds and focal lengths have been replaced by high tech programs that record it all for you at the click of the shutter. Entry level cameras can do more now than the best pro cameras could ever dream of mustering 15 years ago. One factor, however, remains the same. Creativity, passion and the will to achieve can never be replaced or switched out. They are the photographic foundation that will never crumble.

Sunset, Lake Powell, UT 1996

Sunset, Lake Powell, UT 1996

Think about where you started. Maybe it was ten, fifteen, or even twenty five years ago. Maybe it was yesterday. Remember not what you didn’t know then. Rather, remember that all you knew was that clicking the shutter brought mystery and joy and crazy, care free satisfaction. What a cool thing…

Why Do You Do It?

Winter sunset over Big Cottonwood Creek, UT

Winter sunset over Big Cottonwood Creek, UT

You know what I’m talking about. Why do you photograph?

Whether a green amateur or a full time pro, you have to ask yourself now and again why it is that you create imagery. Is it for money? Love? Cyber back-pats? Creative survival? What is it?

As I’ve transitioned from casual amateur to serious hobbyist to full time pro over the years, I’ve thought long and hard about why I photograph. The motivating factor has changed across the years,  from a carefree occupier of time, to a burning desire to improve, to a simple desire to prove (something to someone, somewhere, anywhere) to a means of putting food on the table for my family. In the end, however, the simple answer is this: I NEED TO PHOTOGRAPH. It is every bit as much a part of me as my fingers typing this very blog post.

Within every true creative, there is a relentless desire to…create. A feeling akin to that of an athlete’s muscles aching to be used and abused, this hunger to create is innate and restless unless satiated on a frequent basis. It matters not whether there are stock requests to fulfill, commercial clients to satisfy or workshops to teach. At a certain point, you must ask yourself why you do it. If the answer isn’t one of creative necessity and passion, then when it gets bad, you won’t have enough to keep going.

I think many a pro would be lying if they said there wasn’t a glamour factor to it all.  Yes, it’s great to get compliments and adoration and words of encouragement, but that won’t sustain a photographer through the peaks and valleys. The image above was one of, if not my very first five-star shot. If you’ve followed my work, you’ve likely seen it many times before. I can remember the feeling I had when I uploaded the images of my CF card and saw it on the computer screen. I was elated. And yes, I still get that feeling every time I go out to shoot and come back with a keeper.

Ask yourself why you do it. Hopefully you discover a truth you may not have known before. And hopefully, that truth fuels your photographic fire for years and years.