becoming a photographer
Updated: Sep 21, 2022
It's weird calling myself a photographer.
Even now, I make sure to preface this sensitive title with the word "amateur" to avoid judgement or expectations. I used to feel self conscious and undeserving of the title, feeling and knowing that my images were lacking something. This something felt intangible because it had nothing to do with the world (or my camera) and had all to do with myself. Only after looking more carefully at myself - my motivations, emotions, and goals - did I start to see a path towards becoming a photographer.
I'd like to tell the story of how I became a photographer through my images. The images below capture my emotional and psychological journey into photography that I have only recently processed during the last few months. I hope you enjoy the images, but most importantly I hope you take this as an opportunity to reflect on your journey, no matter where you came from or where you are going.
If you'd like to see just the images as a standalone gallery, head over here!
if only for a moment
A moment can be a powerful thing. Most of the time, moments feel insignificant and they pass by as we watch in an innocent stupor, oblivious or defiant of their transience. We ache for more of them yet can't seem to hold onto any, no matter how hard we try. Even when we don't or can't realize it as it happens, some moments are decidedly more important than others. We all have these moments - the ones that seem to define the story of our lives and that inadvertently take us down certain paths.
As I look back to 2020, the year I began to aspire to be a photographer, three moments stand out to me as the most significant (besides the outbreak of Covid-19, which changed all of our lives in dramatic ways):
Reading the book On the Road. This is the moment when I realized how precious all moments are. For reasons beyond my own comprehension, this little book shook my worldview in a subtle and critical way, leaving me with a void in my life that could only be filled by having meaningful and enriching experiences. I felt an immense drive to seek out the beauty in life, and to not let the gift of my own life waste away in comfort and acceptance. There was no turning back from this.
Buying a professional level DSLR - my beloved and departed Canon 5D Mark II. It's funny how nowadays a click of a button can change your life. From a friend's offhanded recommendation, I haphazardly bought a used, professional level DSLR on eBay. The purchase turned out to be one of the best I've ever made and encouraged me to give photography an honest attempt.
Eating a psychedelic mushroom. I'll save this story for the next image.
After these 3 moments, it was unlikely I would stray from the path of photography. But this was (and still is in many ways) just the beginning. What I still needed then was belief or hope that I could one day become a photographer. If I believed I could, even if only for a moment, then I was going to try.
For me, this photograph encapsulates this idea. The kind of moment that flips your world upside down and takes you down a path that you cannot even see. All of that from just a moment. Powerful indeed!
Clearly, moments have consequences, mostly subtle or subconscious. Those of eating a psychedelic mushroom were neither. Even now, I consider the first psychedelic experience that I had in June of 2020 to be one of the most important experiences of my life. Though how psychedelics act on the brain is still largely a mystery, the conscious experience of taking them is visceral, ineffable and beautiful.
The experience itself was so utterly perplexing and interesting, so indescribably beautiful and intense, that it made me question myself and the world around me with an insatiable curiosity. It felt like a veil over my eyes was removed and the external and internal worlds started to demand more attention from me. I became more present, observant and interested. Everything was worth exploring and no detail was too small to appreciate and admire. During this experience, even the smallest of pebbles or the shimmer of the ocean felt like the most important and beautiful things I'd ever seen. It also helped me realize how much beauty there was all around me, even in the mundane or ordinary, that I had largely been ignorant of.
Of course, this had significant implications on how and what I photograph. I began photographing with a desire to explore and react to the natural world through my own curiosity. I became interested in showing the beauty in the ordinary, the mundane, the intimate. This isn't a new or revolutionary approach, but it was one that I was drawn to at the beginning of my journey.
Inside and outside of photography, the effects of this experience still linger today. This photo is literally a section of an alpine lake with wind-swept ripples of mid day light. But what it also represents is the consequences of an experience or moment - the existential reshaping of your mind.
