WC: The Quest for the Edge

When I was a more casual photographer, I shot whatever caught my eye.  This mostly consisted of random moments, people, cats, and daily oddities.  My pictures generally didn’t look like others’, mostly because I was shooting things they missed.  I found an appreciation for scenic and landscape shots, but they too were mostly spontaneous – whatever I saw as I came across them.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Then I observed what others were doing and learned what made a pleasing photograph.  I hung around other landscape photographers, and I began to see what they saw.  My images improved.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

But in the process, I feel I’ve been losing some of my originality.  As my photography looks “better” according to the general consensus, it begins to fit a mold of acceptance.  Sure, that vista may be perfectly proportioned, but it no longer holds that unique quality I once had.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Like an edgy alternative band that turns pop, I don’t want to go down the path of conformity.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I believe those who don’t know the “rules” have a lot more freedom to their art.  That usually comes at the cost of popularity, so it’s difficult to resist the temptation.  After all, what’s the point in being different if no one sees you doing so?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

As my photography matures (yes, I am still learning), I constantly have this in the back of my mind.  My daily challenge is to strike a healthy balance between appealing and original – beautiful and unusual.  As I’ve said before, I don’t want to belong to a generic cast.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

While I enjoy group photo shoots, all too often, I witness the inevitable line of tripods in *the* spot – a dozen photographers all taking exactly the same pictures.  Ok, yeah, that’s the position that will endow your camera with the magic that allows you to see unicorns and other dimensions… but everyone else will get that, too.  Just like every other photographer before you has gotten that.  And they’ve already posted it to social media.  With a more colorful sunset.  With more epic clouds.  With an actual unicorn in the frame.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

There’s no denying it’s a beautiful shot, and you’ll probably garner a lot of likes on Instagram.  But personally, I strive to deliberately not emulate others.  I want to blaze my own path and present the world with something different.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The real holy grail for me is to discover a style that is both amazing to look at and incredibly different.  I don’t feel I’m quite there yet, which is why I’ll continue to experiment until I find it.  And until then, I’ll probably still chase those other dimensions like everyone else, but I’ll still critically think about how I can make my mine look at least a little different from everyone else’s.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

And just remember – if you’re new to the art, you have something the pros lack.  Hold on to the individual experiences that have brought you to this point.  Go ahead and learn those rules, but make sure your creativity remains an active player.  Someday, perhaps you’ll find others emulating you.


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WC: A Year in the Life of a Photographer

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a little crazy.  I do so. much.  You know me as a photographer.  But I’m also a musician, writer, software developer, anime enthusiast, and cat lover.  I love getting outside – bike riding, skiing, camping, hiking, and now backpacking.  I travel and read.  And I don’t know how to say no to an opportunity.

I experience life largely through my camera.  I get a thrill from capturing a compelling image, and I love looking back at the memories forever preserved in pixels.  There was a time when I got more enjoyment out of simply taking a photo than I ever did reviewing it, editing it, and sharing it.  This is probably why I have a swath of old photos I’ve hardly glanced at.  Blogging broke me of that; I’m constantly drawing from my recent adventures to share stories with you.  And now we use these photos in our Christmas cards each year – a review of our wild lives.

When I want to remember something about a trip we took, a concert we attended, or a cosplay I donned, my first instinct is to open Lightroom and review my photos (conveniently organized by date and event).  And I’m always amazed at how many things we’ve actually done… in a single year.

Here’s a small sampling of my life thus far this year (and we’re only halfway through) – a collage of craziness.

I took only one photo from each event, and this still can’t express everything we’ve done this year.  And can you believe there’s more I want to squeeze in but simply can’t?  (Yes, I surprisingly do have a limit.)  Life is swarming with new experiences just waiting to be had.  It might be a crazy existence, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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WC: Ch-ch-ch-changes!

