Category Archives: Philosophy

Midway – a documentary everyone should see

All of us have impacts on the earth’s environment. Simply by living our everyday lives, we leave our footprint on the earth. Some footprints are bigger than others. And even if you want your footprint to be small and take actions to reduce it, it’s still there. But  smaller is better and that’s the key.

Salvin's Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Salvin’s Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Each one of us should strive to reduce our environmental footprint. In our household, we do things to try to reduce it.  I’m not happy with the footprint of my commute to work 3 days a week. But it’s better than 5 days a week. And I drive the most economical car I can afford. It’s one step away from a go-cart and with my commute, I can’t really go any smaller. I wish I could afford a hybrid. One day. But I hope I help to make up for my commute, at least in part, by the other things I do to try to lessen my impact on our environment. I’m not criticizing anyone for their environmental footprint. We all have one. I just hope we can all do things to reduce ours individually because if each of us does, collectively, it had a big effect, in a good way.

I think many people, perhaps all of us, to some greater or lesser degree, don’t realize the impacts we have on our planet because we don’t see them in our daily lives. I think this is why changing our behaviour and habits to reduce our impacts on the environment is often difficult. As humans, we are visual creatures and we need to see what our impacts are, in order to believe they exist.

This is why documentaries that actually show us the impacts of the way we live and the daily choices we make, on the earth’s environment is so fundamentally important. I recently wrote about Jim Balog’s documentary, Chasing Ice, that shows how the world’s glaciers are crumbling at alarming rates due to global climate change. Balog’s extreme dedication to the project was because he wanted to show the world that climate change is real.

There’s another documentary coming out this year that shows us the consequences of our actions (and inactions) –  the consequences of our modern lifestyles in developed nations. I’ve seen the trailer for this one and I think it’s a great example of showing us environmental impacts that we didn’t even think we had. You know, the out of sight, out of mind thing we humans are so good at.  Chris Jordan’s film, Midway, brings an important issue into focus.

His documentary is about Midway Island in the Pacific. Yes, the Midway Island, where a famous WW II battle took place. But Jordan’s film has little to do with Midway’s historical significance. Instead, here’s what his film is about:

“The Journey

Midway Atoll, one of the most remote islands on earth, is a kaleidoscope of geography, culture, human history, and natural wonder. It also serves as a lens into one of the most profound and symbolic environmental tragedies of our time: the deaths by starvation of thousands of albatrosses who mistake floating plastic trash for food.

The images are iconic. The horror, absolute. Our goal, however, is to look beyond the grief and the tragedy. It is here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that we have the opportunity to see our world in context. On Midway, we can not deny the impact we have on the planet. Yet at the same time, we are struck by beauty of the land and the soundscape of wildlife around us, and it is here that we can see the miracle that is life on this earth. So it is with the knowledge of our impact here that we must find a way forward.” (taken from Chris Jordan’s Midway website).


There’s a trailer for the film on Chris Jordan’s website. I strongly encourage you to watch it. Warning – it’ll probably leave a lump in your throat. But that’s a good thing. A lump in your throat can provide the motivation to change your behaviour, for all of us to change our behaviour, so that this awful situation is remedied.

SLB-0010_Salvin's Mollymawk

Salvin’s Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Photo taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

You don’t have to be an environmentalist, biologist, or nature-lover to understand the significance of this issue. It should affect us all, deeply enough that we change the situation. I’m not sure what the answer is. But I want to find out. I had read about the impacts of plastic and other materials on marine life. But seeing the Midway trailer really floored me. Actually, the word disgusting was what really came to mind.

Buller's Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Buller’s Mollymawk, a species of Albatross. Taken near Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Click on the thumbnail below to view the trailer on the Midway website.

Midway trailer

I don’t know when the film is scheduled for release. Sometime in 2013. When I find out, I’ll post it here as well as any links to where it will be showing. I want to see it. I hope you want to see it too.



Filed under Birds, conservation, Conservation & Environment, Digital Photography, Nature, nature photography, Opinion, Philosophy, photography, wildlife

The Value of Conservation Photography

I just read a fantastic article by photographer, Jaymi Heimbuch, about the value of conservation photography. The motivation for the article seems to be a response to a tweet the author received stating that, “… the photographers probably have a massive carbon footprint and so are destroying the planet as they try to photograph it.” The photographers referred to here collectively, in the quote above, are conservation photographers.

