Without My Mentor, I’d Be…Well, Poorer!

When people ask me about photography, I usually tell them about the three major ingredients that brought me the start up success I’ve had to date:

  1. Passion
  2. Practice
  3. A mentor

I would say passion brought practice which led to more excitement but that circle hit a catalyst when a professional photographer decided to review my images for the second time and tell me that he would help me sell my work at art fairs. Even though he was adding direct competition to himself, he was willing to give me access to success.

Let me share with you what being a mentor is really like. It’s not a brief session that you pay to obtain.

What this photographer gave and continues to give is:

  • His connections, networks, the good people and professionals in his life.
  • Tips & tricks: which printers to use, what medium fails, how to price photography.
  • Honest critique: making my compositions and pictures better.
  • Advice: he spent years and dollars failing and making mistakes. He helped me avoid a lot of waste.
  • Invitations to his home.
  • Feedback on the industry.
  • Opportunities for me to share my work.
  • Encouragement and praise for excellence.
  • His equipment and the best deals for supplies.
  • Funding at times.

I am a richer professional through his assistance and commitment to my growth. While I am very new at marketing and selling, my knowledge has increased so much and I’ve saved. This is what I mean by richness, not actually calling myself a wealthy businessman.

My mentor has given so comprehensively and generously to me and shown me what a good mentor does for those under him. I hope to also mentor others as he did some day. In a future date, I hope to write a longer and more detailed post to really paint the picture.

Thank you, Jay.

 

What If?

I was listening to the LensWork Podcast today, one of the channels that spark creative thought and ideas for blog posts, and it sparked me to comment on this “What if?” question.

Brooks Jensen, host of the podcast, was describing a situation if a photographer imagined a time of shooting not traditionally pursued, or using equipment in a different way, or manipulating a light source used in a different way, what would happen? He remarks that often those attempts in themselves would not produce anything magical and come to a dead end.

But his point that really struck me was the subsequent thoughts and questions, leads and ideas that follow the what if question. For they are the ideas and thoughts, that may have never happened if never attempting a new or innovated technique or plan.

Brooks didn’t elaborate further, but I briefly shall.

As someone who describes himself as an innovator, this message appealed to me. Let’s take an example of what if being put into practice by mentioning Minnehaha Falls, a waterfall in Minneapolis. It’s been photographed from every angle in every season and is on every camera and blog it seems. But, what if? What if there is a new composition no one has tried before? What if no one tried photographing the moonlight over it? What about this particular tree framing it?

I appreciate the what if question because it allows for hope and creativity at locations deemed normal and done. This what if question helped me find a new composition at Minnehaha Falls.

 

What if?

Photographing Trees in Winter

It’s harder than I thought.

This somewhat surprises me. They are just trees, silent and aloof, moving only when wind passes through. We see them every time we go outside. When I approach they don’t flee but pose tall and proud.

The challenge, I found, is photographing them in a way that transfers the mood I felt in their presence to the viewed photograph on screen or in print. How to transfer mood? This isn’t unique to trees as this is the essence of photography, inviting the viewer into the experience. However, the trees don’t usually have the same wow factor as a sunset, mountain, or waterfall, for example. For me, there is more of a challenge to evoke emotional reaction with an object we view as more mundane.

How to transfer the mood of trees?

Let’s briefly take a look at the following photos and see if they speak for themselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASnow has recently fallen in the woods with dozens upon dozens of red pines. It blankets the ground, clothes the branches of all trees. But the quiet is striking. I pause my boot crunching steps and observe. Dark trunks contrast mightily against the white glare. The woods seem to contain a slight fog, but it’s the snowfall muting the landscape.

Fallen Tree
Fallen Giant

Nearby, a massive tree has taken over the ground, its limbs sprawling among the still standing community. In a grove with so many standing trees, a fallen giant is notable.

Winter Stream (2) (1 of 1)
Peaceful Winter

A stream curves through the woods, leading to a beautifully white-coated tree with dark, thin and young trunks. The power of the stream with the quiet woods is a powerfully peaceful spot.

Winter Pillars (2)
White Pillars

Tremendous contrast on these “white pillars” in a small, composed bunch. They withstand the winter conditions beautifully.

Winter Pillars
White Pillar Grove

A wider look at the grove of white trees, with a fallen comrade beneath them and some color splashing subtly behind.

