Tag Archives: Inspirational

You Can’t Always Get What You Want


Canon 5D MKII, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 70mm, 1.6 sec. at f/22, ISO 100

I was listening to the radio the other night, and an old song by the Rolling Stones came on that made me think about one of my recent images. The song was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. I know it sounds kind of strange right now, but I promise when you finish reading this post it will make complete sense, so stay with me.

Last week we finally got a decent storm here in the southwest. This winter has been extremely dry, and almost void of any storms. Excited by the possibility of getting some great photo ops, I loaded up my gear and headed out to one of my local haunts. The storm was starting to break (so I thought), and I expected to capture the sun breaking through the clouds right at sunset. After driving fifty miles to my location, I was greeted by a thunderstorm complex building off to the south. The drama I wanted was starting to set up. Problem was, Mother Nature had different plans. The storm rapidly moved north, and filled in the entire western horizon. My hopes of getting that burst of golden light at sunset were gone. As I always do, I took my shots anyways, working with the light I had. When the rain started to hit us, we packed up and hiked back to the truck, disappointed. My moment of photographic glory never materialized. Or did it?

Sometimes I think as professional photographers we get so wrapped up in chasing that magical moment in time, that we completely forget what we’re doing this for in the first place. We love nature, and we love to create images of it. Every moment in time has its own unique qualities. It’s our job to capture these moments, and not expect them to be something else. Sure that golden hour light creates some extraordinary images. But so does a dark and stormy day, or a crystal clear morning with red rocks contrasted against a blue sky. They’re just different. Unique.

From time to time, I think we need to remind ourselves what this journey is all about. It’s about a passion for the great outdoors. It’s about a love of the photographic arts. It’s about combining the two so that we can share our experiences and passion with those that are not fortunate enough to experience it for themselves. We need to cherish each moment for what it is. After reviewing my images a couple of days later, I was quite surprised to find the image at the top of this post captured exactly what I experienced. In fact, it really has grown on me. My only regret is the feeling of disappointment that I felt that day out in the desert. I, as well as any other nature photographer reading this, need to make a vow to ourselves not to let this happen. Don’t kill that passion and spirit just because things didn’t turn out the way you wanted.

Not every trip is going to produce the images you envisioned. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to get some great shots. To finish off the chorus to the song I started out with: “but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need”. This pretty much sums it up. Mother Nature always gives you what you need. Enjoy it, capture the beauty that exists in that moment in time, and the images you create will hold that memory for the rest of your life.

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Essay: Inspiration


Canon 5D, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 24mm, 1/80 sec. at f/11, ISO 100

Inspire: verb \in-ˈspī(-ə)r\ :to make (someone) want to do something: to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create: to cause (something) to happen or be created: to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion) Merriam Webster Online

Ask almost any artist why they created one of their pieces of art, and they will tell you they were “inspired” to do it. Something touched them emotionally, and gave them the desire to create a piece of art that represented the emotion they experienced. Photography is no different. In fact, photography is an art, no different from any other visual art form. To be successful at it, you have to be inspired. You’ve got to have a desire to learn everything you can about the art of photography and be deeply inspired by your subject matter to truly take your skills to the next level. Without it, you’re simply carrying out a task, no different than doing chores around the house. Inspiration is the essential ingredient to improving the quality of your images.

For me, my inspiration is good ole’ Mother Nature and a passion for the photographic arts. Yes, it is a broad subject matter, but so is my portfolio when you look at it. I love nature. Everything from the wide, sweeping landscapes of the American southwest, to the individual grains of pollen on the most delicate wildflowers. I love nature. I also have a deep desire to learn everything I can about the photographic arts. I have since I was a little kid. I can still remember as early as eight years old, staring at the images in Arizona Highways magazine. I loved the images and the country they represented, and I wanted both. I wanted to be in the wide-open country of the American southwest and to create my own images of it. That dream became a reality two years later when my family pulled up stakes in Ohio and moved to Arizona. I haven’t looked back since.

What I didn’t realize at eight years old is I was conducting my first studies into the photographic arts. I was studying how the images were composed, what elements were included in the scene, how they were arranged, and what types of subjects the photographers chose to shoot. When I got my first camera at age eleven, I started trying to duplicate the images that inspired me to want to shoot in the first place. I was quite successful for such a young age. And it was all directly related to being inspired by nature and creating images of it through the art of photography.

