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Drive and Inspiration

You go out and shoot some images. Sometime later, you do it again. And again and again. Many of us do. Clearly, there's something in this that keeps us coming back.

Some photographers shoot primarily to capture memories, those fleeting moments of time when important things or magic things happen. The light changes. The mood changes. But a photograph, once captured lives on as a reminder. The proud parents of virtually every newborn child either buys a camera and begins shooting around the time the blessed event occurs or later wish they had.

Other photographers take pictures to make a statement. As the saying goes, a photograph is worth a thousand words. Good journalistic photographers have had a positive impact on countless causes. The trend towards environmental photographers doing likewise is worth taking note of too. A good photography can tell a story with impact hard to achieve with words alone.

As there surely are in every profession and avocation, there are photographers whose motivation is primarily fame and fortune. Being good at photography typically requires a significant investment of time and money though so most of us do this for other reasons. I suspect that playing the lottery might have a higher return on investment than most of us see from photography, even those who do experience some degree of success.

In some cases the reason why someone picks up a camera and resists putting it down for long without putting it to use is an admiration for the work of other photographers. If others can do it, perhaps they can too. An awareness of what is possible in photography can kindle a desire to give it a try yourself.

Of course all of this does over simplify things to a degree. Real motivations for real photographers are almost certainly not as clearly delineated as I have portrayed here. There are likely to be many factors involved at motivating any one of us to pick up a camera and shoot. But many people do, even if only for personal reasons beyond anything others can fathom. The immediate feedback and increasing availability of digital photography with modern, consumer cameras has lowered the bar of entry sufficiently that picking up a camera is easier than ever.

The bottom line for most photographers is that they shoot because they enjoy it, because they get personal satisfaction from the endeavor. Whether they started shooting because they took a class in school, because they emulated parents who were interested in photography, or because of countless other possible reasons, the habit once started is often easy and enjoyable to continue.

And when you do something you enjoy, you become that much more likely to do it again in the future. Which is a good thing. And repeatedly doing something you enjoy tends to make you better at it. Which is also a good thing. The desire to get the most out of your photography becomes the fuel that drives you to continue shooting. To the extent that you become aware of this feedback process, you can use it to improve your craft.

Growing up, my father shot pictures to commemorate significant holidays and other occasions and to record a travelogue of family vacations. All this never interested me too much at the time. I was still too young back then to appreciate the lasting memories that photography could represent. It wasn't until I saw the work of photographer Galen Rowell that I realized photography could be so much more than family snapshots. Sadly, Galen passed away in 2002 along with two other passengers in the crash of a small plane on a trip back home from a photography outing. I still greatly admire his work along with that of others who have had an impact on the world at large via nature photography. I hope in a small way my efforts have had an impact as well.

I still have some but not all the images I was proud of back when I first became interested in nature photography. To be honest, few look all that good to me now. I've been at this long enough to know more what I'm doing now. Practice may not actually make perfect, but it does lead to improvement in that direction. The point is though that at the time I took shots I liked enough to continue doing this. Likely many of you can relate to this based on your own photography. And so long as at each stage of their growth as photographers each of us can relate to this, we're headed in the right direction.

Date posted: March 18, 2012


Copyright © 2012 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Galen's Light Will Shine On
Why Do We Do It?
Wherever You Go, There You Are
Resolving The Conflict Between Objectivity and Subjectivity

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