I’m not sure I’m great at anything. I pretend I am, but the reality is this: I am good at a few things, ok at some others and, in some areas, decidedly dragging down the curve and flat out sucking at them. I’d like to think of my photography journey in the same way; I am not sure I am great at anything, but I have put lots of thought into how to get there.
I think I am typical of many. Good at some, great at none.
My day job as an advertising executive fuels my passion for photography. I have worked with many pros over the years on some big shoots. Being around creative people fuels my passion to have a creative outlet, and for me that outlet is photography.
There are very few constants in a photography journey; different gear, different approach, even different temperaments, but the one constant is a Mac. Since every photographer I have ever met uses a Mac, I recently decided to switch from a PC to a Mac. My kids can also use it for school, which made it an easy purchase.
Through the course of the transferring files, I looked at thousands of photos. There were hundreds of my poor Golden Retriever who was my subject as I learned how to use flash.
Included with this were 15,000 photos of my kids over the years, thousands of photos from car shows and auto races, and a few portrait series with the funky hair stylists at a salon down the street.
It is a true mish mash of everything.
A week or so later, I revisited the catalog and selected some favorites and decided I wanted to focus on being great at something. I did not want to be ok at everything, I wanted to be really passionate and maybe even great at one thing.
I am fortunate enough to not have to rely on photography as my sole source of income so I had some liberty in selecting an area of focus; an area I wanted to be great.
Look at your work, revisit some old photos and see what sparks your passion again.
As I reviewed my new folder of favorites, something started to stand out to me. Most of my favorite photos were taken with my 50mm lens. The lack of zoom forced me to capture a piece, a sliver, something that made me want to think, “where is that and what is that?” I found myself pulling lots of photos taken at car shows and auto races. Headlights, fender lines, mirror shots and the like are what I kept coming back to.
I started to re-touch and adjust the color saturation on some of them, black and white on some and tonal treatments on others. I have literally fallen back in love with some photos I had forgotten about. So in love, that I can’t wait for Saturday mornings to head to the local Cars and Coffee events to look at and photograph cars.
I have decided I wanted to be great at taking photos of car shows. Photos that show a piece of a car, an owner with a gnarly beard and cigar, a vendor with vintage helmets and more.
I got to this by asking myself the following questions:
What do you enjoy the most and are the most passionate about?
I have spent hundreds of days at car shows, started with my Dad when I was 8 or 9 and I have never stopped. Most of my friends have older cars or at least appreciate them and my kids go with me from time to time. Even my wife makes a rare appearance from time to time.
What are you good at and want to be better at?
Look, I can take a good photo. I am self-taught and understand the mechanics of the camera and light, but I there is a lot I don’t know and I don’t have the time to learn it. Photography is not my only hobby so I have to spread free time amongst a few things. Since time is a precious commodity, I thought I should focus on something I am good at AND am passionate about. For me, the answer was car shows.
If a local art gallery asked me to put on a show, what would you want it to be a series of?
This was an easy one for me. The most comments I get on photos are photos from auto events. There is just such a variety of things to shoot with dozens of colors, chrome and satin finishes, it was a natural selection for me.
What can you do with your kids?
I went to car shows and races with my Dad. For anyone who remembers, my parents used to go on dates to the Can-Am races of the late 60s and early 70s so you could say I come by it naturally. I want my kids to come by it naturally as well. I don’t force them to go, but when they do I teach them as much as I can about what they are seeing; just like my Dad did with me. The fact that we stop for their favorite donuts on the way there probably adds to the memories.
What would you be proud to display in your home?
I love my kid and my dogs (and of course my wife), but our house is not one of those houses that are adorned with a million family photos. We have our fair share, but I want to use some of the car photos as art for our house and for my office at work. It will make me proud to have them on display.
I think I am typical of many. Good at some, great at none. Now, I have a focus on what I want to do better and it has helped me as I had hit a bit of a lull for a while. If you are in the same position I was, I think it can help you on your photography journey, too.
Continue your photography journey
Look at your work, revisit some old photos and see what sparks your passion again. What do you want to be great at? Now, I should probably start shopping for that new 85 mm lens I need to be great, I mean come on, the kids could use it for school right?