Personal Projects Count – Always

Sunset Over the Otto Trail Overlook, Colorado National Monument, by Jay Goodrich

Sunset Over the Otto Trail Overlook, Colorado National Monument, © Jay Goodrich

Personal growth as an artist is one of the most important aspects of being an artist. Yes getting paid to photograph for clients is a necessity, but if that is all a photographer focuses on, the creative mindset will most likely disappear. When I am shooting for commercial clients, my priority is of course my client. They have picked me out of all of the other photographers out there so my mission is to have them pick me again. However, when I travel for a paying commercial client, I often plan on at least one day for myself to pursue a personal photo project. This free day always changes my mindset and allows me to relax.

This past weekend was a perfect example of this ideal in action. I was in Colorado shooting a commercial architecture project, even though the timeframe was extremely short, (only 2 and half days) I made time to explore a new location. Less than a two hour drive from my friends’ house in Eagle, CO, put me in the canyons of Colorado National Monument. I only had time for one evening there, one sunset to walk with some images that were usable. That tight of a time frame does not allow for a huge amount of guesswork and mistake. My personal mission was to create some landscapes of the rock formations that rival what can be found in the nearby desert of Utah.

Pipe Organ Monolith, Colorado National Monument, by Jay Goodrich

The Sun Descends on Pipe Organ Monolith, Colorado National Monument, © Jay Goodrich

I did a quick internet search to see what I could expect to find when arriving and then jumped in my ridiculously small and uncomfortable rental car for the drive west. I knew that I could not capture it all, so I decided to focus on one spot. I chose my location completely self-indulgently. I wanted some place to hike and stretch my legs after riding in that stupid car for two hours. This was actually a great decision, because most of the upper canyon hikes end in overlooks, putting you right into the heart of photography paradise. I prefer shooting on a hike, over shooting from the car any day. I have found over the years that walking gives me a much better perspective on my location. In addition, what often looks great from a car at 25mph, lacks when approached on foot with camera in hand.

Exploring a new location usually has me driving around for a day to figure out where to shoot and when, but I did not have the time frame on this trip. I decided to throw a hail mary pass and take a walk on an overlook that appeared to be less explored and for that decision was awarded the touch down. I had this whole overlook to myself for the entire evening. I probably added 3 miles to the one mile walk in because there were so many compositions to be found. I am already planning on returning when I am in Colorado for two weeks at the beginning of July.

The Sandstone Walls of Colorado National Monument, by Jay Goodrich

The Sandstone Walls of Colorado National Monument, © Jay Goodrich

So what is the moral here? Always, plan a personal photo outing when working a commercial job. A little research pays off. And follow the voices in your head, sometimes they can yield a great set of images from a location that you have never traveled to before. Oh, and having nature cooperate with great light doesn’t hurt either.