What’s The Point?

I think anyone who chases an artistic endeavour has contemplated “why” he or she is doing it. I’m also pretty sure if I asked a thousand people I’d probably get a thousand different answers. However, I’d also be willing to guess that if I really analyzed those answers they could probably be condensed down to a couple of basic concepts or thoughts:

A) To make money

B)  For the love of the medium and the creative pursuit

Based on those basic concepts , I’m sure the level of an artist’s success will be measured by some metric of those ideas, both by themselves and by others. “If I sell my music, photograph or painting and make $XX, then my work, and subsequently I personally will be successful”. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, “If I can create something that adequately conveys my vision, regardless of money, then I’ll be successful”. I know several people who fall into each of these categories, just as I’m sure we all do.

Based on my own experience as a creative, I find there is another metric I prefer, which is sort of an offshoot of concept B.

Let me first be clear that I am not a full-time, professional photographer who makes my living in the photography world. While I do occasionally sell some of my photos and have accepted paying photo “assignments” here and there, I more consider myself an incredibly passionate photography enthusiast and a perpetual student of the art. If I were to stretch a little, maaaaaybe I could say I’m a part-time-second-chair-alternate-semi-professional-photographer. Basically, I love photography, love learning about all things photography, love looking at and studying photography and love finding new places and cultures to explore and new places to ski or mountain bike with the desire to take more photographs and get better with the camera.

I’m constantly asked how much money I make with my photos, and sometimes even told I don’t sell them for enough. The reality is I know I’m measured as a photographer to most people based on what I sell and how much I sell it for, but I refuse to fall into that trap. What I want to say (of course I never would because I’m too passive) is just look at my photo and enjoy it, or not. Buy it or don’t. I’ll love it if YOU love it, but if you don’t, please be nice and just move on to something you do like.

I respect that not everyone will like my work! Hell, I myself don’t even like some of the work I’ve done! Not every author will make the New York Times Best Seller List, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of authors out there producing incredible work…but aren’t on that list.  Art is subjective, period.

To that point, I honestly find the most success I feel about my work is when I receive a random positive reaction to something I’ve produced. It doesn’t matter whether they buy it or not. It’s worth a million dollars to me that they took the time to look at it, to actually think about it, and maybe it even made them feel a certain way. To create something that can evoke emotion in another human being is truly touching a soul, even if it’s your own.

That’s the point, and that’s my definition of success.

 

 

 

 

Does A New Camera Equal Better Experiences and Photographs?

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Sandpoint, Idaho, Nikon D7200, 50mm f1.8, ISO 100, 1/1000

I’m currently considering buying a new full frame mirrorless camera. Because of the expense involved, there is naturally a lot of thought going into my decision including a nauseating amount of research and the associated technical comparisons. I’ve finally got it narrowed down to two or three options but the lingering question for me is this, “Will having a “better” camera with more technology actually change my experiences, make me a better photographer and consequently result in better photographs?”.

I’m not typically the kind of guy who buys the latest and greatest of anything simply because I feel the need to stay current. I held onto my flip phone until it died and my wife forced me to get an iPhone 4 so she could actually text me. I typically drive my vehicles for more than ten years and have no problem looking at 150,000 miles as the benchmark for when I start to think about getting something else. I’ve been wearing the same Suunto Vector watch for more than fifteen years and as beaten up and worn looking as it is, it still reliably let’s me know what time it is, the barometric pressure and what altitude I’m playing at! Newness doesn’t matter much to me, but dependable functionality reigns supreme in my world. I know that’s not sexy, but it’s the way I roll.

When I went to Nepal, Bangladesh and India a few years ago I took my old and trusty Nikon D90, a couple of good prime lenses and a handful of memory cards. In today’s measure, that “archaic” 12 MP crop sensor dinosaur would have a hard time competing with the technology of a middle of the road cell phone’s photographic capabilities. Regardless of the fact that that little camera had already traveled with me to lots and lots of countries, been beaten up in the backcountry for years here in Colorado, dropped a few times and been dried out after snowstorms on our kitchen counter many, many times, it was a reliable piece of kit and I never hesitated once to take it with me. I was never easy on it, but it never let me down and helped me capture some of the best experiences of my life.

A couple of years ago I sold the D90 and bought a new camera with twice the megapixels, faster processor, better sensor, faster continuous shooting capabilities and all the things Nikon promised would make me a better photographer. I mostly justified the purchase at the time because I’d literally put those benchmark 150,000 miles on it and it was maybe finally time to move on. The new camera has been fantastic and held up under some rowdy treatment including some rough crashes on backcountry ski days and some rather nasty weather duty, so so far so good. To my delight, I know for sure the D90 is still being used and still delivering a reliable experience to the new owner.

Have my photos gotten better with this new camera?  I personally think so, but I also believe a lot of that is my continuing development as a photographer. Getting the new camera re-stoked that creative fire in me and I’ve spent more and more time learning the craft. Yes, in the photos I’ve subsequently blown up I can see a difference those extra megapixels make, but are my compositions better? Yeah, probably, but again, that’s simply a function of ME getting better, not the camera.

This morning on the commute down to my office, I wondered to myself if having my current camera, or the even more expensive camera I’m considering would’ve made my past travels and experiences different or “better”. The short answer is I really don’t think so.

I travel around and play hard in the mountains solely for the experience of living the fullest life I possibly can. The photos I take are a byproduct of those experiences and sometimes I’m fortunate enough to sell some of them. Having a different camera with more technology may give me sharper images and the ability to print larger formats, but I highly doubt having another camera would’ve changed a single thing about the experiences themselves. Chasing the experience puts me there, not having a better camera.

I’m a firm believer that a better photograph is simply a function of the quality of glass you put in front of the camera and the creativity of the person standing behind it, not necessarily the technology inside that little box. Ansel Adams did pretty well for himself with a fraction of the technology we have today, right?

Yeah, I’ll probably add the new camera to my fleet, but I know in my heart it won’t change the way I see life.

Climb high, ski fast, live simply.

Patience.

Our patience this winter for waiting on any significant storm cycle hasn’t come easy, but the effort finally paid off over the last few days with the appearance of heavy spring snow across our part of the state. With almost three feet of snow in the last 72 hours, a few of us got together and hit the backcountry to lay down some fresh, deep tracks.

Other than “climb, ski, repeat”, our only proviso for the day was to constantly evaluate the increased avalanche danger, choose our routes wisely and keep the egos in check to make sure the day stayed on the positive side. Seriously, if you can’t tailgate with a beer at the end of the day it’s not really worth it, right?

Here’s a little peak into one of our best days of the season (so far).

This actually required a little digging to get Kelly safely extracted. Fifteen minutes later it was all smiles again!

Climb, ski, repeat…then have good beers with good friends. A benchmark ski day doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Climb high. Ski fast. Pedal far. Live simply.