Ode to joyful photography

Sunrise Storm, Kauai, Hawaii

Revelation, Kauai, Hawaii
Canon EOS-5D Mark III
19 mm
4 seconds
F/16
ISO 100

Photography is a source of joy, right? You know it and I know it. I mean, why else would we spend thousands of dollars on equipment, stagger out of bed hours before the sun, skip dinner, stand all afternoon in freezing rain, or hike three miles in the dark, just to take a picture? If you’ve experienced (or witnessed) the ecstasy evoked by an electric sunrise, rising moon, or vivid rainbow, you understand.

But if photography is such a joyful endeavor, what’s with all the miserable photographers? When that joyful photographer who stood in the rain or hiked in the dark shares the fruits of her labor online, she somehow incites a swarm of miserable photographers who believe that:

  • Any photographer using a (Canon, Nikon, Sony, whatever) is a moron
  • The horizon line never belongs in the center
  • Nobody (else) knows how to process an image
  • And a host of other photographic myths

To the miserable, insecure souls who believe they can “elevate” their stature by diminishing others, the next time you feel like criticizing a fellow photographer, fueling the fray on a photography forum, or pontificating at the local photo club, do yourself (and the world) a favor: Pick up your camera, go outside, and take a picture. Then walk around a little bit and take a few more. In fact, just stay outside until you feel better—it won’t take long.

About this image

There’s a direct relationship between the amount of discomfort (misery, sacrifice, or whatever you want to call it) endured to capture an image, and the amount of joy the image manifests. Case in point: This sunrise on Kauai.

It was the last morning of the photo workshop I was co-leading with Don Smith. The group rose dark and early and we drove in a constant rain to our sunrise location about 30 minutes away. On the drive we all had serious concerns that the rain would shut us down entirely, but there were no thoughts of turning back.

As we assembled our gear and prepared for our short hike, the rain eased and a gentle breeze separated the clouds to reveal a few stars and thin crescent moon. But during the ten minute trek out to the ocean view, our breeze stiffened to a gusting, face pummeling wind. We fanned out along the cliffs and waited for the morning to swell on the eastern horizon. The daylight revealed a wall of rain heading our direction, brightening as it advanced, pushed by a wind that was now gale strength, so strong that I hooked my camera bag to my tripod to keep it anchored. As the light of this rising sun filled the oncoming squall, the sky throbbed with color. But despite the ominous signs, we persisted, mesmerized by the fire that now stretched from horizon to zenith.

For about five minutes we were in photographer heaven, and then the weather was on us. As if dowsed by the flood, the light disappeared with the downpour’s arrival. Instantly soaked, we all immediately and independently turned and sprinted toward the cars in a mad panic—with my umbrella powerless against the horizontal raindrops and rain gear warm and dry back at the hotel, I heroically led the retreat (picture George Costanza at the sight of smoke).

No photographer, article of clothing, or piece of a equipment was dry on the drive back, but the mood was unanimous joy. We all knew we’d just shared five minutes of special—not really what you expect when you drive through the dark in a pouring rain, stand on a cliff in a gale, or subject yourself to a thorough soaking, but the reason we do it anyway.

A gallery of joyful captures

9 Comments on “Ode to joyful photography

    • Thanks! Sacrifice we do, though I think everyone’s willing to sacrifice for something they love (and it hardly feels like sacrifice). 🙂

  1. what a great piece, especially this
    “To the miserable, insecure souls who can only “elevate” stature by diminishing others, the next time you feel like criticizing a fellow photographer, fueling the fray on a photography forum, or pontificating at the local photo club, do yourself (and the world) a favor: Pick up your camera, go outside, and take a picture. Then walk around a little bit and take a few more. In fact, just stay outside until you feel better—it won’t take long.”
    so very true and wise, by far you offer the best workshops/teaching and inspiration ever, and I have taken quite a number from many and you are on a level high above.

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