Fallen (ig)
Fallen

In pine alley, one small oak kneels.

Through the trees

A bit more abstract, the white path weaves through the young growth.

These pictures are a result of four outings specifically photographing trees. So tell me, after viewing the pictures above, how did I do? Did you feel the mood of any place, or were they easy to scroll past?

Are People More Interested in What’s New, Rather Than What’s Better?

I recently read a business article with the title, Being Different Beats Being Better. It followed up with a quote:

“Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better. Who cares about a marginally better product or service? That’s the problem with most businesses and even people. We compete with each other for the same market.”

In the photography world specifically, is this true? Here are some of my contemplative thoughts that are general. There are exceptions all the time that I realize.

On Social Media, I’d Say Absolutely.

My primary context is Instagram & Facebook. Posts that first captured a blizzard’s wrath, the fall of an iconic rock, the Superbowl in Minnesota, the Minnesota State Fair, the Eclipse, to name a few, have caught fire on social media and traditional media outlets. I would argue that the first picture from events are more popular than the better ones (subjective but go with me here) that follow later. People both want to be on the edge of news as well as see who’s there recording and capturing the news. I’d say people are more excited about the initial shot than follow-ups unless the latter are incredible.

Art Shows

Because I have now have an art season under my belt, with over a dozen shows to my name, I’ve seen lots of the competition. Without dragging my ego or meek sides of me into this discussion, I’ve wondered how the consumer feels about seven to ten photographers with similar images. Do they see with “new glasses” or “good, better, best glasses?” Just between these two aspects, which has a greater impact on them buying:  “Oh, I’ve never seen this (scene, location, angle, view) before” or “Her work is the best out of the lot.”

Booth Shot.jpg

I’m obviously leaving out emotional attachment which is maybe the greatest reason for buying a photograph for a wall. But I think this blog’s title is an important one that shapes marketing, releasing work, and even photographing in the field. Someone’s values may have them release shots as soon as possible because they know the market has an appetite and the shot will be picked up. Someone else may defy this to get a shot they imagine and will spend days or even years getting it right before releasing it. Does either approach bring in more sales than the other? Or drive the market’s acceptance deeper?

I’m still thinking through this for my own application and conclusions. How about you?

What are your reactions to this post’s title and other questions?

Do people care about finding top-notch work more than what’s the freshest thing?

 

 

 

Astrophotography Addiction

On September 1, I was a young child, filled with wonder and awe. I chased the night sky charms with a fellow photographer and friend on a thrilling adventure. From blue hour on what I call Minnesota’s small Cliffs of Mohr to the Milky Way’s core on a hidden bridge to finally northern lights dancing over a waterfall, it was truly a magical night.

First Aurora
First Aurora

 

This was a night of many firsts.

First time really photographing the Milky Way.

First time witnessing the northern lights with my eyes.

First time capturing a waterfall with both phenomenons overhead.

It was instantly a top three photography trip. I don’t recall giggling with joy so many times while capturing photos. The night skies are truly magical and outshine other so many so-called magical moments in nature.

I think I am now addicted to astrophotography.

 

Photography: “The Shot” or the Story

Do a majority of photographers place more value on finding that one shot than focusing a story?

Does “the perfect shot” tell enough of the story?

Is there room for more story telling in photography from photos that aren’t as popular?

One of the podcasts I listen to is LensWork and I find that Brooks Jensen complements a lot of thoughts I have on photography which in turn, creates posts for my blog. This is one such post.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that I post mini-collections of locations that I photograph. I’ll post “non-sexy” photos with “sexy” photos to reveal an immersive experience to my viewers. All the shots are interesting to me so I don’t just post arbitrarily. For me, it’s about exposing beauty both apparent and subtle, loud and silent, detailed and grand. I personally have a greater connection to the environment when I slow down and take it all in. And my observations then are expressed to the public.

Here is a mini-collection of photos from bluff country in southern Minnesota.

Whether you’re a viewer or a photographer, do you tend to be attracted to or focus on finding that sexy or perfect shot? My example today could be the featured image of the silhouetted barn. Or do you take in more? The collection above really shares the beauty of the area in a way one image cannot. This collection isn’t tight enough, or focuses enough on one specific location like Whitewater State Park, to allow me to say, if I remove one photograph, the story would be incomplete. However, this is a future goal in mind when I do “series photography” again. A goal, is to intimately connect four-to-six images in a way where if I removed one, the viewer would miss out on the story.

