Midwinter Motivation

A couple of weeks ago, we were hit with 24” of snow.  A few nights after that, our overnight low temperature was -1F, a new record.  The weather folk on the local TV station mentioned that the “feels like temperature” was down to about -20F.  Or so.  At that point, when it is that frigid who really cares …

You may think that I’m posting from Montana or Vermont, or working with Teton Photo Workshops and Jay Goodrich and out in the field with camera and kit in hand.  Sadly, you would be mistaken.  My “day gig” is keeping me close to NYC for the time being, and with my camera body currently at Canon getting repaired, chances to get out and shoot are slim.  With my geographic, meteorological and camera limitations in mind, there are a few ways I am trying to keep my eyes sharp and my mind focused on the lessons and experience I get each time I’m in the field.  Here are my top three ways to keep from losing my “shooting mentality” while I’m sitting at home and unable to create images.

  • Process Images

There are always images that need work.  From trashing the ones that have some fatal flaw, to key wording, processing or preparing others for addition to a portfolio on my website or to upload to Photo Shelter, there’s a never ending supply of work to do.  Sure, the images I process are the best and the ones that folks see, but the images I delete are often the ones from  which I learn the best lessons.  As you hone an image in the field and really work the subject, all those images you don’t use will remind you of the thought processes and steps behind the image you eventually will use.  I try to mentally review the process as I went from what caught my eye to the final image, and try to hold on to those lessons for the next time I’m in the field.  Remembering the past might help me get to the keeper composition a little sooner so that I can move on to the next image I want to create.

  • Websites

My (still new to me) website is looking better but continues to require a lot of work to get it where I want it to be.  The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that (like with my day gig) there is a lot of behind-the-scenes “backstage” tech happening in order to get a website to do what you want it to do.  The writing and image processing, the thought processes behind links and how a website flows smoothly from page to page is critical for the viewer.  It is important that they have an enjoyable experience on your website, but it is also important that you create a way to keep your audience interested, to engage them and to make them want to come back and visit.

One of the best ways to make your website better is to visit other photographers’ websites.  Check out their work, see what they do and the choices they’ve made and decide if you like them, want to appropriate elements or make other choices.  Remember, you can learn valuable lessons from the bad as well as from the good.  And by knowing what other photographers have done, you have a better chance of making your website stand out from the pack.

  • Books (and eBooks)

While I’m a big fan of books on my iPad, there’s really nothing better than the feel of a book as you hold it in your hands.  I recently purchased Jay Maisel’s “It’s Not About The F-Stop” and found it to be a wonderful treatise on the thoughts that photographers have about their images, both at the moment they take them and in retrospect.  In that book, you’ll find a career’s worth of insight, tips, considerations and reminiscences about life as a photographer.  Seeing some of the images and hearing about the backstory to them can be quite inspiring, and has made me want to grab my gear and go.

You’ll also find a plethora of eBooks on the market these days.  I highly recommend the Creative Photography eBook series that Jay Goodrich has out; and the best part, they’re free.  And you can bet that they’ll provide education and inspiration for your next trip into the field.

Lessons Learned

Being stuck at home or unable to get outside isn’t optimal.  Not by a long shot.  But don’t let the weather, or geography or a lack of camera stand in your way to continuing to improve your entire skill set as a photographer.  Appreciate your photos, appreciate and study the work of others, and keep an eye on the weather to see when you can get back out in the field.

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