I recognize this has been pretty intense so far, so let's slow it down. After those 3 key moments in 2020, the next logical move is: take lots of photos. This seems easy enough, especially at first. With a childlike curiosity and many beautiful national and state parks near my home in San Francisco, I had no problem pressing the shutter over and over and over again, frantically pointing my camera at anything and everything in the hopes of capturing something worth sharing with the world.
In the beginning I knew that 99.9% of the photos I took would not make for a compelling image, but I didn't know why. In an attempt to figure that out, I just kept taking photos. The first year of my photography journey felt like going up an endless staircase that was constantly getting higher and higher, without any sort of escape. I couldn't see it while it was happening, but I was slowly becoming more comfortable with my camera and with the act of taking photos. I still had no real motivations, besides having fun and being out in nature, and didn't consider the potential that photography had to make my life more fulfilling. At that time, having fun and getting "better" was enough.
These rocks on the California coast remind me of those days when I was taking small but significant steps and not even realizing it. I had no goals or expectations and that was difficult but awesome.
"Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing"
the shape of light
As I was discovering and learning more about photography, I realized the importance of light (I know, duh). Before I started photographing nature more seriously, I never had truly noticed light. Like most people, I adored magnificent displays of light during an epic sunset and dreaded the harsh, exposed light of midday sun on a hot day. Beyond those extremes, I never thought of or interacted with light.
Once you pay closer attention, light can be a fascinating thing to study. The physical world becomes much more interesting when you consider the role of light and how it can change the objects and living world that surround you. Now, I see light in a whole new way and get a child-like excitement when I experience an interesting or beautiful display of light in any setting, even while walking along busy city streets.
I am nowhere near done learning about light and experimenting with it, but this image to me represents the initial realization that light is a dynamic, beautiful and captivating experience in and of itself. Ultimately, photography is just painting with light.
miles to go before i sleep
I started my photographic journey with a telephoto lens glued to my camera. It just felt right. Wide angle scenes, such as this one, were just too difficult for my brain to compose and I felt drawn to picking out details and smaller sections of the landscape instead. Initially I told myself that wide angle scenes were in some way inferior to make my own short comings feel less personal. I also just enjoyed telephoto landscape photography so much that I felt no need to stray away from it.
What I didn't realize at the time was that I was limiting my way of seeing. I had developed a bias towards a specific type of photography and was cutting off an entire creative source of inspiration. Without consciously trying to break this habit, I wouldn't be able to move past it.
At the same time, what this helped me realize is that my journey into photography will undoubtedly be a lifelong pursuit. With so many ways to photograph and so many things to photograph, there is no shortage of learning and exploration along this path. This photo is a recent attempt at consciously breaking the mold of my own patterned behavior and a reminder that I won't run out of things to learn.
The title of this image is taken from a famous (and some might say cheesy) poem. Here it is in full:
"Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound’s the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep."
a universe in between the stars
I include this photo here as a break from me and to give some words to the beauty and mystery of nature. It's difficult to write about nature. It's a universal concept but it feels so personal and visceral. Experiences in the wilderness can be exultant, frightening, mundane, humbling, peaceful, disturbing and so much more. But nature is not something that is "out there", it's within every person as well. We are part of nature just as much as the sound of trees swaying in the afternoon breeze, the burning sun in the mid day desert silence, and the smell of clear, alpine air. When you recognize that nature is inclusive to you, it opens doors to view the world differently.
Any small detail in nature is no longer uninteresting, but is part of you and your experience of the world. You can turn time in nature into a personal experience that gives you value. The details are there to be seen but not lost in the awe-inspiring grandeur that is abound in nature. Rolling waves on a beach can turn into outer space and the glittering dots of light into suns.
How can you describe these experiences and their consequences to those that haven't lived them? Can a photograph truly convey even a shred of the experience of being in nature? Maybe the answer to these questions is "you can't" and "no", but it's impossible to give up the quest of sharing the beauty of nature with others once you have felt it yourself.
dreaming of a place
After 9 months of being stuck in one place in 2020, I decided to spend the next 8 months traveling across the country while exploring, living, and working along the way. Since I was leaving in January, the plan was to pack up my trusty Elantra GT with the essentials and drive along the southern border and then up the east coast from city to city until I made it to New York; shortly after making it to New York, I'd then take the northern route to the PNW and drive south back to California. This would all be done while working remotely and traveling almost entirely on my own.