Think of the most famous or most liked photographer you know or follow. Do you only know their popular images or can you recall any of the other images that may surround the popular images?

I’ve barely scratched the surface with this topic and will likely post again but let me leave with you with a comparison that is in my mind.

If you listened to the linked podcast called The Rest of the Story, you’ll hear Brooks mention that “we live in the age of the orgasm. That we are only interested in the dessert. Only the headline matters but not the rest of the story.”

What if photography can be like listening to a concept album? There will likely be “orgasmic” tracks or your favorite tracks that you repeat over and over. But there are also layers, interludes, outros, soft and heavy tracks, different emotional pieces as the album progresses through the playlist. If listening carefully, we began to see more than a single hit but a piece of an entire performance. What if the same can be true with photography? Yes, the brilliant sunrise may be the most powerful image. But I’d like to think that the other images make that sunrise more powerful and then put together, are greater still.

I’d appreciate your input as I process this idea and think about it more in my work.

The Secret Location(s)

Should I always share photographed locations with others?

I ask myself this question a lot. I think the answer is a ready no to always, though I often consider the reasons why.

Why share?

  1. Give others a chance to also experience beauty.
  2. To reveal excitement of a new location.
  3. Photographers should be expanding creativity, discovering new locations, and improving the art. Could become a niche.
  4. Because it’s a nice thing to do.

Why not share?

  1. More exposure, especially to a secluded spot, may lead to unacceptable disturbance of the land and nature if it grows in popularity.
  2. Simply because having a few secret places is nice to enjoy alone. I think there is a special quality about it, like a treasure I’ve personally uncovered and I don’t want intruded upon.
  3. To avoid competition in sales, fame, and fortune.

When I begin my podcast in 2019, this may be one of the initial topics I explore with fellow photographers in the area and pick their brain on what practices they hold and if they think it’s a good thing or not.

I think there is definitely a sense of pride and protectiveness that comes with secret spots and maybe some selfishness as well. But I can see others overwhelmingly willing to share to others because they want others to enjoy the same beauty they did.

What do you think?

From Hobby to Business: Photography Style

“If I were in your shoes, I’d go for it.”

These were the encouraging words from my photography mentor in late November of 2018. He had just wrapped up an hour’s worth of reviewing my top fifty or so images in his home. The question lingering in the air was “Are my photos professional and quality enough to start selling and entering art shows?” He isn’t the sort to pander or tickle my ears. I’ve received plenty of blunt assessments in the past to know he wouldn’t get my hopes up if he didn’t think I was ready.

After asking him multiple times if he was sure, diving into projections he best could offer through five years of experience, I left his home feeling both ecstatic and nervous.


I devoted 2018 to learning photography and shooting as much as I could. I haven’t yet totaled the state parks I visited but it’s around twenty. I definitely got around and photographed one to three times a week. In the back of my mind, I held onto the possibility of marketing and selling my work in early 2019, but I resisted doing anything besides having fun for a while. I didn’t want work and money to steal my joy for photography. But my mentor’s combined encouragement pushed me over the edge into the business side. It’s very early but I’ve found this new side of photography to be a challenge that is both exciting and one I can embrace. That’s also due to learning. I love gaining new skills and education.


My photography has a long way to go. But look how far it has come. This image below is what I was pleased with in December of 2017.

Compare that with this beauty:

And if you’ve been following my work on Facebook or Instagram then you’ve seen improvement.


Now it’s exciting news time:

  • Josh Driver Photography, LLC is my official new and first business name.
  • My best images can be found on my website: joshdriverphotography.com and are for sale there and directly through me.
  • I primarily focus on selling metal prints using ChromaLux and it’s the best aluminum anywhere.
  • I will be applying for a dozen summer and autumn shows in the Midwest in February.
  • My metal prints will be on display at Dunn Bros from February 4th to March 4th.
  • I’m starting a photography podcast.

Contact me if interested in any of my metal prints as it is currently cheaper to avoid the middle man online and order through me. All funds go back into the business and paying off student loans!

I appreciate you taking the time the read my updates. I never thought becoming a professional photographer would be a serious venture for me. Stay tuned!