Monday, August 17, 2009

Reflecting on the past, planning to grow in the future

On My Photography as of August 2009

I've been back at this photography thing now for around 4 years. I would have never guessed that I would be so in to it, but I am. 4 or 5 cameras later, a *bunch* of glass, and hundreds of day trips I think it is time to reflect and prepare to take image making to another level.

read on for more

These two images are clear in my mind, they helped motivate me to try harder to see more and take more good images. They are from 2005 and 2006.

Leaping Tiger
Tiger Leaps in to the water!  I'm going to really miss these guys ;(

Great Blue Heron
Precision - GBH @ Centennial Lake, Columbia Maryland  2006

In the few years since I took the above images I've learned to observe, predict, and anticipate wildlife and encounters. However things are too much like my last trip to a given place. I want to see new things, see in a new way, and keep photography fresh.

A couple weekends ago I started to make that happen. I went for a canoe ride with a friend and with camera gear. We stayed dry, didn't tip over, and saw a few things.


So, it was a success. We may go to Blackwater soon...

I recently saw work from another photographer in the mid-atlantic that just blew me away. I wouldn't have thought it could be so images made so close to the places I shoot. EDIT - further reflection reveals this young photographer is not someone to be revered.

Photography started as a hobby this time around. A way to get out and do something somewhat productive. It became something more. Luck early on has made me devote hours upon hours to shooting and to processing images too.

What my approach is now is to have a bunch of spots to shoot for each season, and to work those spots each season. That approach has gotten me to Blackwater Refuge 60 times, and Great Falls a hundreds times, and lots of other places 10's of times or many more than that.

I've gotten to that plan by finding new spots all the time, but also working old spots. In 2009 so far I've gotten a few new spots, including my *secret* Osprey spot, where the pair raised 3 healthy chicks.

MD Osprey (w/ D200) 1 of 6

Another new spot from this year was where I got these Red Foxes:

Happy Mom's Day

What I think I need to do is go farther, to more new places, risk a day where it could be a wash, or an amazing trip with amazing things seen. And I need to change my approach and think about ways to break out of the habits that have formed over the last few years. The habits have taken me along pretty well. I regularly get up at 3am or 4am, arrive for sunrise somewhere and spend the day shooting good stuff.

But the problem with just blindly putting in the hard work and effort without a plan or vision or maybe even a self assignment / project is how it turns in to a rat race. People like myself on flickr all 'virtually competing' to take amazing nature and wildlife images. But the breath of vision among the work done my like minded people isn't that wide. Everyone gets bigger lenses, searches for new good spots, keeps spots secret, tries to get closer to wildlife (hopefully without disturbing it or cheating) and the rewards are only barely incrementally better. And I say that as an accounting of my own work primarily.

And I don't want to *just* travel to all the hot spots to get the *wildlife* shots. I want to put in the hard work, do it close to home, and I want to see things most other folks haven't.

An image that comes to mind was a 'happy accident' but I wish it were more thought out and planned and better executed.

That images comes to mind because like many others that frequent the river to see the eagles, for me it is hard to come up with a unique image after you've been there 10 or 20 times in a season or two (or three or four seasons - ie Fall).

And I think part of the rat race that is hobby nature photography is to be blamed on has motivated me to shoot lots and try to post a new image daily. I'm thankful to have a place like flickr to post to, but... There's no way I can make 365 amazing images a year. Flickr has helped me to sort through my stuff, self edit, restrict my posting volume, and I need more.

I need to take my planning to the next level, my approach to wildlife to the next level, I need to take my vision to the next level.

And I think I may be on the right track, open to risking a trip, without a real plan but with a plan to do something different and not 'take all my gear with me' by evidence of this image from a few weeks ago.
DC Sunset

The image works on a few levels, or has a few strong elements that help it work - well known monuments, sunset light, good composition, and then the bonus squirrel on the steps. And it took me an hour to figure out where I wanted to go and then to park. And it was a work day for me, and I DON'T WORK in DC! I drove in during rush hour...

(I've made this post to document my thought process, and to admit to being insecure about my photography, and to always be trying to reach new levels.)

Happy Trails.