So, for you, the first step you need to take is to examine your life, and the things that inspire you the most. What kind of things brings a sense of peace and joy in your life? What activities do you look forward to doing the most? Make the answers to these questions the subject matter of your photographic endeavors. If need be, narrow the results down even further. The point is to find the things in your life that inspire you the most. This will make the entire photographic process all that much more enjoyable, and cause you to want to put that extra effort into creating the best images you possibly can.

Next, start studying the photographic arts. In particular the styles and niches that inspire you the most. Start studying the works of photographers you admire. Look at what subjects they choose to shoot, how they compose their shots, and what type of light they prefer. Then, start trying to duplicate their style. Don’t worry about the feeling you will get that you are copying their work. You’re not. You’re learning! Eventually you will try numerous different styles and techniques, perfect them, combine them, and your own individual style will start to emerge. It’s a process almost every artist goes through, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Learn from your mistakes, enjoy your successes, and be patient. It’s a learning experience that never ends.

Finally, you have to be willing to learn the technical aspects of photography. If you have an inspiration to want to create images of the things in your life you’re passionate about, that will to learn how to do it is there. Photography is a very technical field, especially now in the digital age. It is imperative that you learn the technical skills necessary to unleash your creative process, and start creating images your audience will be inspired by too. That is the intent of this series of essays. To give you the basic, essential skills you need to take your photography to the next level, and start inspiring others.

In the next chapter, we’ll jump right in and talk about the single most important tool you’ll ever invest in for Landscape Photography. This series of essays will be based around the art of Landscape Photography, however, don’t be discouraged if this isn’t your niche. The concepts, techniques, and principals apply across the board.

We’ll see you next week in Chapter 2.


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Just ‘Dew’ It


Canon 5D MKII, Tamron AF 180mm Macro, 1/13 sec. at f/16, ISO 100

It’s easy to fall into a slump with your photography. You return from a great photographic journey, pack your camera away, and fall back into the grips of normal everyday life. This should not be. Yes, it’s true, the Grand Canyon is not in your backyard. At least for most of us it’s not. However, no matter where you live, a plethora of photographic opportunities exist right outside your door. You just have to be willing to step outside the box, and try something different than your used to.

Such was the case with the image you see above. I just recently returned from a five day trip to the Great Smokey Mountains, and a week later spent three days at the Grand Canyon. After returning home from the Canyon, I packed my camera away, and was finding it hard to get inspired to shoot anything after being in such stunning locations. I had to break the cycle. Yesterday morning I awoke to a clearing storm. I walked out in my backyard and found everything dripping with dew. I grabbed my camera and macro lens (which I hardly ever use), and started shooting. I was quite pleased with the results. But more importantly, I broke through my slump, and jump started my creative process again.

So, the next time you find yourself in a creative slump and don’t feel like shooting, grab your camera, head out in your backyard and “Just Dew It”.


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The Sweet Light


Canon 5D MKII, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 24mm, 6 sec. at f/22, ISO 100

Every photographer has an arch nemesis so to speak. That one place they have returned to time and time again, and never seemed to catch the right light. For me it’s been the Grand Canyon. Throughout the years I have visited the Canyon more times than I can remember. And though I’ve walked away with some great shots, I’ve never gotten one that made me stop in my tracks and say wow. That all changed Monday morning of this week.

Monday morning found me at Grandview Point on the east rim of the Canyon long before sunrise, bundled up not unlike Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story. Yes, it does get cold in Arizona. Headlamp donned, I began searching the rim for a suitable spot to shoot from. As dawn began to break, I immediately realized this morning had the potential to be one of the best sunrises I had ever experienced at the canyon. A large break in the clouds stretched all the way across the eastern horizon. My search for a composition now became that frantic, yet overly cautious type, as one misplaced step could have severely ruined my day. Finding my spot, I set up and waited for the show to begin.

Just as I’d hoped, the sun began to illuminate the underside of the clouds, one by one, from the eastern horizon all the way to the west. As if God himself flipped a switch, this soft warm light filled the canyon. One ridgeline after another began to glow like neon tubes crackling to life in a sign, until the entire canyon was lite from top to bottom. “The Sweet Light!” I began firing off shots like a crazed lunatic until the light slowly started to fade. The results are what you see below. My arch nemesis finally gave up the prize.

It was quite an amazing experience. Spiritual to be exact. That’s why I’ve chose the name “Heavenly Light” for this image, as only God himself could have created a spectacle such as this. I consider myself blessed to have been a witness to such an amazing sight, and to be able to share it with all of you.

Until next time, enjoy “Heavenly Light”.

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