The Woes of a Lazy Photographer

Quick, name the top five things you like to spend your time on. How much time did you spend doing those things in 2017? Are you satisfied? Or did they take a back seat to other activities and life in general?

My favorites are motorcycling, travel, photography, hiking, and knitting. There are a handful of runners-up but those are my core five. I consider them life values. Looking back at 2017, I didn’t do nearly as much of those things as I wanted or intended. Compared to 2016, my motorcycling mileage was slightly down. My hiking mileage was abysmal. I only completed one knitting project. My travels were disjointed and exhausting, with fewer travel days on which I was truly exploring. My time spent behind the camera plummeted.

To look at my Instagram feed, you’d probably call bullshit on me. I’m looking at the trajectory from one year to the next, though. In my personal review of 2017, what I see is a frenetic year. One in which the energy put into the things I love most wasn’t as purposeful as I’d like. Of those five core values, the backslide that bothers me the most is photography.

Short, whirlwind adventures through places like Seattle, Dragon Con, Salt Lake City, and British Columbia, made 2017 feel like a yo-yo year of travel.

A Challenge

What brought on this existential crisis? The annual challenge from my Tremont photography family. Every year we share our top five photographs with each other. It’s a tremendous source of inspiration from people I admire.

In reviewing my images from 2017, I’m not satisfied. In fact, I’m kind of pissed off at myself. I have no notions of being a virtuoso photographer but I do believe in competing with yourself to achieve personal growth. I know I’m better that what I produced last year. Not that I don’t have images I’m happy with. I have some I really love. But in relation to everything I did in 2017, the photographic results don’t match up.

Obviously, I can’t go back and have a do-over of 2017. I can, however, look at why I struggled and fix the obstacles. I can make certain I don’t stay on a trajectory that isn’t working.

A friendly challenge from good friends has me fired up to get back on course.

What went wrong

Big picture: I got lazy. Unlike my riding, I didn’t train or practice much. On a daily basis, I was inconsistent at keeping my skills sharp. I only engaged in photography in fits and spurts. I used to carry a camera everywhere. Just in case. I learned long ago that there are opportunities to capture moments everywhere, whether traveling, near home, or even at home.

I didn’t honor that in 2017. I realized that failing towards the end of the year so I started carrying a camera more. But I found myself doing stupid things like forgetting to put in a battery or a memory card when going out for short jaunts without a full kit. At one point, I realized my sensor was so dirty on my main camera that there were close to two dozen spots on my images. And it still took me three months to get around to cleaning it. In the most egregious offense of inattention, I actually shot a bunch of images of Mount Rainier only to realize after the fact that I’d been shooting with a giant smudge of some unidentifiable substance on my lens. Seriously, a big lump of sticky goo across the entire lens!

It’s all silly, really. And simple enough to fix. Those missteps made me realize I simply need to get organized and set myself up for having my gear at the ready when I need it. I also need to pay more attention to the little details of maintenance so I’m not wasting my time when I do shoot.

Another aspect of the lazy was not taking the time to shoot. With an iPhone in hand or even when I had a “real” camera with me, I failed to take the time to grab compelling images. I made excuses about the shot not being worth stopping for or that I didn’t have time. Oftentimes when I did pull out the camera, I did it half-heartedly. Throw in struggles to manage photography from the bike in challenging conditions, and that makes for a downward spiral.

Tier Number Three of lazy photographer syndrome? Often when I did shoot, I whipped off a couple of shots without taking the care to review my camera settings and make certain I captured what I envisioned. So many images from this year fell into the “close but no cigar” category. They’re shots that had one (if not more) technical elements out of whack in an otherwise nicely composed image.

In the end, I didn’t make photography a priority. I didn’t take the time. The opportunities were there. And I blew it on most of them. It’s clear now that the photography foundation I used to be able to count on crumbled in 2017.

photography - val in real life
For a good part of the year, my photography kit looked like this. Hardly a platform for success.

What went right

The year wasn’t a complete bust, though. In the few surges when I did make photography a priority I came away with some nice images. And I did break into people photography, which is a huge leap for me. I’m getting past feeling intrusive. That’s really hard for me.

Another realization I made towards the end of the year was that I had a mental obstacle with the weight, bulk, and complexity of my photography gear, particularly when on the bike. So I made changes to streamline my kit to make it easier to manage while riding. I’m still getting that system dialed in but it’s more realistic for how I travel most often. I’m optimistic that a simpler system will make embracing photography more appealing, especially when I’m fatigued or battling challenging conditions.

No more monster-sized Canon 50D to serve as my infrared camera. I converted a Panasonic GX7 in order to downsize and simplify my kit.

Top five

So here are my top five favorite imagess from 2017 that I shared with my photog friends. Mind you, not necessarily the “best” but my favorites. (Click on images to find them on my Photoshelter site.)

Other favorites

Here are some of the other contenders for my 2017 favorites. There wasn’t much more to choose from, though. My goal is to turn that around in 2018. I hope next year’s challenge finds me agonizing about which are my top five because I’ve put my heart back into my photography. In other words, I need to photograph like I mean it. Thank you to my Tremont friends who have lit a fire under my photographic ass!

 

Comments

  1. These are lovely photographs, you are having a power in your hand to attract viewers by showing them some of your skills.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. 🙂

  2. It’s a lesson I seem to relearn over and over again, but simple often produces the better outcome.

    I’m in a huge photographic slump, too. For me, it began when I set down the nice cameras in order to spend more time “experiencing” the moment, as opposed to just trying to document it. That was a good change; I had found myself missing out on enjoying the moment because I was too worried about making the absolutely best photograph I could in order to show my friends later—decidedly NOT the reason I was there. Unfortunately, the pendulum has swung back and severely overcorrected, and now I suffer from never-posts-any-trip-photos syndrome. My main excuse is that my photo workflow is too complicated and takes too much time. In reality, my photo workflow is too complicated and I don’t make the time—nope, not even the time to simplify the workflow. Sigh…

    1. Yes! So much this! Part of my slump is also the “get out from behind the camera” desire. Plus a little social media fatigue. And the workflow… :-/

      I hear ya! Need to smooth the edges.

  3. Well, my dear, not to blow smoke up your butt, at least you haven’t lost your eye. Seriously. What you may perceive as a downturn in quantity has not resulted in a loss of quality: what you did produce in 2017 is awesome. And I would argue that you have taken some new creative directions. People, products, animals, nature, landscape, travel. Hmmm…

    So, while I hail your resolve to not be lazy, I have only one thing to say, “keep up the great work!”

    1. I’m pleased with some of the areas I’ve branched out into. And when I did take it seriously, I was pleased with the results. I’m frustrated with not having captured the story of some of my adventures, though. So, time to fix the problem. Pretty simple. 🙂

  4. Well, you’re doing better than me. I received a camera for Christmas in 2016, and nada has happened after an initial snafu. I didn’t get going due to the excuse that I wasn’t working and didn’t want to pay for lessons, etc., but I’ve spent far more on other things. Time to get going!!

    1. Yes! Get on it!

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