Two days before I left, I found myself more anxious and nervous than I have in years. I had reassured my family and friends, including my stubborn and loving parents, that I was completely prepared and any obstacle would be easily overcome. But the realities of the next 8 months were starting to dawn on me. I would be essentially alone for, at least, 5 of these 8 months, and I would be traveling almost 15,000 miles to many new places without any support, social or otherwise. Though at first this itself is what attracted me to the idea, actually doing it was an entirely different prospect.
I had to face the question that others had been asking me for months: why am I doing all of this? The obvious answer is that I wanted to travel and see new places in a safe but thorough way during a pandemic. The real answer is that I didn't really know why - but I felt an existential drive to do it anyway. I'd always felt that a healthy recognition of one's own mortality and the fleeting nature of life are enough to motivate me and push me to do, see and be as much as I can. I often find myself dreaming of and craving for this unattainable, distant 'place'. An intangible, vague but monumentally important realization, perhaps. Not because it will make me happy or complete, but because for me the search for it is life, whether that 'place' is a beautiful natural landscape, a conversation with a stranger in a far off place, the feeling of discovery and awe, a quiet morning with your thoughts or the comfort of love from a close one.
The reality of life is that you will never be able to see and do everything you want to, and that's ok. But to deprive yourself of the available experiences, even if they are a small subset of the possible, feels like a self inflicted injustice. I wanted to use those feelings and embark on a memorable journey that would do justice to the opportunity available to me. I also saw it as a chance to see and photograph the beauty of the American landscapes in a dedicated way.
And suddenly the night before I left, I felt at peace. I knew that it would be challenging, lonely and exhausting. I knew that I’d miss my family and loved ones. But I also knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore, to learn and to see. I’d packed my car with everything I’d need for the next 8 months: clothes, cameras, my kindle, camping gear, work equipment, and a short supply of food and water.
I hope that someday I’ll have the complete freedom to explore and wander as I see fit, but that sort of freedom is likely an illusion. I told myself that for now, this will have to do. The unknown and the new is the greatest treasure I can give myself even if it comes with an asterisk. No matter what experiences, sights and feelings I would encounter I was just thankful and excited to meet them.
into the past
As anyone who has spent much time alone can attest, isolation in nature can lead to discovery. During the 8 months I was roadtripping across the country, I spent many days and nights alone in nature, trying (and often failing) to entertain myself with my own thoughts. I would leap from "I'm hungry" to "I wonder what's around this turn" to "how did I end up here?", jumping from the present to the future and back to the past. Usually, questions and thoughts about the past would jump out at me most aggressively, demanding my attention while I was trying to be present in the moment I happened to in.
The past is fascinating for so many different reasons. When we think about our own lives, the past is our only true reference point. In the narrative that we create about own lives - the story that we've developed to make sense of ourselves and our experiences - the past is key. Yet our interpretation of our past is not objective. It's colored by our biases and our way of seeing, as well as the many bewildering subconscious processes that filter and distill the endless barrage of stimuli into a coherent experience. Examining and contemplating your own life's narrative is a dangerous thing, but can also be rewarding. The beliefs and convictions you thought were steadfast start to unravel. And with that comes an opportunity to change your perspective, to be more grateful and open to experience, and to let go of what might be holding you back.
Though this image was taken recently, it evokes for me the feeling of contemplating the past, of scrutinizing your self and your beliefs, and of digging into parts of your mind that you took for granted.
As I traveled the US, the main benefits for my photography were having the space and time to explore with my camera. At the time I didn't know any "rules" of composition or have any experience studying design or photography. Besides my friend Martin Gonzalez, I only had experience as my teacher and I was not interested in the technical details of the camera or having the best equipment. I cared about being outside, having experiences and taking photos of the things I was drawn to.
