Get closer!

A well known quote by Robert Capa: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

There’s also the Ansel Adams adage: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”

And of course, the mantra of real estate: “Location, location, location.”

In the previous blog post, I began this short series about making one’s photographs “different” from everyone else’s. This is a big problem for a lot of photographers, especially those still learning the craft. The common concern is that “everything has already been photographed”. Well, maybe, but as a painter friend of mine often says: “Yes, but not by you!”

It is near impossible to make a photograph that has not been done in some fashion before. There have been multiple billions of images made, and there are now photographs being made at a rate that would stagger the mind if it could even be measured.

I’ve been doing this for decades. (Let’s just leave it at that.) In true Murphy’s Law fashion, every time I have thought that I had a brilliant idea for a project, or even a single image that was going to be new and fresh, within a week or two I will see that image in a book or on the web or at a gallery. It never fails.

That could be discouraging. However, I always come back to that response of the painter: “… but not by you.” So, before we even get into the “vision thing”, a subject of yet a later post, let’s discuss what happens when you arrive in the field and are faced with that thing you wish to capture.

Look around!

Yes, when you are standing at “that” overlook at Yosemite, you have to take “that” picture. Where else are you going to stand? But this is an exception. Most of the time, you can move, or change angles, or turn around, even. This one thing might be enough to get your juices flowing.

Here’s two examples.

One of the photographs that I recently exhibited got more attention than the others. I arrived at the visitor center at Saguaro National Park, outside of Tucson. It was a bright sunny May day, and the light outside the center made for interesting shadows.

Yes, I took the usual color snapshots, as above. But, while technically good, they are not unique pictures by any means. With black and white film, I began looking “smaller”, i.e., closer, and came up with this:


Years ago, at the beach just after sunrise, I was presented with this scene:

Nice enough, but just by moving a little closer and pointing the camera down, I got this photograph:


Get closer. Change the angle. Or just move.

Next post: more on the vision thing.


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