Going The Extra Mile

The World Is Awash In Great Photography.

From a deep blue, almost black, in the foreground the mountain layers fade into the distance. Becoming a paler shade of blue as they recede towards the horizon. The sky above layers of deep orange where the mountains meet the sky, fading to a pale yellow.

 

In these days of digital and the internet, learning the art of photography has never been easier. With so much information available with just a few keystrokes, mastering the technical side of photography is pretty easy these days.

Even the artistic side has become easier. Not necessarily to master, that I think takes an ability to “see” the world in ways other people don’t, a skill that isn’t easily taught. I’m talking about creating well exposed, decently composed photos, above the level of snap-shot. This too has become much easier with the advent of digital.

Look At Me, Look At Me.

Getting your beautiful photos seen is now a piece of cake too.  With sites like Flickr, 500pxFacebook, and of course I can’t forget WordPress, after you’ve learned to make your photographs, getting your images seen by a wider audience than your immediate friends and family is simple. With free sites like these, establishing a web presence is no longer reserved for the advanced amateur or working pro.

Standing Out From The Crowd.

Pink Water Lilies. Bellamy Reservoir.

There is of course a downside to this ease of learning and sharing.  When everyone with a camera is calling themselves a “photographer,” how do you get your images noticed? How can you as a photographer, more importantly, how can your photographs, stand out from the crowd?

Who wants to just have their photos seen?

Who wants to be just another pea in the pod?

Not me!

I want my photos to stand out and make people take notice! I want “Ooooohs!” and “Aaaaahs!” I want people to be drawn into the image, unable to immediately look away. No “brief-glance-then-on-to-the-next” photos for me. If any of my images don’t inspire the viewer to stop and look deeper into the photo, then I feel I’ve failed with that image.

Being good is not good enough.

So for me the answer is simple. You need to “go the extra mile” when making your photographs. Both literally and figuratively, putting in that little bit (okay, sometimes a lot) of extra effort that most people are too lazy, or not imaginative enough think of, can mean the difference between a “ho-hum” photo just like everyone else’s, and something truly different and spectacular.

Get Up, Get Out.

For “Sunrise Mountain Layers,” (top image), first, I was up at 1 a.m. this past Sunday, and on the trail by 2:15. Then it was up a steep, boulder strewn trail, in pitch blackness, lit only by the headlamps worn by myself and my hiking companion. Finally, about two hours later, still 20 minutes before sunrise, I set up my tripod and waited for the scene to unfold.

I have every confidence that few ,if any, saw the sunrise as we did that day. And by putting in the effort, I was there to capture it.

Jump Right In.

Here’s another, slightly less strenuous, though definitely more wet example of “going that extra mile.”

We’ve all seen photos of water lilies before, right? Probably even taken a few yourself, though most likely high and dry from shore I’ll bet. Have you ever thought of emptying your pockets and getting right in the water with them? For “Pink Water Lilies,” I was kneeling in water about 3 feet (1 meter) deep, with my camera on a tripod just a few inches above the surface.

I get a lot wet, and a little muddy when I photography water lilies, and I think my water-lily photographs are different from most because of it. No strenuous pre-dawn hiking involved either.

Be Persistent. 

Another way to go the extra mile is to be persistent.

For a captivating, one of a kind image, unless you’re very lucky, one try is almost never enough.  I’ve been to the Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge in northern New Hampshire at least a half-dozen times, one of my all time favorite locations in the state. It’s a 2 1/2 – 3 hour drive, each way, followed by an almost 2 mile hike in to Cherry Pond. Then it’s hike back out, in the dark, followed by the long drive home. Even with all that, I’ll keep going back because I have yet to capture “THE” photograph that sets mine apart from others I’ve seen of this awe-inspiring place.

Standing out takes work, so get to it!

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23 thoughts on “Going The Extra Mile

    • Thanks Edith. Quite often when I’m in a gallery somewhere I’ll overhear someone say something along the lines of “or we could just go take the photo ourselves,” when looking at a photo. The first thing that pops into my mind is that they would never get out of bed at 2 or 3 in the morning, or stay out well after dark, to be able to capture the light that so often makes the photograph in question that they think the can, “go take ourselves.”

  1. Going the extra mile certainly shows in your images. And who wants a shot the same as everyone elses you could go buy a postcard for that! Friends often say to me ‘but you’ve already got a photo like that’ I find it is the refining of the familiar place and being there when nature decides to turn it on, that will help eventually to make THAT shot, as you say. Great post thanks.

    • Thank you! My thoughts exactly. If all I’m doing is recreating the same photos other people have made, even if it is an often photographed location, why bother?

      I also get the same thing from friends. “Haven’t you already” or “how many times can you” photographed that? The answer is always the same. “Until I’m satisfied I’ve done it better than anyone else. Then maybe I won’t go back for a while.

  2. I started with the pier photo and that last rosy hued scene in today’s Daily Post and I was hooked on your beautiful work. I might well go plodging next time I see some water lilies (if the park keeper’s not looking) 🙂

  3. Reading about photographing water lilies while in the water reminded me of a photograph that I took to finish up a film roll for my photography class. The assignment was landscape, to take greater and more specific views about a certain location. Near the end of the roll, I ran out of ideas and saw a way to get to a little stream. It was winter, but I took off my socks and shoes and went into the water thinking, “I hope no one sees me because I look like a dork.” I quickly took a couple of pictures with the wrong settings (so they were completely useless) and with one more frame left I turned around and took a quick photo near the water of the snow covered banks down the stream. I printed it because I went through a lot for that photo. It got me a great grade for that assignment and my grandfather fell in love with it and asked if he could frame it. That photo was my most successful black and white. I need to get out and go the extra mile more. Keep up the great work Jeff!!

    • Way to go! Even I haven’t gotten into the stream in the middle of the winter. But I would if I saw a shot I wanted to make 😉

      As far as I’m concerned, going that “extra mile” for a photograph is what will set your photos apart from every other shmoe with a camera. Anyone can take a better than average photo. Not everyone will be willing to hike out of the mountains in the dark in the middle of winter, or wade waist deep to photograph a water lily, or take off their shoes and sox and wade into a stream, in the middle of winter for a photograph.

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