You have to dedicate yourself to getting the photograph that you see in your mind. Sounds cliche doesn’t it? I mean I can’t count how many times I’ve received critical letters from readers complaining about tips such as “Be Dedicated”? in the magazine. ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah” the letters all go, “I get it. I have to be dedicated, but this isn’t a tip. Tell me about an aperture setting or a filter technique. Those are tips!” Sure, we all know we have to be willing to get up early, to stay out late, to go over the next ridge…to go the extra mile for photographs that stand out from the overwhelming morass of visual clutter that inundates us every day. So why do I continue to push this need for dedication? It’s because I hear stories like Joseph Thomas’ account of how he made today’s Photo Of The Day.
“Although somewhat out-of-the-way, American Basin in Southwest Colorado is among the state’s best locations to view wildflowers. The sky was cloudless on this morning, so I included as little of it as possible. A jagged ridgeline with unnamed peaks 13,806 and 13,744 catching the morning alpenglow provided more than enough visual interest to compensate for the featureless sky. Nearly freezing my feet off while capturing this image (I was actually rolling on the ground writhing in pain after standing in the stream for just a few minutes) prompted me to purchase a set of waders before my next foray into an icy mountain stream. Unfortunately, many of my long backpacking treks preclude me from carrying the extra weight. Anything to get the shot though, right?” (The photo was submitted to the Waterfalls Assignment. You can see the full description of the photo here.)
I’m not suggesting that unless you end up writhing in pain you haven’t taken a great photograph. But for a moment consider how easy it would have been for Joseph Thomas to set up his tripod elsewhere and shoot in comfort? How many times have you made a decision to take an easier path even though you knew the photo wouldn’t be as strong? I know I’ve done it more times than I care to remember.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this notion of dedication to the photograph as we approach the 10th anniversary of Galen Rowell’s passing in a plane crash in the Owens Valley. Galen personified dedication to the photograph. He was well-known to run up the sides of mountains, down the banks of rivers and to dangle on rock faces to take the photographs he was envisioning. Galen was an extraordinary human and he left a legacy of inspiring images and writing and he was always generous with tips about filters, lens choices and exposure settings. If I was to choose the single most powerful and enduring “tip” from Galen Rowell, it would be to dedicate yourself to the photograph.
-Christopher Robinson, Editor