Unlike athletes, photographers don’t have to contend with a narrow window of time where their bodies operate at peak physical conditioning to make a photo. Photographers can hone their craft over decades. But as with any artistic craft from music to baking, unless we’re directed and intentional, it’s easy to go through the motions year after year without making any tangible progress.
So did your photography improve in 2017?
Judging by the self-assured comments on various photography websites, there is no shortage of photographers who possess a tremendous knowledge of photography – not to mention an endless stream of opinions on what makes a good photo or piece of gear.
Snark aside, many photographer understand the factors that make a good photo, but putting that knowledge into practice can be challenging. And balancing external validation with a personal sense of satisfaction can be difficult in the “Like” economy. Are we trying to become better photographers or get more likes?
My best photos of the year were the result of making the time to do photography while having a vision in my mind of the photos I wanted to make. Intentionality for me seems to be a crucial component in creating photos that I’m proud of and feeling even a minimal progression of skill.
After observing other photographers make incredible astrophotographs for several years, I finally motivated myself to research then head into the field on multiple nights. The experience was humbling. Even with meticulous planning using tools like Photo Pills, Stellarium, and various weather apps, I found that I couldn’t control mother nature.
Many nights yielded no useable photos, but the experience helped me gain a Zen-like appreciation for what many astro and nature photographers endure. You must be patient. And even with the good gear and preparation, nothing is guaranteed.
I learned to be more diligent about checking the moonrise and moonset times after showing up on a brightly lit night. I was fortunate to make a photo.
After many visits to a particular rock arch, I had a happy accident while taking a selfie and forgetting to turn off my headlamp.
Later in the summer, I ventured out during the Perseid Meteor showers and made a photo that I liked.
The next day, I hopped on a plane to neighboring Molokai and made this frame right before moonrise.
In early Fall, I had the opportunity to meet Stan Honda – the long-time photojournalist who has spent the last few year shooting the stars – at the Summit Nature Workshop in Jackson, WY. I came away with another cool image from the night that had both a plane, a meteorite and the Aurora Borealis on the horizon.
Of course, going out a dozen times over the Summer pales in comparison to the people who have been doing astrophotography for years. Nevertheless, it was a gratifying exercise to see an evolution of my photography over the course of a few months.
I haven’t had time yet to think about what aspects of my photography I would like to improve in 2018. It might be strange to contemplate a list of New Year’s resolutions for photography, but the new year always seems like an appropriate moment for reflection. And given my interest in the subject, why not make structured time to consider how my photography could improve?
How will you improve your photography in 2018?