What will you do to get that photo? Do you get so obsessed with your subject that everything else around you becomes a blur? If that one moment, that one place, that one angle is so important to you, how much of a risk will you take to make sure you have the image you want?
When I started taking pictures with my Kodak Instamatic camera at the age of 14, my biggest risk was getting clobbered by my siblings for taking unwanted pictures of them. I caught them in the morning waking up, sneaking chocolates from my mum's super-secret chocolate supply (it was never really a secret), my sister with clown make-up on (hmm, I did get smacked for that one), my brother in the loo, my mum and dad kissing (and that was often), and so much more. I wish I could share some of those images with you, but they are in storage back in the states. My brothers and sister just sighed, happy and relieved they won't have to hire that lawyer after all.
When I got my first "real" camera, however, a Nikon 35mm, everything changed. First of all, I had to learn how to use it! Remember film? Wow, it was expensive developing your images back then, especially if you took as many photos as I did! But the thrill of anticipation, licking your lips and slowly opening the envelope to see your creation in the flesh, never got old for me! It was also the reason I worked so hard to learn how to take better pictures. There was nothing more frustrating than clicking away, thinking I got a 'WOW', but instead thought, 'oh' when I saw pictures that were under-exposed or ill-taken.
You might say disappointment, and wanting less of it, made me obsessive about learning more about my camera and photography. I wanted to do more than just 'take a good picture', however, I wanted to make a memory. I wanted that picture as an anchor, forever holding in place that moment in my life. How do you do it? There are lots of ways to make sure you get the picture you want, but for me, it began with taking some risks.
If you want to take better pictures, you need to take the risk that you might look foolish to others. I photographed an intimate concert at a small venue many years ago. All I owned at the time was a 50mm lens. There were other photographers there with their "big rigs" photographing right beside me. One glance and a smirk at my little lens, and I flaked. The result? Pictures that I would rather forget. It is the photographer, not the equipment, that determines the outcome of the picture.
Another risk is humbly and thoughtfully receiving criticism. Nothing has helped my photography improve more than putting in the time to learn the art, and considering the constructive criticism of my work by other, more seasoned photographers.
What are some "real life" risks I took? I cannot share them all here, but one favourite family tale involves me walking with a cane whilst I was still recovering from an accident and standing on a highway about 5 feet from an elk in mating season in gorgeous Estes Park, Colorado. The outcome was, of course, that I survived, and I got the picture!
That was probably an extreme example, and whilst my family loves to tease me about it, I am not saying go out and do something crazy that might get you injured. What I am really trying to say here is simple. Do your homework, get lost in your story, become part of the moment, and anchor it in time.
I do have one last tiny bit of advice. Bring along a trusted friend to watch your back, understanding they will probably Instagram photos of you in all kinds of ridiculous positions while they do it. All silliness aside…when they tell you to duck, run, or stop…DO IT!
Photo by Julie Bodin, lovely wife of Neal Bodin...cousin of the crazy redhead!