Fear, Passion & Balance

Monterey Fisherman's Wharf


Long before I started my photography career I was worried that, over time, I would start to see photography as a job and would lose my passion and love for what I do.  The nature of my job as a contributor to iStockPhoto & TWIP is, in a nutshell, to photograph & teach what I want with no boss & no deadlines, so I guess that keeps most of the boring stuff out.  But there is that part of me that realizes (well, hopes) that one day I do have those things and that I am still able to keep my passion for photography alive.  The fear is there … it’s tiny and in the back of my head, but I won’t ignore it.  I want to be scared of it because if I am still scared then it means I still care.

Even though I can photograph & teach what I want to, it’s still work.  Sometimes I take pictures of things I know will have a good chance of selling.  I get a sort of “high” when I look at my images on the back of my camera and see a great image that has potential, but sitting behind my computer and processing the photos is still going to be, for the most part, dreary and monotonous.  I can sit at my computer for half a day creating a tutorial that will reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people … and, well, I actually can’t think of anything boring or uninteresting about that part of my job (other than the fact that I do it for free, hehe!). ;)

In five/ten/twenty years will I still feel the same way?  Will I get excited to go on a photoshoot?  I think so.  I honestly can’t imagine not wanting to create in pixels the images that are burned into my brain.  I want other people to see those images too … I want other people to be able to create their own images, their own memories.  I don’t want to stop!

So … what do I do?

One of my recent hobbies has been to create TimeLapse movies.  I do these because I want to; I get enjoyment from the process of creating them and sharing them with others.  I do them because they are FUN!  That’s the key.  Keep the fun in photography … don’t make it only about gear, megapixels, money, contests, critiques, or skills.  If you suck at photography but you love taking photos, don’t stop.  If you don’t have a lot of money and can’t afford a “better” camera, use what you have and don’t let it get you down.  If you work all day and the sun is down when you get home, grab a tripod and try taking photos of the stars.  In my opinion, everyone is a photographer … you don’t have to be a pro or even know what you are doing, but everyone enjoys taking photos because they are preserving a memory.  If photography is your full-time job, try to integrate a part of photography that makes you happy and doesn’t just result in a paycheck.  I sometimes have to force myself to step out of my “iStock box” and take photos that I don’t plan on uploading or making any money on … it keeps my brain charged and my creative juices flowing.  Sometimes I even (unintentionally) come up with great-selling images in the process!

So just as we do in our day-to-day life, we are happiest when we have a balance of work and play.  That, in my humble opinion, is the key to staying passionate about photography.

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Photography is a journey …

I have always considered myself a “self-taught” photographer (well, minus those few B&W darkroom classes I took in high-school). ;)  It’s been a long journey for me, and my transfer from film to digital has definitely had its challenges.  For example, I vividly remember trying to figure out how to work my first digital SLR (a Nikon D2H) … I was on vacation and really using it for the first time, and was so frustrated that the exposure kept going all wacky on me.  It turns out that it was on bracketing mode and I didn’t realize it!  Hehe … it was only uphill from there.

When I started contributing to iStock, one of the first things I wanted to master the white-background effect.  I did some research, and thanks to Strobist I was able to create my own little soft-box out of a cardboard box, see-through white paper and poster board (oh, and sunlight, of course).  This is one of my photos I took with that cute little box.

Eventually I wanted to photograph people, so I invested in some background equipment, and also some AlienBees strobes.  I honestly had no idea what I was doing!  My setup was one light on the backdrop, located directly behind the subject, and two lights (each with soft-boxes) lighting the subject.  (This was in a small room … about the size of a small bedroom.)  I had some good luck and got some great shots (here’s one of them) but had very limited space in my little house in Hawaii.  It’s been well over a year and a half since I last did any white-background images, so I thought I would do some updated ones with my usual models.

Now that I have an entire garage at my disposal, I was able to bring the subject further from the backdrop and light the background with two lights, blocking any spill with a few bi-fold closet doors I got at Home Depot for $34 each.  I also used one of my Nikon speedlights as an additional light on the kids … here’s the photo of my complete setup.  The  above is a time-lapse of setting-up and a few finished images of my “studio” and photographing the kids.  Here’s a list of the equipment used in that shoot:

  • Camera: Nikon D200
  • Lens: Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
  • Lights: AlienBees 1600 (x3) – one w/ octagon softbox, two with field reflectors; one Nikon SB-800 w/ shoot-through umbrella
  • Trigger: PocketWizards (x3) – one on SB-800, one on AB-1600 (the other two strobes were triggered optically), one on-camera
  • Misc: Bi-fold closet doors (x2)
  • Backdrop: 2-Sided Flex-out (black/white)

I believe that there is never an end to learning about photography, and so that’s why I put this little video together.  It’s because of other wonderful artists out there who share their tidbits of information about photography with the world that has brought me to where I am today, so I want to do what I can to spread the love, too.  So, with that said … please enjoy the video!