When I was 14 and discovered photography, I created images for just one reason: for the pure joy of creating and personal satisfaction.
But over time I found that my motivations changed and I started to create for others and for praise.
Then I found myself creating to build a resume. I thought that I needed to prove, by the length of my resume, that I was a good photographer.
Then came the desire for fame. I created because I wanted to become famous and to be known as a great photographer.
Now at age 60 I have come full circle and it’s like I’m 14 years old again.
Once again I am creating simply for the joy of creating and for the satisfaction that comes when I craft an image that I love.
How ironic that a 46 year journey would take me to the same place where I started from.
I am so glad that I found my way back.
P.S. The above image was created a couple of years ago and it has always been a favorite of mine, but only today while writing this blog post did I understand why. It reminds me of what it was like to be 14 years old again, when I created for myself and didn’t care what anyone else thought.
I’m so happy to learn there’s a new magazine out about Vision! It’s great that more and more people are focusing on Vision and less and less about equipment.
I know about this publication because they asked to publish my blog post on “How I Found My Vision.” They did a wonderful job with the article and even gave me a full page ad!
It’s a free publication and here’s where you can find it for Apple and Android:
Also, here is another new image from my Oregon Coast trip, one I created just for fun:
Please join me this Tuesday at The Center for Fine Art Photography where I’ll be presenting “Why Black and White?”
The presentation is 90 minutes long and in this time I’ll be talking about why you might consider black and white, offering my photographic philosophies, discussing my views on Vision, giving some b&w tips and illustrating all of this through my favorite portfolios. In addition, at the end of the presentation I’ll be giving away these three prints .
When: Tuesday October 28th, 2014 at 7 pm
Where: 400 North College Ave., Fort Collins, Colorado
Why: Because you love black and white…or you’d like to.
There is no cost for the presentation and I hope to see you there!
P.S. The image above was created last week during my annual Oregon Coast trip and is a part of my developing portfolio entitled “Isolated.”
I’m having a great time in Bandon. The weather is wildly mixed, hard rain one day and beautiful sun the next. I’m working hard to look for the image that presents itself…yes even in the rain.
Today I solved a small but persistent problem: how to get a long exposure when it’s raining. Raindrops on the ND filter are in focus enough to ruin the image. I’ve tried shielding the lens with my hat, but the driving rain still got through.
Finally I came up with a crazy but effective solution: during the exposure I would look for any drops that landed on the filter and then quickly and gently wipe them off with a microfiber cloth. A fast 1/3 of a second swipe has no effect on a 30 second exposure and I do not press on the filter, just lightly brush the surface with the absorbent cloth.
Crazy, but effective.
I think this allowed me to get a couple of images that might not otherwise have been possible.
So far, it’s a good trip.
I’ll be spending the next two weeks in Bandon, Oregon for my annual retreat.
This is a sacred time for me. It’s a chance to be completely alone, with no distractions and only one thing to think about: creating images.
At first it always takes a couple of days before I begin seeing, and often I’ll worry about the process and why it isn’t coming along. But then it comes…as it always does.
As I prepare to depart for Bandon I’m wondering if I’m finished with my Monolith series which I’ve been working on there for the last several years, or if I’m ready to move onto a new idea. I’ll find out soon enough as I walk those beaches and see if something else catches my eye.
In the past I’d need to go on these trips with a plan and preconceived ideas of what I’d be working on. Now I simply go and trust that I’ll see something and if I’m meant to go in a new direction…then I’ll be carried away with excitement and inspiration.
As I look at my portfolios, that is how it has always happened: spontaneously and through a sudden burst of inspiration.
It’s taken me a long time to learn to trust in the creative process and to realize that it cannot be manipulated or rushed.
After years of experimentation and trying various ND filter combinations, I have assembled what I believe to be the worlds perfect ND kit. It consists of the following:
- 5 stop fixed ND filter in 82mm
- 10 stop fixed ND filter in 82mm
- 15 stop fixed ND filter in 82mm
- 20 stop fixed ND filter in 82mm
- Singh-Ray Vari-ND in 82mm
- Step up rings on each of my lenses so they all can use 82mm filters
Those of you who are shooting long daytime exposures will appreciate what this means. I can now shoot with 5, 10, 15 or 20 stops of ND without stacking two filters together or vignetting!
I am in pig heaven. Seriously.
