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Finding a Unique Vision

We spend so much time as photographers focusing on being better.  Better than the photographer standing next to us, better than our mentors, and hopefully better than ourselves.

There is a certain point where we have learned enough of the technicalities to consistently compose interesting images.  Knowing more about our camera will now only make us marginally better.  When we reach this stage it’s no longer about our knowledge, it’s about our vision.

Sunrise in Death Valley and the photographers who were there to capture it.

Sunrise in Death Valley and some of the photographers who were there to capture it.

Many times I’ve hiked in to capture a landscape that I’ve never been to before.  Upon arriving I find myself surrounded by other photographers there for the same purpose.  The thing that separates most of us is in this situation is the equipment we chose to bring with us.  Filters, lenses, megapixels and format are the main topic of discussion, but to what end?

When I find myself in these scenarios, it reminds me to think differently.  Perhaps the light in front of us is creating something interesting behind us.  Perhaps there is a story here, something more than a pretty picture.

When I took this image, I had driven 6 hours to reach Death Valley, slept just outside the park on the ground next to my truck, and gotten up long before sunrise.  I imagined that very few other people would have gone through that trouble and that I would arrive alone.  Dozens of photographers had the same idea, and they were all pointing their cameras in the same direction I intended to point mine.

I did take some images of the sunrise, and yes they are nice, but this image of the other photographers lined up and flashing looks at each other tells a story that I like.  The landscape is still there, and it is amazing, but there’s more to it.  It’s a reminder to look beyond the landscape, and to compose an image that goes beyond the technical details.  I don’t think this photograph is better than the ones taken by the other photographers, but I do know that it is different.