So the complaint by this tweeter is that, in our efforts to bring issues such as habitat destruction and species extinction to the world’s attention through our inspiring photographs and visual storytelling, we as conservation photographers are ruining the planet. In other words, the end (conservation) does not justify the means (conservation photography). Heimbuch does a great job of countering that argument, showing that the end does justify the means and that in fact, compared to a lot of other kinds of photography, the environmental foot print of conservation photographers is probably less than that of others. I love that Heimbuch points out that a certain magazine sent models, photographers and all the support crew down to the antarctic simply to shoot models in bathing suits next to penguins. And what was that the tweeter was saying about the carbon footprint of photographs and ultimately, the end not justifying the means?

Have a read of Heimbuch’s article. I think she does a good job of putting the necessary perspective on the environmental foot print of conservation photographers and more importantly, highlighting the value of conservation photography.

Treehugger_conserv photo_article

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Filed under conservation, Conservation & Environment, Nature, nature photography, Opinion, Philosophy, photography, Wildlife Photography

A Must See! James Balog’s, Chasing Ice documentary

Yesterday, I went with a friend to see James Balog’s famed documentary, Chasing Ice. It had already shown in Ottawa, but unfortunately I’d missed it. But thankfully it came back for a second showing and I made sure to see it. I just wish I’d had the time to get a bunch of people together to see it. As a scientist myself, it’s the kind of documentary I wish EVERYONE would see. The message in that documentary is stark and I think any climate change doubter would be hard-pressed to refute the visual evidence presented in Chasing Ice.

Click on the image above to visit the Chasing Ice website to see when the film is playing near you.

Click on the image above to visit the Chasing Ice website to see when the film is playing near you.

I know climate change is a very controversial topic – still. The acerbic debates over the existence of climate change seem to have died down. The number of scientist speaking out against the data, saying that climate change is bunk, has dwindled from a vocal minority to nearly none. I think the debate has shifted away from whether climate change is real to a focus on the causes of climate change. Those are two distinct questions.

Franz Josef glacier in south island New Zealand

Franz Josef glacier in south island New Zealand

Is climate change real? I don’t think it’s possible to refute this anymore, at least not with a cogent and reasonable argument. Enough data have been amassed to show the patterns. The problem is that the average person doesn’t relate to data. If science doesn’t get packaged into a form that is understandable and digestible by the general public, then (in my view) some of the value of that science is lost. As scientists, it is our job to ensure that the public can understand the results of our research and the implications for their lives.

Glacier ice and rubble - the soil, rocks and material that get dragged along at the glacier moves.

Glacier ice and rubble – the soil, rocks and material that get dragged along at the glacier moves.

I think James Balog’s idea of letting glaciers tell the story of climate change, through still images and videos is absolutely brilliant. Most people can’t relate to statistics on changes in carbon dioxide concentrations over time. Parts per million by volume means virtually nothing to the average person. But watching a chunk of glacier bigger than Manhattan break off and roll into the ocean is something we can all relate to. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words still rings true.

Have a look at this trailer to Chasing Ice. See the largest glacier calving ever recorded….

Click on the image above to see the video of the largest glacier calving event ever recorded.

Click on the image above to see the video of the largest glacier calving event ever recorded.

I hear people say that they either believe or do not believe in climate change and global warming. Climate change is not about belief. It is about science. It is about data that show that it exists. Religion is about beliefs. Science is not. Science is about understanding what the data tell us – is our global climate changing. I just can’t see how people can answer no to that question anymore. I’m middle aged – old enough to look back on the climate in the city I grew up in – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – and tell you that the climate here now is different then it was 40-some years ago. Yes, the changes have happened within my lifetime.

Vibrant blue of glacier ice at Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand

Vibrant blue of glacier ice at Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand

I think the bigger debate now is about the causes of climate change. Data have shown that the earth naturally goes through periods of climate change. Temperature and carbon dioxide concentration are highly positively correlated – in other words, they are tightly linked. As one goes up, so does the other. As one goes down, so does the other.

