2016: A Photographic Year in Review
Can you believe that 2016 has already come and gone? As the New Year approaches I decided to take some time to reflect on what 2016 has meant to me and just where I see myself heading in 2017. To say that 2016 was a big year for me would be an understatement. I got married, photographed a fairly large chunk of southern Utah, experienced shooting lava on the Big Island, spent a fair amount of time shooting locations around my home in Washington state and started working full-time for DPReview. I definitely have a lot to be grateful for this year and it’s going to be hard to top 2016, although I’m definitely going to give it a run for its money!
Photographically speaking this year was full of ups and downs. Between my career change and the wedding, I had a lot on my plate, which meant that I definitely had to make the most out of every photographic opportunity that presented itself this past year. This meant that I had to buckle down, focus and get creative. Additionally, if that wasn’t enough, I decided to try to reshape my personal image of what ‘popular’ photography is and what it means to me.
I spent a lot of time this year reflecting on just why we create photos, why we go through the hours of driving, shooting and processing the images that we share. This year, more than ever, I realized just how important it is to shoot for yourself and to really create images that offer not only personal satisfaction, but also a sense of place, a sense of being and a story. Photography shouldn’t be about epic light and who got the best conditions in any given year, it should be about personal progression and overcoming adversity.
As photographers, we often dwell so much on what’s popular on social media or if a photo will sell that we often lose track of why we got started in the first place. I spent a lot of time soul searching this year and really asking myself why I create the images that I do and just what I hope to accomplish with them. My images may not always be ‘what’s popular’ or ‘what’s main stream’, but that’s not my end goal; my goal is to create work that inspires myself and others to try something new and to look beyond the lens.
Looking Beyond the Lens
Looking beyond the lens is something that I think that we all need to do from time to time. Put down the camera and just take it all in. This became even more apparent when I was out on the lava field shooting the ocean entry where new land was being created right before my eyes. My family has a long history in Hawai’i; we immigrated to the islands in mid to late 1800’s. To say that seeing the lava entering the sea was a spiritual experience would be an understatement. My connection with Aina, the land, my ohana and the culture made me realize just how small we are in this world and to really respect the time that we have to take it all in. Photography has opened my eyes to a lot of things this year, but that was one particular thing that has persisted and will for the remainder of my life.
In order to develop my photographic vision this year and to look beyond the lens, I spent a lot of time behind my Canon 70-3oomm F4-5.6L IS telephoto lens. Minimizing scenes with long focal lengths really forces you to think outside of the box and to look beyond the lens in order to really break a grand scene down into its parts. Many of the grand scenes that we take in are only so because of the sum of their parts. Each portion of the scene can tell a story; it’s up to the photographer to decide how to decipher the story and how to present a portion of the scene that can stand on its own.
This can be extremely challenging and it definitely takes some time and a great deal of trial and error to come up with a methodology that works. This is something that I’m planning to do a lot more in 2017 as I’m looking to expand my reach to around 600mm to really capture some unique compositions.
As this year comes to a close I find that it’s a great time to not only reflect personally, but to also take in all of the work that your favorite photographers have published as well. Education in photography is a never-ending process. I find myself constantly yearning to learn new things all of the time. In the end your personal progress is only hindered by the creative walls that you put up. You have the ability to do whatever you set your mind to and in 2017 I plan to to push myself even harder in that respect. Have a very happy New Year, everyone! Best of luck to you in 2017!