Monthly Archives: July 2015

That Little Voice

Shadowy Trees, Snowy Ridge Summit County, Colorado, 2015

Shadowy Trees, Snowy Ridge
Summit County, Colorado, 2015

So here it is, July in Colorado, with temperatures today in the low 90s F, and I’m posting an image that’s all about snow.  Why is that?  You can blame the little voice in my head.

See, I had another image all lined up and ready to go.  A very nice image that was photographed just a few weeks ago in Rocky Mountain National Park.  An image that I had convinced myself was done, finished, perfectly good and ready for prime time.

And yet, just when I was getting ready to pull the trigger on this post, I looked at my image and realized I was ignoring the little voice in my head.  The little voice that was saying “it’s close, but something’s off.”  That insistent, persistent little voice that said “look at that one thing, you know what I’m talking about, it’s not quite right, fix it now before you post this, you’ll regret it later if you don’t.”

It’s easy to ignore that little voice.  Sometimes you want to like an image so much, you convince yourself that the little voice isn’t right, that it doesn’t know what it’s talking about, that it wouldn’t recognize a good photograph if one came up and bit it.  But the problem is, the little voice pretty much always is right about these things.  You ignore it at your peril.  Annoying though it can be, the little voice has your best interests at heart, and seldom will lead you astray.

And so I pulled the image I was going to post so that I can work on it some more, and decided to post this one instead.

If you’re still reading this little missive, then please don’t hold the fact that the image here is a substitute against it.  This image is every bit as good as the other.  I was going to post it at a future date, with its own write-up and everything.  It’s patiently been waiting its turn in my queue of finished images to post.  That fact that it’s stepping in today is nothing but testimony to its worthiness.  I know I’m right, because the little voice in my head agrees.

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Something Different?

Street Lamp and Road Sign

Streetlamp and Road Sign
Madrid, Spain, 2015

My original title for this post was going to be simply “Something Different,” the reason being that at first glance the image here seems to be something different than the work that I typically do.  Having lived with the image a while prior to making this post, however, I wonder if that’s really the case.

There’s an idea I’ve heard that artists who would like to be recognized for their work should make their work recognizable as having been done by them.  For example, Ansel Adams is closely identified with California landscapes, Annie Leibovitz is closely identified with portraits of celebrities,  and so forth.

There’s two ways I think you can take this.  For a first way, you could choose to make all of your work fit a mold.  Maybe it’s all black and white landscapes like for Adams, maybe it’s all celebrity portraits like for Leibovitz, whatever.  But if you choose to make all of your work fit a theme, you run the risk of detrimentally self-editing yourself, to the extent that you forgo making work that doesn’t fit the theme you’ve chosen to be identified with.

The second way simply is to make whatever kind of work moves you, and trust that it will have enough of your own personal stamp on it that your touch will be recognized.  If you have a vision and pursue that vision with honesty, the work that follows should be distinguishable as yours and recognizable for it.

It probably goes without saying that I subscribe to the second approach.  At the very least, I don’t want to self-edit the kinds of images I produce, and more broadly, I hope that my work will carry my personal imprimatur when I put it out into the world.  Regardless, that’s the thinking behind the title of this post – posing the inquiry as a question, rather than a statement that it is, in fact, something different.

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Still At It

Cottonwood Trees, Two Stands

Cottonwood Trees, Two Stands
Near Greenland, Colorado, 2014

I started writing this blog in February, 2013, which means I’ve been at it for just about 2 1/2 years now.  I’m still doing it, and I plan to keep on doing it, but lately I’ve been asking myself why.

When I started this blog, the idea was that it would be about 1/2 an exercise in marketing and 1/2 an exercise in personal expression.  On the marketing side, my thinking was that having a website with a blog, wherein the content was updated about once every week or two, would provide those interested in the content with a reason to keep coming back, thereby driving traffic to my website.  On the personal expression side, I thought it would be fun not only to post my images, but to provide (hopefully) interesting remarks and observations to go along with them.  Personally, I really enjoy reading the blogs of photographers who regularly provide inspiring images and well-written content, and I hoped my website and blog might provide a similar resource for others, at least maybe in some small way.

In practice, neither of these goals seems to have to come to pass.  On good days, traffic to this website peaks only in the double digits, which seems kind of low.  Moreover, based on the paucity of comments and offline feedback, I don’t think this blog is getting much readership (although I really value those of you who do read it – thanks so much!).

So why do I remain committed to doing this blog?

I’ve been puzzled by this question, since, as mentioned above, this blog really is not hitting the goals I set for it.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I think I found my answer when I listened to a podcast by Brooks Jensen at Lenswork Daily.  The podcast was called “Your Next Deadline,” and the basic premise was that having a deadline to work under is a good thing because it provides motivation to get things done.  For photographers, of course, this means creating new work.

Now, I don’t have an actual deadline for this blog, but I do start to feel a bit edgy if I don’t get a post out about once every week or two.  I don’t know why, maybe I just like seeing the unbroken line of archived posts stretching back to 2013.  In any case, writing a post means needing an image to share, and needing an image to share provides motivation for me to create new work.

It’s as good a reason as any to write a blog, I suppose.  With any luck, it will keep me at it for the next 2 1/2 years.  If so, I look forward to seeing you in February of 2018.

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About Not Knowing a Place

Dome and Tower of the Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, Spain, 2015

Dome and Tower of the Almudena Cathedral
Madrid, Spain, 2015

Earlier this year, I was fortunate to visit Spain for the first time.  Since my usual photographic outings are spent in and around my home on the front range of Colorado, wandering the streets of Madrid provided a refreshing change of mindset to my approach to making images.

In Colorado, I tend to have much familiarity with the subjects and locations I approach.  When I go out to photograph, I bring with me my knowledge and observations of seasons, landscapes, and conditions gained over my years of photographing here.  I know what places typically look like, and I can see the small changes from day to day, month to month, year to year.  It’s like reading and rereading a good book, where each time may provide a new insight or appreciation, but much of the pleasure is immersing yourself in comfortable, familiar surroundings.

Madrid was kind of like seeing a complicated, fast-paced movie for the first time.  Visually, walking around the city felt like a series of fleeting impressions that changed quickly from scene to scene, location to location.  Seeing things for the first time denied me the opportunity to place them within a context, and my observations were based solely on how things happened to look at the moment I happened to be looking at them.  When something made an impression, it had to be photographed quickly if it was to be photographed at all, since more likely than not I would not be back again.

It’s a different, exciting way to approach photography.  The pace and spontaneity of it forces you to move out of your comfort zone and adapt.  The image in this post probably is the closest to what I expected to come back with, but most of my captures from Madrid are not what I expected they would be at all.  So while there’s many reasons that knowing about a place will help with your photography, there’s just as many reasons that not knowing about a place will do the same.

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