Picking favorites

Gary Hart Photography: First Light, Yosemite Valley

First Light, Yosemite Valley
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III
3/10 second
ISO 100
65 mm

A few weeks ago I added a Favorites gallery to my website, which of course forced me to make all kinds of difficult choices. First I had to figure out what “favorite” means. Is the gallery going to represent my favorites, or will it be the images that sell best (often not the same thing)? My mercenary instincts told me that, since this is page allows people to click to purchase ($$$), I should go with the bestsellers. But when I decided to make my living with photography, I vowed to only photograph what I want to photograph, and to never base my decisions on what will sell.

While things became easier once I decided to go with my personal favorites, that decision put me in something of a Sophie’s Choice quandary. I really never select any image to display unless I like it a lot, but if I want to keep my Favorites gallery down to a manageable number, I need to choose my favorite “children.” (It occurs to me in hindsight that choosing a favorite image by what sells best would be kind of like choosing a favorite child based on who gives the best presents. Hmmm….)

Once I hardened myself to the process (sorry kids), it became an enlightening exercise that, among other things, showed me how my style has evolved. Disabling the analytical side of my brain and going with “feel” enabled me to revisit my entire portfolio with new eyes, to shed old biases and reject images that had become default favorites, in favor of images for which I discovered a new affinity.

It also became clear to me that “favorite” is a moving target—what I choose today isn’t necessarily what I’ll choose tomorrow. (I’ve even made a few changes as I work on this post.) I plan to make this a pretty dynamic gallery, so please feel free to visit often (no purchase necessary).

First Light, Yosemite Valley

Labeling the image in this post a “favorite” was a no-brainer—it’s always been a personal favorite, and it has become one of my top sellers (not to mention my WordPress avatar). And even though Tunnel View images are a dime a dozen, this was a special, one-of-a-kind spring morning that I never tire of revisiting.

I was there with a workshop group, and if memory serves, we’d had a nice sunrise shoot, but nothing truly unique. The air was crystal clear and quite cold for April, still enough to allow the moist valley air to condense into a radiant fog that hugged the floor, ebbing and flowing like liquid. As the sky brightened we photographed a pink veneer of translucent clouds, a particular treat for those who’d never been to Yosemite.

When the color started to fade, I was about to move the group on to our next location when a brightness behind Sentinel Dome caught my attention. So I waited. And as we watched, the light intensified, expanding before our eyes into a diaphanous film that spread a buttery glow that turned our world into an amber light box. I captured several frames; this is my favorite.

Gary Hart workshop group at Tunnel View, Yosemite

Join me in an upcoming photo workshop

A gallery of favorites

6 Comments on “Picking favorites

  1. Gary, this is probably one of my all-time favorite images of yours. Absolutely magical. I’ve got an idea. Maybe you can make a “Favorites” AND also put a “Bestseller” category on your gallery page. That will allow people to see BOTH and will open up more opportunities for people to appreciate and purchase your awesome work. Have a great week!!

  2. Beautiful shot, Gary! You shouldn’t feel too bad about including best-sellers in the “Favorites” category. After all, the the fact that they are best-sellers means they are lots of peoples favorites!

  3. I can relate to what you write here Gary as I thought about the same things when creating my own favorites gallery. Some images just have more personal resonance with me vs. ones that are popular. No surprise on the image you featured here, a killer shot favorite or not.

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