But the tools of science have allowed for the sampling of the earth’s atmosphere through the study of ice cores. An ice core is much like a tree ring. It captures changes over time. Where the width of a tree ring can tell us about the growing conditions during a given year, sampling the air bubbles trapped in an ice core can tell us about the nature of the earth’s atmosphere hundreds of thousands of years ago. But what the data show, is that since the Industrial Revolution, global carbon dioxide concentrations have spiked. Over the past 400,ooo years of the earth’s history, carbon dioxide concentrations have repeatedly been as high as 275 parts per million by volume (ppmv). But data show that the earth is currently far above that concentration and is on track to reach 400 ppmv, nearly double that of the natural cycles in the earth’s history. And when did this spike in carbon dioxide concentrations begin? It coincides with the Industrial Revolution.

Click on the thumbnail below to read about the data…

Chasing Ice data page

There are people who will argue that a correlation between the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the onset of rapid changes in carbon dioxide concentrations on earth are just that – correlations – and that one cannot attribute cause and effect through correlation. This is true. Correlation does not reveal definitive causation. This is why science relies on multiple lines of evidence – it’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together. In my view, we have enough pieces of the puzzle to tell us that global climate change is occurring and that humans have played a role in it.

Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand

Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand

Even for those who don’t accept the data – wouldn’t it be prudent to take actions to do what we can now, to curb carbon dioxide increases while we can? Does it make sense to wait until it’s too late to do something and then say, “oops, we were wrong, humans have played a significant role in changing the earth’s climate”?

If your carbon monoxide detector in your house started sounding you could hypothesize that it is sounding because of a fault in the device or that it is sounding because carbon monoxide levels in your house have reached a dangerous level. In that situation, would you not get family out of the house immediately – assume carbon dioxide is at dangerous levels that can kill quickly – get them to safety, rather than assume that the detector is malfunctioning and that it is giving you a false positive? The consequences to you and your family are too dire to assume the alarm is a false alarm. Carbon monoxide is odourless, tasteless and colourless – you can’t smell, taste or see it. So in those ways, it isn’t tangible. But it’s effects are – it can kill quickly.

How is global change any different from the analogy of your home carbon monoxide detector? Isn’t it prudent to act now and not assume that this is a false alarm? The difference between global climate change and the carbon monoxide example above is scale – temporal scale as we call it in science. In layman’s terms  – time. We can relate to the immediacy of the carbon monoxide situation. But for changes in global climate that occur over decades and the geographic scale of the entire globe, humans have difficulty relating to this scale – to changes over decades and over the entire globe. We relate far more easily to the scale of minutes and so our own surroundings; it’s just part of being human. But as humans, we also have the unique ability of foresight…

Now is the time to think of the consequences of our inaction. You may or may not experience catastrophic consequences of global climate change, depending on how old you are now and where you live.  But what kind of world do you want to leave for your kids, your grandkids, and great-grandkids? I think that is something we can all relate to – how our actions as a society will alter life for our kids and grandkids.

The consequences of being wrong about the causes of global climate change are too great not to do anything about it. I think the only ethical choice is to accept that human are having a very significant impact on global climate and to do something about it before we are past the point of doing anything except leaving our kids one hell of an environmental mess to mop up, courtesy of our current, short-sighted behaviour. I’m not saying it’s easy.  If it were easy, we’d already be well on our way to solving the problem. I think the key now is to identify ways that society can change its behaviour to reduce human impacts on the global environment. But change starts one person at a time….


Not everyone will agree on the causes of global climate change. But  see Chasing Ice. A picture really is worth a thousand words.


Filed under Abstracts, conservation, Conservation & Environment, Digital Photography, Landscape, Life's short...., Nature, nature photography, Opinion, Philosophy, photography

Perils aside… let’s talk about passion

My last blog post, a few days ago, was about the perils of following your passion, whatever that may be. In the photography world, many of us would quit our ‘day jobs’ in a heartbeat, to become a full-time photographer. That doesn’t necessarily mean you hate your day job. It just means that you have a greater calling. It just means that there is something you are really, really passionate about and that you wish you could spend all your waking moments doing it.

Like I said before, for me, photography (and the things associated with my photography such as writing, conservation, environmental preservation, and connecting with people) is oxygen. Sure, I find it hard that I can only ‘breathe’ part time. 🙂 But let me tell you, it’s better than not breathing at all!

