Being an academic that has never followed a blog, I have a problem: I keep thinking I should have something “academic” to say, or teach, in every blog. For those of you who read/write blogs, I’m sorry to come across as such a stuffed shirt. Feel free to guide me in a more informal direction with a comment or two … please.
So here is my non-academic blog post that we can both learn from (or should that be “from which we can both learn”?) The homework from my last blog asked you to explore what motivates you to improve your photography. Since that blog post was about practice and the homework was about motivation, let me share my journey the last week and how it was impacted by practice and motivation.
Those of you who live near the Grand Teton National Park remember that early last week we had four days of pretty much all-day rain. Since we had clear skies for a couple weeks, most of my landscape photos were fairly bland blue-bird-skies. I was looking for something more dramatic so the first day we were supposed to get clouds and afternoon rain, I set my alarm for 4:30 am and drove the 90 minutes to the park for some exciting sky. Nope, it wasn’t dramatic at all. I didn’t get any photos that were even slightly interesting. Killer for motivation !
Luckily my wife, dog, and I had reservations in Stanley Idaho for later that week – right as the rain was supposed to stop. I was excited to have a beautiful new environment in which to shoot (not that the Tetons aren’t beautiful) and when we arrived in Stanley the clouds were lifting, although it was pretty humid. I bumped into a fellow Teton Photography Group colleague (Aaron) and he told me there had been a lot of fog over Redfish Lake that morning. No worry, it will all be gone tomorrow morning and I’ll get great shots of a new environment. I set the alarm for 5:00 am since I was only a few minutes from Redfish Lake.
I got up the next morning, put on my clothes, and hurried out to the car. Whoa, I couldn’t see a thing! The fog was so thick I had
to drive at 20 mph on the highway and when I got to the Redfish Lake I couldn’t even see the shoreline. I setup my tripod and camera (and didn’t fall in) and figured I could wait-it-out. I took a few photos but I couldn’t see the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains at all. After an hour I left.
As I was driving back to the motel I saw a group of cars parked at Little Redfish Lake so I stopped to see what they were doing. It turned out to be a photo workshop that had driven from Oregon the day before (a 12 hour trip) only to be socked-in with serious fog. I waited with them for more than an hour, but it was a bit easier to wait since I now had people to talk with about the lake, the fog, and photography in general. But by 9:15 they got hungry and left for breakfast. I was by myself and left a few minutes later. I had taken some photos but they fell far short of my goal; two very early rises with nothing to show for it. Bummer.
At dinner I bumped into a photographer from the area who asked me about my photography. I told him I was disappointed with all the fog at Little Redfish Lake that morning and he asked me what time I was there. I said I finally left at 9:15 after wandering at the lake for over two hours. “Too bad you left so early. I got there at 9:30 and the fog was lifting. I got some great shots of the mist over the lake with the mountains catching the light just perfectly.” Bummer! That’s what you get for leaving early.
How many times have you been discouraged when you got up really early, or drove really far, or made some other sacrifice only to get nothing in return? Not getting a “reward” after making a sacrifice can really undermine your motivation. So what should we do after such motivational discouragement?
That night I drove a few miles and set-up for the sunset over Stanley Lake. I was hoping for some clouds and they showed-up. I was hoping for some sun on the mountains and a nice sunset and it worked … and I felt better and maybe even a little more motivated.
And the next morning I had a little more bounce in my step when I got up at 5:00 am to go back to Little Redfish Lake for sunrise. There was a little fog/mist on the lake and watching the Sawtooth Mountain Range come alive as the sunlight came down the Sawtooths was rewarding enough even if I didn’t get any good shots – but I got some.
So what did I learn? It was something I already knew but getting the lessons once again boosted my motivation. Are you experiencing these lessons?
- Don’t Pack Up to Leave Quite Yet – This is a very tough lesson to learn since you can never be sure when things will change. I always try to stay “a little longer” and find something else to see or think about in the fog or smoke or rain or …
- Don’t Ask Yourself if You Should Get Up – Make up your mind the day before. Put your gear near the door or in the car. NEVER ask yourself if you should go out on a shoot when you are in a nice warm bed; the answer will always be “Sleep a few more minutes” and you won’t get out of bed.
- Have a Shoot-Partner to Meet – It is easy to go back to sleep but not if someone is counting on you to meet them. Photo workshops can be very helpful for many reasons and one of them is that others are counting on you.
- Reflect on Your Own Motivation – One of the key “strategies” to improve your motivation is to think about your own motivation. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What brings you back for another shoot after an uneventful day? How have your photos improved over the last month or year? What have you learned that has improved your photos?
And tomorrow I have an early morning shoot. I’ll leave home at 4:45 am and pick up an old college friend in Jackson at 5:45 to drive up to Oxbow Bend. It won’t be tough to get up and take a 90 minute travel because: I had some success last weekend; I have a friend to meet; and I’m confident the color of the vegetation in the park will give me a great opportunity to take some great photographs. And even if none of my photographs were great, the beauty of a sunrise at Oxbow Bend with an old friend will make it worthwhile.
A Little Help for Randy to Reach OUR Goal
I received eight comments to my last post, (and quite a few have been added to the first post.) If you are one of those folks who took the time to add a comment, thank you very much. Since I am such a raw rookie on blogs I need your help to achieve our goal of helping amateur photographers. I was looking for comments to include in my posts but that is going slowly. So rather than wait, I am going to try to put up a post every two weeks with a bit more about my journey. I also received some suggestions about including photographs; that is why I have added a few of my photos and I will probably ask for yours sometime in the future.
The next post will be about how to improve your motivation. Please respond with comments to the last post so I can include how YOU improve your motivation. Don’t worry. If you feel like you have no motivation, put that in a comment and I promise I won’t mention your name. 😉