I realized that if I only went out to shoot once a month or less, it was going to take a lot of time to improve and gain enough experience to feel comfortable and confident in myself. So it became important to get out and shoot as much as I could to gain practice and experience. As I was traveling and seeing so many different landscapes every weekend, I finally had the space to explore and practice photography deliberately, as well as the time to focus my attention on the craft itself and how I approached it. Without space and time, there is little opportunity to continue any sort of journey.
In physics, spacetime is "a mathematical model that combines the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional topography." This image for me is a representation of that idea, as well as the idea that we all need both the 3 dimensional physical world around us as well as time to operate in it in order to meaningfully make progress on any endeavor.
When I look back on my life, I end up bucketing my experiences into phases or stages. Personally, these stages often feel distinct and separate, even if they are separated by a few fleeting decisions that I made. In my photographic journey, there have been a few such stages.
The first phase was a complicated mix of denial, excitement, fear and hope. I started photography fully aware that I knew nothing about it and worried that I would make photos that others would not enjoy or that would reflect poorly on me as a person. I denied myself the freedom to fully explore my creativity while convincing myself I was doing it for my own good, to preserve a fragile ego. At the same time, I was discovering a world of possibilities that I could not have imagined when I first bought a camera and it swelled a sense of hope and excitement in me that I hadn't felt before. I wanted to learn and improve my photography, but the way I was approaching it was not letting me. I was taking a naive, nonchalant approach to something that I knew was deeply important. I write this all now, but had no idea that this was how I was really feeling back then.
The second phase, which I feel began during my cross country roadtrip, was one of humility, awe, acceptance and introspection. As I was experiencing and seeing more and more beauty in nature across the country, I was constantly inspired and in awe of nature, as well as humbled by it. I came to understand how awesome and significant it is to have a point of view - to be a conscious bag of skin navigating a beautifully complex internal and external universe. To have a means of expressing a sliver of that realization through photographs became a privilege and a necessity for me, and one that I could not look at with impiety. When I accepted these feelings, the "what," "how," and "why" of photography changed.
The third phase started after my road trip ended, and I'll cover that in the following images. This photo for me is representative of the two initial phases of my photography. They are distinct in form and color yet come from the same source and I was drawn to their contrast immediately. What will future epochs have in store?
Towards the end of 2021, I was in a limbo state. After living on the road for 8 months, it was hard to imagine settling back down anywhere. All I wanted to do was travel, be with nature and take photos. When I got back to California, I felt a sense of loss and of dissonance from a sudden change in lifestyle and access.
Thankfully, I had my camera to help me process all of this. I continued to photograph often, exploring only a small bit of the wonders that California has to offer. These places were mostly familiar, but I was seeing them in a brand new way. What I also noticed was a tendency to pour my emotions into photography, hoping to come to some conclusions through creativity and time in nature.
Photography, as well as personal and professional pressures, were enough to encourage me that I should adjust my perspective to the new situation I found myself in. Even though it wasn't ideal, I knew that if I settled back down in California I would have plenty of opportunity to continue practicing photography if only in a different way than I had been earlier in the year. It took me a while, but I eventually came to accept the disharmony in my mind between what I wanted to do and what was the right thing to do.
What I want this photo to convey is a feeling of peace amongst disharmony, of accepting that nothing is perfect and that moments may not always align as you want them to.
a personal mirage
I eventually settled back in San Francisco. I found a room in an apartment in the Presidio, a federally protected section of San Francisco right on the pacific ocean. Being able to step out of my door into groves of towering Monterey pines, hear the crashing of the waves from my bed, and breath in the salty air of the ocean daily was inspiring personally and photographically. I could sense a connection between myself and the remaining nature that exists in San Francisco and I wanted to absorb it and experience it fully.
