Sunday, July 31, 2016

You want to be out there

I was quite surprised, and obviously pleased with myself when I turned a page in one of South Africa's favourite surfing magazines and saw a picture of mine under the "Shot Bru" section.  This has been the showcase of local photographers for many years, all sharing not only their passion for photography, but also their love for surfing. As a kid I always looked at these pictures and wondered what it takes to get shots like these. Do you have to be a special kind of photographer with special skills and expensive camera equipment, or do you have to know someone at the magazine to cunningly push your images forward in order to have them published?

Since I started doing photography on a full-time basis, in between doing school runs and cleaning the house, for more than one obvious reason I started looking at pictures of other "adventure photographers". Most of them well-known names, some of them really talented with individual styles that no-one should or can copy, and some of them ordinary guys and women just taking breathtaking pictures. I needed some sort of benchmark, something I could compare my pictures to.  The problem with this is that a good shot or picture is not necessarily valued equally by all observers.  In a way it is like any form of artistic expression where subjectivity can never be totally ruled out. Does on appreciate the actual skill that was required to take the picture, the aesthetics of the image, the subject or theme, or does one listen to what other people think and then give a score?

What I have realized though and is very important for adventure photography is that a lot of people like pictures for reasons other than the photographer's skills.  They see emotions and dreams, feeling and memories in pictures that attracts them or make them feel good.  Faraway places, extreme activities, all the things that ordinary people don't have, see or do in their day-to-day lives.  You don't have to be a good photographer to get a likable shot that will score you a ten, you have to get an interesting shot at a location where people long to be.  To be a successful adventure photographer you have to be more of a adventurer than a photographer.  You need to explore and discover.  You need to find places and events that people don't see every day.  Sometimes a good composition or expensive equipment is totally irrelevant. What is more important is that someone was out there and was able to capture something that could be taken home to show to the rest of the world. If you want to be an adventure photographer and come back with interesting pictures you have to be out there, you cannot get these shots from inside your living room.  But even more important than taking pictures that other people may like, you need to do it for yourself.  You need to be out there for yourself. The pictures are just your way of remembering your adventures. You will always love them because you were there and you captured it.

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