But my perfect kit would not be complete without a Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter. This is a variable filter that gives you between 3 and 8 stops of neutral density and it works just like a polarizer: turning it one way gives you more ND and turning it the other way gives you less.
It is critically important for me to have this variable filter because it allows me to photograph dynamic subjects (eg: people or other moving objects) quickly without removing the filter to compose the image.
With fixed filters the viewfinder is so dark that I cannot compose without removing the filter. And taking filters on and off takes precious time (which I may not have when photographing people) and sometimes I accidently change the zoom or focus settings, which ruins the shot.
With the Vari-ND I can dial the filter open, compose, and then close the filter down to shoot. I can do this very quickly which is critical.
The Vari-ND filter is the one piece of equipment that allowed me to photograph the ghosts at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
If had I visited the camps armed only with my fixed ND filters, I could not have created these images.
Now some of you looking at this list of filters might be thinking: everyone has heard of a 5 and 10 stop…but a 15 and 20???
Yes! Singh-Ray offers a 5, 10 and 15 stop filter and then they built a 20 stop filter for me (which I think they’ll be offering to the public before long).
Why would I want a 20 stop filter? Because it allows me to get an 8 and 16 minute exposure in bright daylight, and now I don’t have to stack to get it! Stacking creates some serious vignetting when shooting wide, here’s a before-and-after of a two stacked filter shot to illustrate:
Being able to go from 5 to 20 stops without stacking is a huge deal for me.
I hope this doesn’t sound like a commercial for Singh-Ray because it’s not, but it is an honest plug. I’ve long depended on Singh-Ray’s filters, they are top quality and the customer service is unbeatable.
So if you’re wondering what ND filters to buy, here is the perfect combination of filters to aspire to.
P.S. Just to balance out all this technical talk, here is a favorite story of mine that puts equipment into perspective:“A photographer went to a socialite party in New York. As he entered the front door, the host said ‘I love your pictures – they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera.’ He said nothing until dinner was finished, then: ‘That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific Stove.’” Sam Haskins
What if you had two choices as a photographer:
To imitate the style of others, have it sell well and achieve notoriety
Produce original work that you love, but it results in few sales and does not receive critical praise
Which would you choose…and why?
I think that how we answer this question reveals something about why we create. For a very long time I created to please others, to gain recognition and notoriety.
Because I was trying to please everyone, my work was all over the place. It seemed that every month I was pursuing some new technique, process or fad that I had seen in a photography magazine. And if an image received praise, then I was off in that direction until another compliment took me in another direction.
I was like the wheat in the field, blown to and fro by every wind. In a very real sense my work was not my own, it was imitative, and creatively…well it wasn’t.
Here’s another question that was once posed to me:
If you could choose between having your work sell for thousands of dollars
Having your work in thousands of homes
Which would you choose?
There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, but knowing what you want is essential to defining success for yourself.
For many years I never questioned what success meant to me, I just assumed that it was selling my work for high prices, exhibiting, being represented in big name galleries and publishing books.
It wasn’t until I started achieving some of that success that I realized that it wasn’t very fulfilling. It was a transitory pleasure that felt great in the moment but afterwards left me feeling empty. It was like an addiction; I needed more and more of the spotlight to maintain that feeling and yet it was becoming less and less satisfying.
Eventually I realized this formula wasn’t working for me and I finally stopped to ask myself “what do I want?” and “what will bring me lasting satisfaction” and “what do I consider success?”
Answering those questions has changed everything that I do, it was a life changer that affected much more than my photography.
I wish I would have asked myself these questions earlier in life, but I’m just grateful that I did eventually ask them.
P.S. I’m really enjoying the different thoughts and viewpoints expressed in the comments. They bring to mind four points I’d like to emphasize:
1. My conclusions may not be your conclusions. We all think differently, learn differently and have different approaches to life.
2. We are all at different places on the path and so what may be right for me for where I’m at, may not be right for you for where you’re at.
3. We all have different goals. If you’re earning a living from your art, then to some degree you must please the buyer. I do not earn my living from my art and so I have the luxury to please only myself. But I really do hope that those of you earning a living from your art do pursue personal work that is reserved only for pleasing self!
4. There is nothing wrong with exhibiting, selling, publishing or gallery representation. I do all of those things, but the difference for me now is that this is not my goal but rather a byproduct of following my goal, which is to seek and follow my Vision.