After traveling to so many beautiful places and expending considerable emotional and physical energy doing it, it was revitalizing and inspiring to be surrounded by beautiful things that felt like home. I started photographing my local area and spending time exploring and getting to know the nature around me. Beauty in nature can be found everywhere and if you spend the time observing and being present in your home you can find it in abundance.
My eventual goal is share a gallery of photos of my home - with all photos taken within 1 mile of my apartment. It has been challenging and difficult so far but It has helped me see my home in a totally different way and appreciate all of the nature close to me.
This photo is from a beach north of San Francisco, out of the 1 mile range of the eventual gallery release, but symbolizing the period of adjustment and love that I developed for my home.
Superposition is a concept of quantum mechanics that allows a physical system (like a particle or wave) to be in two or more quantum states at the same time – until a measurement on the system puts it into a specific state. The usual analogy here is Shrodinger's cat. To quote Wikipedia, "In simple terms, Schrödinger stated that if you place a cat and something that could kill the cat in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box, so that until the box was opened, the cat was (in a sense) both 'dead and alive'. "
Now you might be thinking "what the hell does this have to do with photography?" It turns out, a lot, at least for me. This concept of something being in two different states at the same time helps explain how I felt for most of the first half of 2022.
After some trips in the early part of the year, I felt simultaneously proud of my photography and feeling as though I was creating photos that were uninspiring, uncreative and mundane. It was strange to hold both of these feelings together and to grapple with the implications. It's hard to justify feeling proud of something that you aren't satisfied with, but in many pursuits it seems to be inevitable. When I compared myself to a past self, I felt proud of my progress and could hardly believe how much my photography had changed; when I compared myself to other photographers that I admired, I felt inadequate and couldn't imagine a world where my images could be considered in the same breath.
What determined which way I felt was fickle and down to each moment, but I think both emotional states are useful for their own reasons. A creative outlet should be fun and you should enjoy your work, no matter how "good" it is. If you care about your work, however, you should also strive to improve how you feel about it. This turns out to be a never ending spiral of emotions, but if you accept the paradox you can at least come to terms with it. For me, thats what this photo represents.
in my finest hour
Once I (mostly) came to terms with the paradox of progress in photography, I felt much more confident and comfortable with my own work and like I was on my way to becoming a photographer. I was photographing constantly and going on trips almost every weekend, trying to take advantage of this new feeling of confidence.
It was around this time that I also began meeting other photographers virtually, and started to feel a sense of community. We all crave connections, and I'm no different. It was incredible to see how many like-minded individuals were pursuing the same goals and having meaningful conversations about photography (shoutout to the discord group).
Not only was I making photographs that I liked, but others seemed to like them too. It was strange but also uplifting to connect with photographers that I looked up to and whose images I consider works of art. It gave me hope that I was on the right track, that the hope I felt almost two years after buying my camera was leading to something meaningful. Let's be clear, I wasn't going viral. But even a small amount of validation felt good.
To quote my favorite band:
"I'm in my finest hour
Can I be more than just a fool?"
- the War on Drugs
One of my proudest moments of the past two years was being invited to speak on my favorite photography podcast, F-Stop, Collaborate and Listen. I had heard my favorite photographers be interviewed on the same show and it was unbelievable to think that I would have the same opportunity.
Having a platform to speak from is rare, so I cherished the chance to discuss concepts and feelings that I had been contemplating over the past two years. It felt like I was speaking to a group that would understand and connect with my experiences and ideas, which is something I don't have in my personal life outside of few close friends. It was cathartic to express myself and to have a space to do it without judgement. Even if I never make another photograph that I like, I can be proud of myself for this accomplishment.
to be seen
Here's a little haiku as a palette cleanser:
To be seen is rare
Waiting in darkness until
a moment of light
After being interviewed on F-Stop, Collaborate and Listen, I started to feel...empty. I had accomplished something that I had been aiming to do and reached a goal of mine. After the feeling of elation passed, I realized there wasn't much left over. Suddenly I had to examine my motivations and innermost feelings for photography. I had to asked myself "why am I doing all of this?"
