You're a photographer.
You wake up at 3 am to be at the perfect spot for sunrise. You visualize the perfect composition and set up your camera and tripod. You pick the perfect grad filter for the situation and wait for the light to hit just right. You then rush home to edit that perfect capture. You spend a long time editing, cropping and creating your vision.
Your last step is to show it to the world. Whether your medium is Facebook, Instagram, your own website, or maybe even Vero, you need to show off your new masterpiece. You add a nice quote that goes along with the feel of your image and post it. Bam, 200 likes. Nice work!
But what could you have done different?
People post beautiful pictures all over social media all the time. Sometimes as a photographer it can be daunting to look at others work and see that they're creating "better" work than you. Creators try to set themselves apart from others, but the reality is a lot of the time that image you captured has been captured more times than you can count. Other photographers have caught it with better light, crazy cloud formations, or maybe even a better composition than your own. So how can you possibly set yourself apart from these other images?
The answer, for me at least, is the story behind the image.
A lot of the times on Instagram, I'll see an image I really like. I'll read the text and it will consist of a quote, and then 30 hashtags.
As someone who uses Instagram, I get it. I really do. I do the exact same thing. That's part of the reason I'm writing this. I want to take my photography to a level where people aren't only looking at the image, but also want to hear the story behind it. I want people to see the image I created and then be able to read how it came to be. I want them to read about how I fell down right before I took the image and ruined my jeans (true story). I want them to read about my trip to Peek n' Peak and how I stumbled upon one of my favorite images of 2017. I want people to feel what I felt when I captured that image.
I really don't want this to seem like I'm knocking how some people put out their images. Putting a quote along with an image is great. it can invoke feelings and let people relate to your image. There doesn't always need to be a story to go along with an image. Sometimes you just walk outside and take a picture. I'm just saying I'd like to see more of the behind the scenes.
I'm hoping that with writing this, I will be able to do a better job at the story telling aspect of my images.
With that, I'd like to share a story of a recent trip I took to Pittsburgh to capture a sunrise.
(Pictures from my Instagram story. Follow me @evan_nowak_ #shamelessplug)
Flashback to last Tuesday, February 27th 2018.
I had wanted to go to the West End overlook in Pittsburgh for a while and even tried a few nights before. Due to a weird run in with some people at the parking lot though, I wasn't able to take any pictures that day (that is an entirely different story on it's own).
So with that fresh in my mind, I woke up around 6, along with my trusty side-kick Lauren to try to capture a cool sunrise over the city from the West End.
Traffic wasn't too bad headed down (if you're from Pittsburgh, you know how bad it can be at 6 am on a Tuesday). I'll spare you the details of the drive itself.
When we arrived we had the area to ourselves and I quickly gathered my things and ran up to the overlook. The sun was rising fast and I was kind of in a rush, which is never a good thing for me as I'm clumsy and not very careful.
Of course all of this is a bunch of foreshadowing and instead of setting up an elaborate twist, I'll just tell you straight up. The second we got there I picked a spot, and set my bag down. As I'm setting up my camera gear, I notice a weird smell. A smell I'm very familiar with. The smell of my early mornings where I take my dog out and he poops.
Yeah. I set my bag down in dog poop.
My brand new Wandrd Prvke camera bag. (I'll be doing a Blog/review of this bag soon)
Right in some mushy, wet dog poop. (I'll spare you of the images, but if you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw the horror.)
This has become a trend with my photography career. I'm not sure if it's poor planning, bad judgement, or divine intervention but I have bad luck when it comes to photography gear.
This is the point in the story where I have to give a huge shout out to my girlfriend Lauren who was the hero of the day. Since I didn't have much time to get the shot I wanted, she ran to the car and got paper towels and cleaned up my bag enough so that it was manageable (is it possible to have an amount of dog poop on your gear that is manageable?).
While she was doing that, I set up my camera and prepared to attach my grad filters.
Ahhh, my grad filters.
Another piece of gear that didn't want to cooperate.
I had somehow misplaced the adapter ring for my grad filters, and was unable to attach any of my filters to my camera. (later found out it was attached inside of my foundation holder)
I wasn't going to be deterred on this day though. Partially because I'm working on my confidence and partially because the sunrise was beautiful and worth shooting with or without grad filters.
The thing is, the image I captured isn't anything special.
How many people have shot this exact same image from the West End Overlook?
Sure, the cloud formation behind the city is really cool, but there's nothing particularly special besides that. But when I look at this image, I think of that day and how annoying, but also fun it was. I think of all the emotions I felt and the image sparks memories for me.
I don't think I'd trade that story for anything.
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Thanks for reading!