TwoYrAnniversaryWP

This image graced my notifications this week.  Have I really been blogging that long?  It’s hard to imagine so much time has passed, yet here I sit, writing my 225th blog post, set to go out to over 700 followers.  Seriously, that’s wild to even think about.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

So much has changed since I first started.  I didn’t know what I was doing (how hard can it be to write what’s effectively a public journal?), my posts were much too long, I had no concept of promoting my content, and I didn’t even really give a lot of thought as to how I uploaded my photos or how many I shared.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

When I wrote my first real blog post about my kitty, about a month after I officially started my blog, I didn’t even have a single follower (not even Aaron).  It wasn’t until four days later when my very first follower joined: my wonderfully supportive sister (and esteemed author).  I received a whopping 15 views in my first month.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

Four months later, I began posting twice a week, and my weekly views slowly made their way up to 30-50.  I posted about our exciting travels to Japan, and my site gained more interest.  I learned how to use WordPress, I revamped my site, and I started posting better content.  By the time I hit a year, my weekly views were steadily hitting the 70 range.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

Around that time, I wrote one of my favorite posts – a satirical instructional article for photographers: How to be Late for Work.

Then I began doing weekly photo challenges, and my visibility grew.  Shortly thereafter, I added a third weekly post – my Instagram recaps – and my viewership was steadily between 100-200 per week.  I’d be at this level still if I hadn’t caught the break of having my Misty Morning post featured on Discover.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

Seemingly overnight, my follower count skyrocketed from just under 200, and my daily views now rival my previous weekly counts.  It’s really exciting to suddenly find myself in this new world.  Everything is changing rapidly, and I love it.  I can’t wait to see where I’m at a year from now; I’m sure I felt I had come far only a year in.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

Many of you are also bloggers.  If you’ve only just begun, don’t give up hope if you’re not seeing the viewership you’re trying for.  It’s taken me two years to get to where I am now, and that’s been with a lot of work.  Keep at what you love, and I’m sure you’ll see good things.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

I feel I’m at a turning point now with my blog and my photography, and it’s exhilarating, like river water gripping at the vestiges of a delta before being thrust into the wild ocean.  I’m ecstatic to have you all with me for this journey, and I look forward to what the future holds.  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015


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WC: This Fleeting Yet Beautiful Life

I’m constantly reminded that life is fleeting.  The older I get, the faster time goes by, and the stronger my slippery grasp upon it becomes, milking every ounce of excitement, adventure, experiences, and love that I can.  We live in a crazy world, and I simply never know if I’ll have another opportunity to photograph Landscape Arch standing, witness a total solar eclipse, or spend a day with my beautiful kitty.  Time goes by so quickly – impermanent as a colorful sunrise – and I want to make sure it’s well spent.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

More than death, I fear regret.  What kind of person could I be today if only I had taken advantage of that opportunity X years ago?  Fortunately, I can usually mitigate the latter while I have no control over the former.  This is why I leap at the chance for adventure and why I love exploring new experiences.  I want to do it all before my time here is through; like One Republic sings, “I swear I lived” – every single day.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I have found this attitude to be self-sustaining.  The more I embrace life, the more I get out of it, the more enriched I feel, the happier I am with my life, the more I wish to embrace it.  I don’t have time for anger or negativity, grudges or depression; I’m too busy photographing all the wonderful and beautiful things this world has to offer.

Now, I’ll admit, that kind of lifestyle can be exhausting at times.  The faster I live, the faster I’ll die, right?  I’m not sure I quite buy into that.  After all, there’s reason to believe happier people live longer.  And as long as I work in some calming yoga, I can stave off the worst of the stress of doing too much.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I doubt I’ll slow down anytime soon, but I love my life, just as it is.  And though it’s as transient as a sunrise, I’ll do everything in my power to ensure it’s just as beautiful.


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WC: Beautiful Nostalgia

Moments are fleeting.  By the time you’ve even processed that a moment is occurring, it has faded into the past.  From there, they coalesce into a jumble of memories, with the mundane and the daily negativities vanishing to leave behind the best and most impactful times.  We play these in our heads over and over, and they age like good wine into a beautiful nostalgia.

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