Up to this point, I had believed that getting any sort of recognition or attention for my photography was something that may never happen. There are so many talented photographers today that it's not unreasonable to think you may be lost in the jumble of it all. I was content with that, because the alternative seemed ridiculous. But now that I had reached this point, my motivation of "being noticed" felt foolish and wrong. So once again, I had to really question my own motivations and the purpose of all of this.
I'm still coming up with the answer to those questions.
One of the main internal conflicts I had come to was the feeling of taking from nature. When I thought back to some of my experiences in nature with my camera, it dawned on me that I was not being fair to myself or to the landscapes I was seeing and photographing. I would greedily show up to a landscape and try to create as many photographs as possible. It felt as though I was not prioritizing the experience itself, even though I was telling myself that I was. In the end, the photographs I was making were the main takeaways from my time in nature.
If I want to call myself a landscape photographer, I need to prioritize nature first. I shouldn't go to nature to produce a photograph. I should go to nature to experience its wonder and awe, to remind myself of the triviality of my problems and regain perspective, to feel challenged and soothed by the physical and emotional experiences, to unclench my sense of self. It's hard to do these things if you are constantly scanning and hoping for a photograph to appear in your mind. If I cant do these things and practice photography, maybe I need to stop photographing all together.
To quote the great Guy Tal:
"Experience-first photographers go about life seeking elevated and personally meaningful experiences, prepared to make photographs when circumstances are conducive to visual expression but never feeling compelled to make photographs, nor feel disappointed when an otherwise rewarding experience did not yield any photographs."
stranger in a strange land
The feelings of disconnection to photography became more intense after a trip to Utah this summer. I rafted down a remote river in eastern Utah with a few friends, going 20 miles per day on the river and camping on the beaches along the way for 4 nights and 5 days. The muddy river snaked through dizzyingly beautiful canyons, along wise cottonwoods overlooking whitewater rapids, and past ancient human relics that recalled simpler times. The massive canyons were a haven of unparalleled beauty. It felt impossible to comprehend the multi thousand foot tall walls of rock, the pine tree forests that clung to life at the higher elevations and the uninterrupted series of events that could lead to the spectacle we were seeing. I took a few photographs, but mostly kept my camera safe and sound in a dry bag.
Each day on the river felt intensely consequential and important, as though nothing else outside of the moment existed or could invade the experience. Comparing this to the dull, mundane days of working a full time job is like comparing a god to a devil. But each day was also simple - we rowed and ate and enjoyed each others' company while surrounded by beautiful things. It was without a doubt one of the most meaningful and profound experiences I have had in nature. I wish I could describe it in a way that would fully convey the experience, but I may never be able to.
All of the beauty and wonder that I felt was contrasted by the feelings of loss and sadness that resulted from the trip. Once I got home, I couldn't help but feel shaken by the experience and by the realization that these kinds of experiences in nature are becoming less and less possible. True wilderness is rare, and becoming even more rare as humans plunder and pillage their own home. The nature that we do have left is delicate and precious. And here I was, back in my apartment contributing to its destruction merely by existing in our society.
Disgust and disdain are strong words, but that is what I felt towards myself and humanity. I longed to be out there all the time, not here surrounded by reminders of our failures as a species. And photography was not immune to this criticism. As the title of the image says, I felt a stranger in a strange land. I wanted to feel at home, in nature. Nothing else could be enough.
I'm happy to report I was able to move past those judgmental feelings of myself and of the world. It took a good, humbling backpacking trip to bring me to my senses.
I went on a solo backpacking trip to Sequoia for 4 days, and decided to bring my camera along to see if I could break out of this emotional rut I was in. The hike itself was challenging, probably the most difficult trip I have done, and I didn't pack particularly light given I was carrying all of my dumb photography gear. And for most of the trip I felt quite anxious, which isn't something I had felt out in nature much before. This combined to make the trip a brutal experience, but a beautiful one. I was brought back down to earth, humbled by my own limitations and the imposing and unrelenting landscapes I was trudging through. I would reach camp every day exhausted, each day bringing a different physical problem to deal with. My body and mind felt like they were falling apart, chipped away slowly by the trail and my own emotions.