"You conceive your world in your mind and then create it with your hands" - Chris Widener

“You conceive your world in your mind and then create it with your hands” – Chris Widener

To reiterate what I said in my last blog post, read Malcolm Munro’s article on the perils of following your passion. Then dial that message back one or two turns. I wholeheartedly agree with Malcolm. You NEED to be a realist. But at the same time, don’t give up on your passion. And don’t become disillusioned. Just be realistic about what you can do given your current circumstances.

The key is: find a way to make it work. Might not be the way you first envisioned it. But this is life. We don’t always get what we want, when we want, in the way that we want. So, instead, tweak your expectations. Trim your sail. Refine your course. You WILL get there. It’s just that the path you take may very well be different from what you first envisioned. But that’s ok. It doesn’t make you any less successful at achieving your dreams.

"Dreams express what your soul is telling you, so as crazy as your dream might seem - even to you - I don't care: You have to let that out" - Eleni Gabre-Madhin

“Dreams express what your soul is telling you, so as crazy as your dream might seem – even to you – I don’t care: You have to let that out” – Eleni Gabre-Madhin

Oh, and one more thought…. don’t give a rats fuzzy bottom what anybody else thinks about your passion for photography (or whatever else it may be that you want to do – as long as it’s legal and ethical). You’re following your passion for YOU. Not for them. For you. In doing so, however, just ensure that you meet your responsibilities to yourself and your family. You know, the important stuff like mortgages, food, vehicles, utilities. It’s hard to process images in Photoshop when your electricity has been turned off due to non-payment.

I’m only a part-timer, but I feel like I’ve been around long enough to be developing a pretty healthy view of what the photography world is really like and that, typically, it takes a massive boatload of hard work and long hours to make a living as a photographer, especially in the field of nature or wildlife photography. But don’t let that stop you. Be persistent. Be positive. Be determined.

Here are a few more great quotes – fodder to fuel your drive to fulfill your passion…

"The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't fine them, make them." - George Bernard Shaw

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” – George Bernard Shaw

"The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that's bigger than they are - that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth." - Richard Leider

“The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are – that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” – Richard Leider

"For the first couple of years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. If you are just starting out or are still in this phase, you gotta know that it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.... It's only be going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions." - Ira Glass

“For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. If you are just starting out or are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work…. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.” – Ira Glass

"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can." - Neil Gaiman

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” – Neil Gaiman

"Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." - Steve Jobs

“Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it." - Kurt Vonnegut

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” – Kurt Vonnegut


Filed under Abstracts, conservation, Conservation & Environment, Creative Photography, Digital Photography, Dreams, learning, lessons learned, Life's short...., Nature, nature photography, Opinion, Philosophy, photography, Reflections, small business, Vision

The Perils of Your Passion….

A few days ago I read a really interesting article called, “The Peril of Following Your Passion”, by Malcolm Munro. In a nutshell, the article was about the perils of following your dream to become a professional photographer (or any other career path, for that matter). It’s about that ‘leap of faith’ moment, when you decide to quit your day job to pursue your photography passion, full-time.


There’s been lots written over the past year or two about following your photography dream. In particular, David duChemin has written a lot about it. His takehome message is that life is short, so follow your passion. Be willing to take risks. Make it happen now.

I don’t disagree with David’s advice. Life is short. Sadly, there are events in life that remind us starkly of this reality. Do you want to go to your grave having a long list of unfulfilled dreams? Me neither….

However, I think that when we decide to make that career shift, to follow our passion, our dream, to break the chains of that job that is so deeply unsatisfying, well, we just need to be smart about how we do it. I think some of Malcolm’s message is maybe a bit harsh. The image that says, ‘don’t follow your heart’…well, I disagree. I’d tweak that statement and say, be smart about following your heart.


I’m an optimist, but also a realist. However, I’m not a pessimist. I do believe that in the grand scheme of life, we should ultimately follow our hearts. But I think we need the foresight and wisdom to follow in a sustainable way. Would I love to quit my day job to become a full-time wildlife and conservation photographer? You bet! In a heartbeat. That’s nothing against my job or my employer. It’s just that for me, photography is oxygen. I need it. It’s part of who I am. I can’t survive without it. But I also can’t afford to quit my day job to do it full time.  So instead, I’m trying to be smart about feeding my passion. I do it part time. I do it in my ‘spare’ time. Is it easy? Nope. Is it challenging? Yup. Does it sometimes cause unhappiness in my family? Yup. It’s hard to balance your own needs with those of your spouse and/or your kids. But bottom line is that you need to feed yourself and your family. You can’t default on your mortgage payments.


