Tip #3: Embrace the Experience
As much as we love photography, making fine art prints, and sharing our photos, remember that “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” What does this even mean?
Recently, a photographer friend of mine went to both Iceland and Greenland for two weeks on a photography tour. She described profound life-changing experiences from these two weeks. Yes, she got incredible photography. In fact, beautiful photos! But, even more than that, she had an incredible adventure filled with meaningful interactions with other human beings, their land, their culture, their individual lives, and even their struggles. Not only was she open to seeing beyond mere photos (seeing the things and people that were around her) she actively sought these things out.
I may sound like a philosopher but, I challenge everyone reading this article to go beyond the picture. Avoid the stamp collecting mentality. My father (who is 78 years old and still climbing major mountains) recently told me that during his career of Alpine (snow mountain) climbing, there were many people that he called “peak baggers.” These are folks who were only focused on getting to the top simply to claim another accomplishment.
I believe we do much, much more than that! Sometimes there are people in my workshops that are so focused on a certain picture that they miss the awe and wonder around them. I’m suggesting that our potential (and privileged) experiences are far more important than the photos we take.
I also believe that these experiences can mold, shape, and direct where our photography leads us. Similar to tip #2, this is a challenge to find more meaning than snapshots. Heighten your focus and sensitivity to what’s around you… be open to seeing like you’ve never seen before.
To summarize tip #3… go after the experience more so than the photograph. Consider John Muir. He didn’t photograph Yosemite simply to collect pretty photos (to “stamp collect” or “bag peaks”). He photographed Yosemite because he was deeply and profoundly inspired by its majesty and beauty. I, for one, want nothing less from my life… incredibly meaningful experiences.
Tip #4: Embrace the Wonderful Art of Post-processing
As a full-time landscape photographer and tour leader, I find a fairly high percentage of my photographer clients do not embrace post-processing. By not fully appreciating this other side of the creative coin, I believe their work may fall short of its truest potential.
In most of my workshops, I budget an extra day for pure post-processing training! I bring this up because, with many of my photographer clients over the years, there is some deficiency in this department. Because of this, they can have a great adventure and take some fantastic pictures, but not fully optimize the potential of their photos.
I also notice that there is a lot of confusion between the art of processing images for the web, on one hand, and processing images for fine art prints on the other (totally different) hand.
Here’s my advice on this… do what I would do if I was struggling in this area. Seek out your favorite photographers. Most of the top photographers that inspire me offer a wide range of services, including post-processing tutoring.
They also offer quality instructional materials. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or even advanced in post-processing skills (looking to develop your skills and improve the quality of your images), use their video tutorials and/or e-books. Watch (or read) them over and over and practice the tips they offer. Even at my stage as a full-time professional photographer for over 13 years (and having taken many Photoshop classes), I still purchase many other top photographers instructional materials in a quest to keep learning, growing, and improving!
Another option is one-on-one instruction… specifically, one-on-one Skype (screen-sharing) lessons. I believe if you approach a Skype lesson (or lessons) prepared with your most important questions and lessons you want to learn, you can accomplish great strides in the steep learning curve.
Tip # 5: Try the Ultra-wide
This tip is short and sweet. Try radical new approaches with the new generation of ultra-wide lenses. I remember when the Nikon 14-24 was the widest, most popular corrected lens in the industry. Well, times change quickly! I’ve been shooting with the Canon 11-24 (on my Sony A7R2 and A7S) for a year and a half and have enjoyed the extreme angle so much that I have shot about 85% at 11mm since its purchase. I also just recently bought the Voigtlander 10mm (corrected rectilinear); it’s on order and I cannot wait to put it to work!
Why so extreme on the wide end? For me, new, radical takes on landscape get my blood pumping! I love what these lenses can do to create fresh perspectives and even distort reality into something new and unusual. Not everyone is a wide shooter but, for those interested, these lenses are a blast. Often, I don’t even go out photographing with any other lens.
As far as the distortion that some want to avoid… I embrace it! Wider more flaring skies, wider more radical lead in lines… I love it all.
A recent client from Chicago showed me his large portfolio of city-scapes with the Canon 11mm. My whole workshop was very impressed by his work. Some may say “yeah but it makes some straight lines crooked.” In some cases, that’s true; but unless you’re doing strict architecture photography, I say, “who cares!?” This is art. Get radical. Break the rules. Have fun.
For this approach, because the eye doesn’t see like these lenses do, you really must take the camera off the tripod and experiment in free-form fashion. Go low to the ground… so as high as you can reach… walk around in free-flowing fashion watching the LCD or viewfinder (or both) every step of the way. Notice how even an inch can make a huge difference in the look of an image. Notice all of the possible compositions in even a small, scenic area.
My parting words for this post? Try new stuff… break the rules… embrace the passion… and don’t be afraid of failure.