The third night, I was completely alone and dealing with a multi-hour nose bleed from the dry climate when I began thinking of the comforts of home. I realized that it was ok to seek comfort at times and that it's unreasonable to expect myself to be out in nature all the time. The world I was born into it is not the world I would have chosen, but it is the reality I live in. Nature is dwindling, but what we have left should be appreciated and cared for as much as possible. To sulk and mourn the nature we have left is useless when they are there to be appreciated.
On the trip, I found myself photographing more. Being alone gave me motivation to show others the beauty of the places I was seeing, but also gave me time to process the feelings I had been stuck on by interacting with nature alone. It was therapeutic in many ways and photography was a vital part of it; photography wasn't taking away from the experience of being in nature, but enhancing it in beautiful ways. I was finding balance.
On the last day I descended a steep, trail-less mountain pass of rocks and sand. This was a part of the trail that I had been anxious about the whole trip. Once I got down the pass, I went straight to the nearest lake and cleansed my body. The cold, alpine water was rejuvenating. Sitting in solitude on a granite rock on the edge of the lake with the sun drying me off, I couldn't help but feel full of gratitude, life, excitement, hunger and love. The lake beckoned me to stay, but home was also calling.
As I go into a new phase of photography, I hope to remember these experiences and the lessons I learned from them. The next 3 images are paired with these lessons.
One of the reasons why I love photography is that it's fun. At the end of the day, I am using an expensive toy and fumbling around with it enough to make some photos. I'm not curing diseases or saving the world, and, at this point, I'm not trying to make money from photography. If I start to feel any pressure to perform or produce photographs, I will remind myself that this a privileged activity and that it's meant to be fun. First and foremost, have fun with it!
If you aren't having fun doing the thing you love, it's an opportunity to reassess why you do it in the first place and adjust accordingly. I've never felt that I wasn't having fun doing photography, but I have felt a self imposed pressure to produce something, anything while out in nature. In this phase of my photography journey, fun is a priority.
As I reflected on the past few years, I never once felt that I should stop photographing completely. I was having too much fun and having too many beautiful experiences to care about any of the consequences. But as I look forward, I can see challenges arriving that may make me question if photography is worthwhile. In those moments, I hope to come back to these words and remind myself of the value that photography has given me in such a short period of time. If I doubt that, I hope to push on through it and continue the journey with optimism. In the end, the journey is the greatest reward I could receive.
There may be some glorious finale, like how this little stream advances beyond the marsh and to the golden lake above. But there might not be. In either case, I will keep trying to grow, learn and experience through photography.
the sum of my parts
At times in the last few years, I was unable to look at things with an adequate level of perspective and would often take things personally when it came to my photography. Small things would discourage me and even smaller things would galvanize me. I couldn't see the whole picture and make out how all of the small moments and things I was experiencing were most important and useful as a collective summation of experiences. Of course, this is difficult to see in the moment.
An important lesson I hope to engrave in my brain is to remember to step back and try to see the value of experiences in the moment and as a part of a collection of moments that make up my life. Identifying with the current moment is a narrow way to live. And for photography, I hope that this translates into more thoughtful and curated work, as well as work that conveys something that I feel is important rather than blunt reactions to nature.
all there is for now
After 2 years of intense wonder, beauty and learning I feel confident and happy to call myself a photographer. It still feels like a delicate title and I hope to continue to produce work that makes me feel deserving of it.
Standing where I am now, it's still not always easy to see how I have ended up here. All of my life experiences have flowed and converged into this moment, without much direction from me. Naturally, we can't see whats ahead - all we can see is what lead us here. And life will continue to flow on like this until it flows no more. So, this is all there is for now.
If you read any of the words here or you looked at the photos, thank you for your attention and time. It means a lot that anyone would spend time here. Hope you enjoyed it!