Posted In Inspiration

It’s About More Than Just The Image

Kyle McDougall | September 24, 2016

What is it that you really want from photography? That’s a question that I believe we don’t ask ourselves often enough.

Without having a conscious understanding of what brings you satisfaction, it can be easy to let your journey trend in directions that really don’t matter that much. Over the years I’ve tried my best to consistently stop and reflect on where I’m at with my craft and what things are bringing me enjoyment. I believe developing this habit can have a big impact on your consistency and enjoyment and is something that all photographers should try and take the time to do.

Why Do You Create?

I’m not going to preach the “shoot strictly for yourself” card in this post because it’s understandable that creating work that other people enjoy can be extremely satisfying. Regardless of how authentic you feel your process is, I’m sure there’s a little bit of you that is thinking of your audience while you’re creating. It feels good to get a compliment or praise for an image, and seeing how photography is a visual art, then obviously having an audience is an important part of the process. That being said, photography goes far beyond just creating an image and it’s important to not let the process kill the purpose.

In the end, the photography game is incredibly simple. We create pictures for ourselves as well as an audience. How much those images actually matter is very subjective. Who actually knows what legacy will be created by your work when you’re gone? What will happen with your images? I know that’s not a healthy way to think, and I’m not promoting it, I’m just trying to stress the point that if you only place importance on the images, then you’re selling yourself short. Big time!

Now, I want to be clear, I think it’s important to create meaningful work that will hopefully impact and influence others, but you can’t force it. So much of an image’s DNA is made up of experiences, stories, and the artist’s personality. Simply hunting for the perfect image and trying to force things isn’t going to create a genuine result.

In my opinion, you need to immerse yourself in both the experience and lifestyle and let the results develop over time as your interests and vision grow.

Below I’ve listed the top three things that landscape photography provides me with that I consider most important. I’m confident these have and will continue to impact my work as I grow as an artist and probably have done the same for you. Let’s take a moment and reflect.

 

1. Experiences & Adventures

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Photography is an incredible motivator to experience amazing places and moments. It pushes us to plan trips and visit specific locations, indulging in them far beyond the likelihood of the average tourist. We arrive when everyone is either waking up or going to bed. We stand out in pouring rain, snow storms and mosquito infested forests. We experience magical light and incredible moments all to ourselves that enrich the soul and make us appreciate the simplicity of things. And most importantly, we discover traits of the landscape that help strengthen our connection with the wilderness.

The depth of our experience is a result of being a photographer. Without our passion, these places would be merely snapshots in an album and checkmarks on a list.

How many people have conversations like this after a vacation?:  “Remember that time we woke up at 4:30 in the morning and hiked out to that lake? We passed through that swamp and got eaten alive by mosquitos, and you got stuck in the mud. Then that storm overhead broke at the last minute and we had the most amazing sunrise colours I’ve ever seen in my life!”

Image or no image, memories like that are created by being a photographer, and in terms of importance, overshadow any type of praise or recognition you may receive for any image you created.

 

2. Comfort Zone Challenges & Growth

 

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Photography also provides an excellent “kick in the ass” on a regular basis and helps us grow through challenges, both large and small. One of my biggest fears in life is getting stuck in a comfort zone and succumbing to a general routine. Getting outdoors and creating images forces me to experience environments and put myself in situations that break the cycle of normality. I’m sure that similar feelings apply to others as well.

  • How many people actually like getting out of bed at 4:00 a.m when their alarm goes off? Probably no one, but we do.
  • How many people feel comfortable walking through a forest in the pitch black by themselves to get to a location? Not many I’m sure.
  • How many people typically spend a week on vacation by themselves, with only their camera and their thoughts? 

The examples could go on and on, and they don’t need to be extreme. The point I’m trying to make is that photography pushes us to do things, and interpret the environment in a way that we would have never done otherwise. It forces us to take that next step, confront that next fear and push through in search of bettering ourselves. In my experience, it’s these challenges that have taught me things about myself and the environment that have had a huge impact on my personal growth.

 

3. Awesome People & A Positive Community

The more I’ve gotten involved in the photography community, the more amazing people I’ve met. Throw aside all the bickering and criticism and you’ll find a community of people who are living passionate lives centred around the pursuit of their craft. As much as there are people out there ready to voice their opinions and criticize others, there are just as many ready and willing to support and empower their fellow artists.

It’s awesome that a hobby can transform the way that people live and the decisions that they decide to make. Even more important is the fact that strong friendships are made along the way and most people are willing to help others out in any way that they can. That’s a big positive in my books!

 


 

The examples I’ve posted are only a fraction of the benefits that photography provides us with. Yes, creating an image we’re proud of is often the goal, but in my opinion, the journey brings more valuable rewards. Embracing the total package is what’s most important. Don’t get jaded and forget the amazing things that photography has done for you. Being present and grateful will help lead you to a more fulfilled photography life.

I’d love to hear below one benefit that being a photographer has provided you with other than a successful image.

 

 

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2 Comments

  • Claude Hamel October 22, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Been doing photography with consuming passion as an amateur for about 16 months and you describe very well the “tiraillements” I for one experience between receiving approval and enriching one’s life through the process of growing creatively. Mes hommages for a short but very apt post.

    Reply
    • Kyle McDougall October 24, 2016 at 7:46 am

      Thanks for the comment Claude. It’s certainly something that we all experience at different stages throughout our careers and to varying degrees. Making a conscious effort to constantly be aware of what brings true satisfaction is so important!

      Reply

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