Every once in a while, when I’m really bored, I’ll surf over to one of the photography forum (discussion) sites, only to be instantly reminded why it’s been so long since I visited. The litany of complaints, insults, and one-upsmanship makes me wonder whether there are any photographers who truly enjoy their craft. Of course I know there are, because I meet them all the time: in my workshops, whenever I go out to shoot on my own, on my Facebook page, and right here on my blog. I don’t know whether the same photographers who seem so happy when they’re in the field do a Jekyll to Hyde transformation as soon as their butts hit the computer chair, or whether there are two types of photographers: those who actually take pictures, and those who simply prefer their computer to Mother Nature (no wonder they’re so unhappy).
Photography should be, first and foremost, a source of pleasure. How long has it been since you asked yourself why you enjoy photography? And how much photography time do you dedicate to the thing you most enjoy? This is a particular issue for pros, many of whom made photography their livelihood out of the shear joy of taking pictures, only to find the making money part of the business sapped the joy from their picture taking.
I was a serious (and happy!) amateur photographer for many years before I started doing it for a living. When I left my (very good) job to pursue photography full time, it was with a personal commitment to only photograph what I want to photograph: nature and landscapes. I (naively) created a business model that I believed would enable that, and see in hindsight how extremely fortunate I am that it has worked out.
But enough about me. How do you define photographic pleasure? Whether photography is simply an excuse to get out and enjoy nature, an essential medium for creative expression, or a passion that drives you to capture the “best” (however you define “best”) image without regard for personal comfort and convenience, make sure you don’t lose the zeal that moved you to pick up a camera at the start.
As I said earlier, a cornerstone of my own photography is the fervent conviction to photograph only landscapes—no weddings, portraits, candids, or even wildlife (in other words, nothing that moves). But the image above is an exception that makes me happy every time I look at it. To me it’s a perfect reminder of the passion that fuels me and so many other photographers. This was one of those magic moments in nature that transcend conventional standards of comfort (rest, warmth, and full stomachs) to deliver pure joy.
I’d gotten my workshop group up dark and early and assembled them at Yosemite’s Tunnel View in blizzard conditions. Despite the fact that visibility was zero and we were all hungry, sleep deprived, and cold, everyone persevered without complaint. Nobody suggested we return to the hotel or depart for breakfast. Not a word was uttered about diffraction, resolution, soft lenses, back-focus, dynamic range, high-ISO noise, or any of the countless other problems seem to haunt the computer photographers. In fact, for the entire time we waited (and long before the photography improved), the mood was unanimously festive.
As you can see here, conditions did in fact improve. But I’ve done this long enough to know that even if they hadn’t, everyone would have been happy at (our long overdue) breakfast. Indeed, I know they’d have been happy for the rest of the day, not because of anything I did, but simply because they were doing something they love.
(Images that wouldn’t have happened without a little suffering)
Click an image for a closer look, and a slide show. Refresh the screen to reorder the display.