So, my opinion about following your passion is by all means, do it! If you don’t, you may regret it. Just find a way to do it that won’t lead you to future of grief. You have a responsibility to yourself and to your family (if you have a spouse and/or kids). But with the internet, there are a ton of ways you can get your photographs ‘out there’. Is it easy? Nope. Does it require a LOT of work? Yup. But that doesn’t mean you don’t do it. You just work your butt off to pursue the things that make you tick. You find a way to make it work. You might not have the fanciest most high tech dSLR. You might not have all the lenses you want. Just find a way to make it work for you. Build your equipment up slowly. Buy good used equipment. That’s what I did initially.There are a number of ways to be smart, creative, and successfully follow your dream. You just might find that you aren’t following that dream the way you thought you would. But that doesn’t make it less wonderful than your grand plan. It just makes it feasible and realistic.

I encourage you to read Malcolm’s article, especially if you’re just starting out in photography or if you’re young and trying to work out your career path. Whatever you do, don’t give up on your passion. Just be smart about how you pursue it. Be a realist. Read Malcolm’s article.

And then draft your plan to pursue your passion…

Shoot for the moon!

Shoot for the moon!


Filed under Digital Photography, Dreams, learning, lessons learned, Life's short...., nature photography, Opinion, Philosophy, photography, Rant, small business, tecnhology, Vision

Happy Canada Day!

Today was Canada’s birthday. She’s 145 now! Young by European and Asian standards. But old enough to have developed its own personality.

Happy Canada Day!

There are a pile of different ways that people celebrate Canada Day. What’s nice to see is that no matter how big the city or how small the town, everyone celebrates. For some it might involve a festival. For Ottawa, my hometown, it often involves making the trek to Parliament Hill to put a blanket down on the lawn in front of the Peace Tower and having a party with tens of thousands of your closest friends. 🙂 It really is a fun time. I haven’t done it for a while and I’d like to do it again. The festive feeling on The Hill is contagious. You can’t help but enjoy yourself. And after a fun day of music and other festivities, the icing on the cake is a wonderful fireworks display.

For me, if I’m not on The Hill, then I like to be outdoors. What better way to celebrate the existence of our beautiful country than to get out into it. That can involve hiking, paddling, cycling… anything where I get outdoors and get to enjoy and appreciate the stunning scenery we have all around us. Today we went paddling. Hauled out the kayaks and headed to a nearby creek that opens up into Christie Lake, the lake across the road from where we live. We hadn’t had the kayaks out in nearly 2 years. It was nice to dust them off. And what better way to enjoy our nation’s anniversary, than to paddle one of its thousands of lakes.

Paddling on Christie Lake, near Westport, Ontario.

Spending the day outdoors reminds me of the beauty of our country. And it gives me some quiet time to reflect on our country and to appreciate it. We are very, very lucky here in Canada to have a very high standard of living. We have a lot to be thankful for. Like any country, we have  some rough edges. But perfection isn’t the goal. The goal is to develop a nation where nobody goes without, where everyone gets to see a doctor when they are sick (or even when they are not. We can afford preventative medicine). Where if you’re willing to work hard, you can make a good living. Sure, there are circumstances that mean some people don’t enjoy the things that many of us have. But our society strives to minimize the number of people who go without.

I love Canadian Shield country.

I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a lot. I’ve seen a decent chunk of the world. And I’ve been an immigrant to two different countries – the United States and New Zealand. I’ve traveled to countries that don’t have the standard of living we are used to here. I’ve spent 4 of the 7 years I lived in the U.S. unable to afford health care. I know what it’s like to not have money to visit the doctor and so instead, you spend your Sunday afternoon mending your newly broken finger. Smearing antibiotic cream on the open wound and then sucking on popsicles so that I’d have two popsicle sticks to splint my broken finger. And then swallow a pile of ibuprofen in the hopes of dulling the pain. And I was lucky! It was only a broken finger. It could have been way worse. So when I hear fellow Canadians complain about our health care system, I get a bit angry. Is it perfect? No. Is anything perfect? No. Is there room for improvement? Yes. But let’s focus on what we do have and not on what we don’t. Yes, we should always strive to find innovative ways to improve the system. Health Care is distinctly Canadian. It’s part of our national identity. Let’s work to fix it instead of complaining about it. And if you really want an eye opener, go to some very poor countries where access to clean drinking water is not a given. It will leave you with some very sobering things to think about.

