Where Do You Find the “Great” Shots?
Where do you find the “great” shots? It’s a question I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.
Earlier in my career I thought that you had to go to a great location to get a great shot. You know; Death Valley, the wilds of Africa or the mountains of New Zealand. These are beautiful locations and so it made sense to me that I would produce great images there.
Then I went through a period where I believed that great shots were everywhere and all that was needed was the vision to “see” them. I remember reading a statement by Edward Weston, who infirm and confined to a chair said that he ought to be able to look down at his feet and find a great image.
That’s a great theory, but what’s the reality? Does location contribute to the creative process? Can I really find great images in my own back yard?
My actual experience has been mixed; I have been to some great locations that have produced some great shots but there have been other times when I couldn’t see a thing, only to find another photographer had created incredible work at the same place. I would look at their images and marvel how it was that I didn’t see that. Conversely I’ve also been to some uninspiring locations and produced some wonderful images that others had passed by.
My current thought is that creating a great shot is like panning for gold. There are always a few nuggets laying on the surface, but for the most part the gold is hidden beneath the surface and you must really work hard to get it. So while beautiful locations have produced some great work for me (gold nuggets), the bulk of my images (gold dust) came about from hard work.
I have noticed that great locations can be inspirational, but without vision I’m only likely to see the shots that everyone else has photographed before. After all, when a gold nugget is large enough to be noticed, everyone else notices it too! Think about how many similar images of Yosemite you have seen, that’s because gold nuggets are easy to see.
A short time ago I was in a creative slump and went on three trips. At the start of each trip I really believed that the location would inspire me to create great images, but as each trip produced mediocre images I blamed it on the weather, the boring landscape or my lack of time. Eventually I had to face the reality that it wasn’t the location, it was me. My conclusion: I’d rather be inspired in a uninspiring location than to be uninspired in a inspiring place.
So how would I answer the question “Where do you find the ‘Great’ shots?” I think you find them wherever you’re at and while location can help, it can never take the place of vision.