No Excuses

One of the constants I see with creative people is this weird need to tear apart our own work.  Many of us focus on the “flaws”, thinking not about the finished piece, but the things we could have done better.  I often joke on my workshops you can always tell the photographer in the art gallery.  “Normal” people stand back from an image hanging on the wall, and say “My what a pretty (scene, bird, lighthouse, etc.).”  Photographers stand 2 inches way from their work, and say “Look, right there, look at that (Chromatic Aberration, Sharpening Halo, Dust Speck, etc.)”.  Although the critique process is hugely important, we sometimes spend so much time picking apart the pixels that we fail to perceive and appreciate the picture.

The worst in my house is “contest day”, you know the day all your procrastinating has led up to, the deadline to submit your images to that big photo contest you are sure you are going to win.  Until you actually start the selection process and begin to tear apart all those images you were so proud of.   Any of you out there relate?  I am so bad about this, it’s amazing the energy I can put into finding an excuse for every image about why it won’t win.

The thing is, I know I am a total hypocrite when it comes to this.  I  know that people like what I do, that I’ve had a lot of credits and awards over the years for my work.  I also would never accept this kind of thinking from a fellow photographer or one of my students.  And I would certainly never accept this kind of thinking from my son.

So speaking of which, this summer Adam attended the IEEE MTT International Microwave Symposium STEM Program… I had no idea what that was at first either.   The basic premise is to introduce middle and high school students to Microwave Electronics in terms of technology and possible careers.  He was one of about 75 kids in the Tampa Bay area selected to attend.  He had a great time, learning all kinds of stuff, from how radio waves work to getting to make a model of his own head with a 3D printer.  It’s amazing the opportunities out  there for kids, at his age I had no idea what engineering was much less even thinking about what I was going to do for a career.

We came for the wrap up and a quick walk through of the displays.  To be blunt, most of this was so far out of my area of expertise, it was almost in another language.  I’ve been to plenty of conferences over the years, for both photography and my careers BP (Before Photography).  But at those I at least spoke the language.  Here I was completely out of my element, it was really humbling to see these incredible minds and  the things they have produced.

The day wrapped up with a presentation by Kyle Maynard, a simply extraordinary man.  If you haven’t heard of him or his accomplishments, check out his website.  Born without arms and legs, the theme of his talk was “No Excuses”.

To paraphrase Kyle “Nothing was ever created out of an excuse.  Everything on this planet was created from imagination, passion, perception.”    This dude crawled to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro.  I am damn lucky to have all I do, and the luxury of having one of the coolest jobs on the planet.  Thanks Kyle for reminding me of that.   No more excuses.

great egret wingstretch


Through the Lens

This was shot at Myakka River state Park, one of my favorite places on the planet.  I saw this egret standing on the weir at sunset, starting to preen.  Under my breath I kept chanting “Raise that wing, raise that wing…” because in my mind’s eye I could see the shot, and the light coming through those primaries on the wing.  And then it happened.

This is why pre-visualization is so important to me, seeing the shot before you take it.  When working with wildlife, it is so important to know about them; what they might do, what their body language means, how they react to different situations and other creatures.  Because when you see the shot in your head, you are ready for it when the moment occurs.

Tech Specs: Shot on a Canon 5D MkIII, and a Canon 100-400mm lens @ 400mm.  1/250mm, f8, ISO800.  Aperture Priority  with -1 1/3 exposure compensation.  The exposure comp is a big key to this image, we want the camera to let in less light so that the dark water goes black and we showcase the rich light coming through that wing.

Sitting in the muck, with the lens braced on my knee for support, I have found I can make a pretty good tripod when necessary.

On the Headphones

Whiplash by Metallica

Old school thrash metal at it’s best.  Believe me, this and a big mug of coffee will get you moving in the morning.


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