Lots of beautiful things to see along the way.

So, on Canada Day, I hope you spend the day having fun and celebrating all the good things about our country.  Reflect on what we do have and be thankful for it.

I was shocked to find Zebra Mussels in the lake. A good reminder to treat the environment with care and to minimize our impacts.

Our Canada Day feast: cedar plank grilled Atlantic salmon with dill, steamed asparagus, sauteed mushrooms in tarragon butter, boiled new potatoes with chive and green onion butter, cucumber with balsamic vinegrette, and a green salad. Oh, and bacon-wrapped sea scallops for an appetizer. And of course… a good Canadian BEER! Thankful for today’s feast and still digesting…. 🙂

To my Canadian readers, I hope you’ve had a fun-filled Canada Day, regardless of where in the world you live. It seems that no matter where Canadians live, they always celebrate Canada Day, in some way. Let the fireworks begin! 🙂

And to my readers in the United States, Happy Independence Day on Wednesday.

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Filed under Landscape, Nature, Opinion, Philosophy

Magical Moments

When we’re going through the learning process in photography – learning the rule of thirds, how to create balanced composition, why we shouldn’t put our main subject dead-centre in our image and similar ‘rules’ – one of the things we’re taught is to be very critical, if not ruthless, in our image editing and not let our emotional connection to the scene or that moment we pressed the shutter release, get in the way of that editing.

There’s an element of truth to this advice. Sometimes an image is not as wonderful as we think it is. Rather, because of our emotional attachment to the moment we made the image, we think the image is better than it is. Perhaps technical aspects of the image such as the exposure or focus weren’t bang-on, but we overlook those because of our emotional attachment. In extreme cases, I really do think we need to be critical of the those technical aspects. If the image in not in focus (unless that was an intentional effect) or the exposure is poor (again, unless you intentionally deviated from the norm for a creative effect), then you probably should hit the delete button.

Ultimately, you need to make images for YOU. Let your passion and enthusiasm reign and the rest will follow.

But I get annoyed when I hear this idea that as the photographer, we’re supposed to suppress our emotional connection to an image we made. Putting aside your emotional connection sounds utterly ridiculous and contradictory to me. As photographers and artists, what motivates us to press that shutter button is emotion. When we compose that image in the viewfinder, we are doing it so that we can communicate something to our viewers. We are trying to send a message – for example, sharing the awe we felt when we looked out into the expansive landscape before us. Our entire motivation for making the image was emotion. Something made us think, “Wow”, I want to photograph that! And the whole point of photography is to share this with our viewers.

Unless we are passionate about what we photograph, we’ll produce nothing but uninspiring images. So, ride that emotional wave! Let it get your creative juices flowing. Let it ‘get you in the groove’ during your shoot. Don’t let the emotion cause you to forget those basic technical aspects that you need to execute. But beyond that, enjoy the moment. And when you get home and look at your images, enjoy that emotional connection all over again. If that image tickles your brain, but doesn’t quite ‘do it’ for others, so what? You made the image for you. What you hope is that the wave of emotion you felt, that drew you to the scene or object in the first place, gets communicated to your viewers. To me, that’s what defines a great image – that someone else looks at the image and thinks, “Wow!”. That means they felt the connection. But if they didn’t say, “Wow”, don’t sweat it. Just enjoy it. If every time you look at that image, it congers up that warm, fuzzy feeling you had when you made it, enjoy it! Print it and put it on your wall. 🙂

Get the basic technical aspects right, but be creative. Make the images that you enjoy. I guarantee that if you make images you like, others will enjoy them too. If you shoot only to please others, your images will show your lack of passion.

