On Being More Than Just a Photographer

On a recent trip, I had a situation that caused me to remember that this whole world of photography, especially for me, is not just about cameras, lenses and ISOs.  It’s really about what I do for the sheer enjoyment and enrichment of life that photography brings to my world.  I don’t do this for a living, nor do I do it for much more recognition than I hope to gain from my family or a few friends.

On one particular day when I was out shooting with a group of fellow photographers, I was having some personal problems from back in my real-world, and it was generally not a very good day.

A fellow photographer, who not incidentally is way, way, beyond my skill level and pay grade, went out of his way to catch me on the path to our beach shoot and ask if I was OK.  He said he’d noticed that my mood had changed and said he was worried about me.  Now, this is a guy who has every right to keep his distance and to stay uninvolved with the students of a workshop.  But instead, he stepped out of his zone.

I’ll never even come close to his accomplishments, nor will I likely be a guest blogger, nor will I be featured as a notable photographer, nor a teacher of his stature.  But, I do know human kindness when I see it.

I was reminded that photography, for me, will not be a career and I don’t depend on it for making a living.  Instead, it is a way for me to enjoy the world around me, to capture (either by lens or by memory) images of interesting and beautiful things I am lucky enough to experience.  So, to have someone check their understandable and deserved ego at the door and reach out to someone he barely knew was a big deal to me.

Maybe the value of my photography passion has a side that isn’t technical, isn’t critical, but is human.

So for me, I could’ve ended the trip with that moment on the beach having come away with much more than some award-winning photo.  I came away realizing that even a big-time photographer can have sensitivity.

I’ve had several friends (not too many) in my photo world who fit that category.  It seems that others are too insecure or threatened by even a non-professional’s encroachment into their territory.  Not this guy or the others I’m alluding to.  I won’t use names, but you know who you are.

So thank you for your compassion and effort.  And of course, the very same to those few others (JLD, RH, BF) for your friendship, mentoring and thoughtfulness.

From the heart,


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Weekend Workshop in Oregon’s Desert

The Malhuer Wildlife Refuge & Alvord Desert


When most people from outside the area think of Oregon, I imagine that the image that comes to mind is either of a rocky, windswept coast, lighthouses, the seemingly ever-present drizzle of Portland, or the waterfalls and greenery of the Columbia and Willamette river valleys.  But, I suspect to the surprise of all but a few who’ve never travelled Oregon’s back roads and byways, the southeastern corner of the state has a desert that rivals some in the southwest.

Alvord-OverlookAbout a 4-hour drive from my home in Bend, the Steens Mountain Wilderness, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Alvord Desert stretch for over a hundred miles toward the state line with Nevada.  This area is also home to Oregon’s (and some of the west’s) largest cattle ranches, like the Roaring Springs Ranch at 425,000 acres!

But I’m already digressing.

A few weeks ago, I took a weekend workshop down to the Alvord Desert, my first trip into that area.  The ‘shop was led by Oregon photographer and teacher, Robert Agli.  I didn’t actually know exactly what to expect, but what I found was fantastic mix of ranchland, Oregon’s highest mountain (Steens) and the Alvord Desert.  It was a short workshop, but a great, first-time exploration of this unusual part of Oregon.

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“Window Seat” Inspiration

Several weeks ago, I treated myself to a copy of Julieanne Kost’s fantastic book, “Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking“.  It is a great mixture of some fantastic photography, shooting tips, and philosophy that goes well beyond the camera to life itself.

Julieanne is the Principal Digital Imaging Evangelist for Adobe Systems (gotta love Adobe for creating job titles like that!).  But more to the point of this posting, she is a very, very skilled and creative photographer and terrific teacher.  I had the pleasure of meeting her last year at a conference and have been a fan ever since.  You can find her bio and her many tips and tutorials via the Adobe website (http://www.adobe.com) or from her personal website (http://www.jkost.net/).  Or you can check out the book at O’Reilly Media (http://shop.oreilly.com/) .

Window Seat” (don’t want to violate her publisher’s copyright, so won’t post a cover image here) is a photo documentary of Julieanne’s many business trips with all of the images taken from the window seat of the airplane.  In the book, she shares her thoughts, a few fears, some of her triumphs, all in the context of her passion for photography. This book isn’t a how-to on digital photography as might be assumed from the title, but rather, in my opinion, it is a brilliant composite of images and thoughts, all from the window seat of an airplane.

So why am I writing about this?  Because, in addition to all the gushing above, I found it to be a very inspirational basis for my trying to do some shooting from my “window seats”.  Julieanne writes about the physical challenges of attempting through-window photography, but I fully underestimated just how hard doing that is.

On a recent trip to Alaska, I re-booked all my seats to the window variety.  Unfortunately, none were forward of the engine and wing (one of her main tips), but I had to take what I could get.WindowSeat_Sky

Armed with my Nikon D800 and a 28-300 lens (very nice lens, but probalby not the one I should have used), I started shooting some abstracts, clouds and skies.  Not a single one comes close to what I had expected even for my first attempt.  But I’ve included some of those first attempts here.WindowSeat_Clouds

None have that abstract quality that are in her book, but hey, I couldn’t ask the pilot to move a few hundred miles to the left!WindowSeat_Wing

I even tried while on a small plane out to the Iditarod trail.  Now those windows were really bad.  If you think grey clouds render the light flat while on the ground, you should see it from the air.  And, unfortunately, sharpness with the specific gear I had failed pretty miserably.  But the atempt was another good learning experience.  So, it was time to try some interpretive stylization!WindowSeat_Trail

I will now go back and re-read (for the already half-dozenth time) “Window Seat” and try some more on the next trips.  Sure wish I’d had it back in the day when I flew too many times each month over what would have been wonderful possible subjects.WindowSeat_Mtn

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration, Julieanne.



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