Always More to Learn
Jan 22, 2017
This photo was taken a long time ago, about 13 1/2 years ago actually. Even though I've been back to this spot in Arches National Park a couple of times since I took this photo, this is probably still the best I've come away with from here. It's not necessarily one of my favorite photos of all time, but it's good enough that I'm willing to share it. It also serves as a good example of how much I knew when I took it, but also a reminder of how far I've come since then.
If you're going to be good at the art that is photography, one thing you cannot be is stagnant. If you're not pushing yourself, trying new things, learning new things, then you're not getting better. It can be a constructive thing from time to time to look back at your older work that you haven't looked at or shared in awhile, to look at what you did well then and remind yourself how far you've come. We always want to share our latest & greatest, and there's value in that too, but you want to make sure that you're still growing and adding to the lessons you've learned before. I took the photo above in the summer of 2003, and it was in the years immediately following that that I really started to take some steps to better my skills, challenge myself, and move forward as a photographer. In 2004, I began taking a photography course from the New York Institute of Photography. This challenged me not only to improve my techniques, but also to work in subject matter that I hadn't done before, thereby making me a more well rounded artist. Another big step for me came in 2005. That summer I purchased my first digital camera, a Nikon D2X. It was not only my first digital camera, but my first professional grade camera. The learning curve was steep, the quality of the images it produced showed more flaws in my technique, and learning how to produce the best images with such a powertul tool taught me a lot. In the years since, I've continued to learn and grow. Another dramatic change came in 2013, when my family & I moved from Chattanooga, TN to the Front Range of Colorado. The environments were very different, and the challenges in making good images are very different as well. I've had to find a whole new list of favorite spots, and I'm still adding to it all the time. Challenges like these only make you better though, and more well rounded as an artist. The more adaptable you are, especially as a nature photographer, the more successful you will be.
So how does this picture fit in to all of this? At the time I took this photo, I already thought I was good at what I was doing, but looking back now I see I had so much more to learn. At the same time though, I was on the right path even then. I like the way the early morning light comes through the arch. The exposure is bright enough to open the shadows up with that warm reflected light, yet still barely holds the highlights on the side of the arch. You get a peak of the landscape beyond through the arch's opening, but the focus is still on what's right in front of you. Since the name of this arch is Pine Tree Arch, some little pine trees of the desert are included as well. Yet, if you look closely you can see the grain from the consumer grade film (yes film!) I was using at the time, before I chose to use more professional materials. All part of the learning process, which is ever ongoing.