My point here is that yes, there are basic things we need to do to make ‘good’ images. But I think beyond that, as artists, it’s up to us to make the images we want to make. Sometimes this idea of ‘severing’ the emotional connection to our images, during the editing phase, gets carried too far. Frankly, if no one else thinks it’s a “Wow” photo, who cares? Unless the image you made is for a specific client who is paying for a specific end result, you should be making that it for you. Enjoy it. Savour it. Relive the moment you pressed the shutter. And if you do, more often than not, your joy of image making will be communicated in your images.

A few days ago I took a day of work to have a Zen Day. Life had gotten a bit too crazy for me – stress in too many different areas of my life. Time for a day to stop thinking about all those sources of stress and just get out and enjoy a nice day by myself. For me, that means packing my camera gear in my car and letting the roads take me where they will. I did have one mission in mind – to photograph loons on a nearby lake. We’d been at the boat launch of this lake a few weeks previously and were amazed by a pair of loons that sat about 20 feet away from us. We quickly learned that their lack of concern of humans was due to the fact that the small dam they floated in front of was part of a fish hatchery! Fast food for loons, I guess. To me, this observation meant a superb opportunity to get some frame-filling shots of loons. So part of my mission that day was to head back to this lake. But I also realized that the chances the loons would be there when I arrived were slim. And if they weren’t there, I was ok with that. I’d go back again another day.

So off I went on my adventure. About half way to the lake, I came across a boggy field at the side of the road. It was 6am and a cool start to the morning, which meant everything was covered with dew. This meadow was spectacular. The sun was low in the morning sky, but high enough to back-light the tamarack trees, sedges and other plants in the meadow. And the meadow was filled with spider webs strung neatly between the blades of sedges and the branches of trees. With the dew and the sun to backlight the scene, it seemed as though the spider webs were floating, that they were unattached to anything. They sparkled in the early morning sunlight. When I saw this scene, I knew I had to stop and photograph it. There’s no way I could have driven past it. When I got out of the car, I spent a few minutes just looking around. I like to get an idea of what’s there and what might make a good photo. I like to take the time to visualize what images I might make. At the same time, I was aware that the light was changing quickly and so I needed to get shooting fast. I shot entirely with my 600mm lens. I often use it for landscapes and still life shots.

Dew-covered sedge, tamaracks in a boggy meadow. The spider webs appeared to float in the air, unconnected and untethered to anything. The backlighting of the morning sun made this scene magical.

I focused in on some tamarack trees with a large spider web strung between the branches. The dew-covered needle-like leaves of the tree glistened in the morning sunlight. It was magical! The more time I spent shooting, the more magical the entire moment became. It was like I was transported to some other world – one of many hues of green, plants covered in dew and sparkling in the sunshine. Magical is the only word that comes to mind.

Make the images that tickle your brain. Shoot for you.

I thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of that shoot. I ended up not making as many images as I thought I would. But I was taking my time to pick out bits and pieces of the scene and just simply enjoy the moment.

Backlighting from the morning sun accentuated each cluster of needle-like leaves of this tamarack tree.

When I look at these images, I love them. I acknowledge that theyare not spectacular, that many people might look at them and say, “Enh….” or “those are nice…”. No “Wow!” evoked. Or maybe some of you will look at some of these images and think, “Wow!”. Regardless, they still hold the “Wow!” for me and that’s the most important thing. I made those images because I wanted to share with others the magic of that glistening, dewy scene. To be honest, I think the photos just don’t do it justice. You really had to be there. But I’m ok with that. I have an intense emotional connection with these images. I probably think they are better than they really are. But does that matter? I wasn’t shooting for a paying client. I was shooting for me. And so in the end, whether others think they are “Wow!” or not is irrelevant. I do hope that you enjoy them. But I also understand that they are unlikely to evoke the same emotions I felt at the time I pressed the shutter. And that’s ok. I had a ton of fun making them. For me, those moments get the endorphins rushing. It would take kilos of Swiss chocolate to generate the same endorphin rush. 😉

Dew-covered spider webs hung delicately between the branches.

I accomplished exactly what I set out to do – enjoy a Zen day, without thoughts of stress. I enjoyed the landscape, the outdoors and the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Oh.. and in the end, I didn’t get the loon images. I went back three times, but they weren’t there. But that’s ok. I was happy with the what I came home with.


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