What If ... ?
Looking forward as we start the new year, some people dream big, while others find satisfaction in more modest goals. But what is it that you really want? Are you sure?
What if you could shoot anywhere in the world?
It's a big world, and few of us have been to more than a fraction of it. And anyone with access to the Internet or a television set has no doubt seen gorgeous images captured by others from far off, exotic places. It's enough to make tempt most anyone into jealousy. But even getting to some of those places isn't easy unless you so happen to leave nearby already.
There are definitely places I've become infatuated with from afar over the years. I once fanaticized for months over the prospect of visiting Haida Gwaii in remote northwest British Columbia. If you're not familiar with it, that's understandable, but it really does have some amazing tide pools as well as a fascinating native American heritage. But getting there is logistically complicated. And expensive. And then there's Antarctica, Iceland, deepest Africa, and on and on.
Someday, I may still go to Haida Gwaii, but the truth is, there are wonderful places that are much closer to my part of the Pacific Northwest, and I doubt I could ever really exhaust their possibilities. By flying into exotic locales to fill your photographic bucket list, your best bet is to duplicate the images that made you interested in visiting. There simply wouldn't be time to do more than scratch the surface. Yes, you could get lucky, but that shouldn't be what we strive for. The truth is, your best bet really is to get to know your own surroundings well. By doing so, you will be able to reveal its secrets and create truly unique images.
What if cameras were even more automated?
As the years go by, cameras get smarter and smarter. Auto-focus, auto-exposure, vibration reduction, the list goes on and on. In one way, I love this sort of thing because it makes it that much easier to get good images. But in another way, it makes it easier for everyone else as well. It's not like only I get to use a good camera with all the latest features. Cameras have gotten so easy to use that there are a lot of people taking pictures. There once was a time when photographers made a living simply because they knew how to operate a camera. Basic exposure was hard at one point. And while the cost of cameras hasn't changed that much, what you get for your money sure has. Cameras used to be built like a tank but relied on the operator to make all the decisions and set all the controls. Today, they may be somewhat more fragile, but they can do far more for the money.
The one thing cameras will hopefully never be able to do though is to find and compose great images. I've said before that if cameras get good enough, you can stay home while they go out to take pictures on their own. But even if they could, would you really want them to? Isn't a big part of the fun the very fact that you get to be there to witness those very sights you capture for posterity with your camera?
What if you could become a professional photographer?
There once was a time when I seriously considered becoming a fulltime professional photographer, but the truth is, I enjoy shooting what and when I want to, without the added pressure of having to produce to earn a living. I have no way of knowing exactly what your particular situation is, but perhaps you've dreamed of going pro too. It can seem tempting to get rid of your day job, but it's not a decision to be taken lightly. I have friends that have taken the plunge, and I have others who have chosen to stay on the part-time side of the line. But just because you may have a day job doesn't mean you can't take great photos. With a sincere interest and a bit of effort in the coming year, you may just surprise yourself. It's not about being a professional. The only real limit is you.
Good photography is about being there, in the moment, so much so that the enjoyment of it is so complete you're not even thinking about whether you are indeed enjoying it. If you like your own photography, you're already headed in the right direction for the new year. If instead you're feeling like you need something more, the best place to look is within yourself. There are no magic bullets. Your photography in the new year will be what you make it, not what your camera makes it. Relax. No stress.
This year, shoot places you are familiar with and have some fun with the gear you have. Enjoy being there in the moment, and capture what you discover with your camera to share with others. Something to think about.
What if ... ?