The Solo Photographer

Mario Canyonlands 2Recently, I’ve found myself in several online discussions with other photographers about the appeal of organized photo tours or impromptu shoots, versus individual photo trips. To my surprise, many of the others echoed my preference to do their photographic exploring (generally outdoor and landscape photography) on their own. Interestingly, like me they often described themselves as introverts. I have to admit, this was more than a little reassuring.

I am an assistant organizer for a photography group through, a service that provides a web presence for interest groups of all kinds (check them out). The other organizers and I arrange photography opportunities that range from a few hours at a local event to a weekend at a distant location, and which may attract as many as 40 photographers or as few as 4. A frequent complaint from new members is that once we meet on location and get oriented, we then disperse to get our shots.  Some people buddy up or are part of a small group; many of us shoot alone. To me, shooting alone is normal. While I enjoy socializing before and after these events, I’m there to take photos and ultimately, that is a solitary activity, even if for just a moment. Being creative is generally a solo act, whether it’s painting, writing, or composing a symphony.
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“You Must Have a Fantastic Camera”

There’s an apocryphal anecdote that circulates among photographers about a “socialite” complimenting a photographer’s work, saying “you must have a fantastic camera.” Later, the photographer returns the favor, complimenting the dinner she served by saying, “you must have a fantastic stove.”  (Recently I heard it attributed to Ansel Adams. I’m not sure he would have been so rude.) The obvious message is that when someone says this about our photography we should feel insulted and be condescending.

Please watch your step as you dismount your high horse.

Photographers should know that most people do not look at photographs with the same critical eye as those who produced the image. (Some may count on that fact, judging from some of what passes as wedding photography.) When people make this statement they are expressing their appreciation of the image, even though they may not be able to articulate what it is that makes it special to them. They’re ordinary people, not art critics. Chill.

If we silently roll our eyes when we hear this we are missing an opportunity to accept a compliment and maybe impart a bit of knowledge. By graciously saying, “Thank you. Let me tell you what I particularly like about this image” we may begin a dialogue in which we learn how non-photographers see our efforts and politely teach a lesson on composition and light.

Not to mention, we avoid looking like self-important jerks.

Patience is a Photographic Virtue

Making Great Art

Here are the keys to photographic success:

  1. Buy an expensive DSLR.
  2. Roar up to a turnout near a scenic outlook.
  3. Thrust camera out of the window and take several frames.
  4. Drive off.
  5. Admire your work at home.

This really happened and I caught it entirely by accident. I was positioned at the Hurricane Point turnout just south of the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, waiting for the light from the setting sun to get just right. My camera was mounted on my tripod and every few minutes I took a frame or two. Suddenly, a car drove up and the scene I just described unfolded. I swung around and captured it.
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