What does it take to become a great photographer? It takes learning how to do composition; it takes understanding your camera, but more than that, it takes tenacity. And that involves practice and the will to get out and take a lot of pictures and learn from the photos you take. The heart of a good photographer is just that…. getting up and doing those things that will take you from the amateur to the professional.
A friend of mine has been doing just that, and he has recently published a story, that tells exactly just what it takes to become a GREAT photographer. I want to share his story, and if you have any desire to get to his level, then from this story, may you learn what it takes.
My wife always shakes her head and rolls her eyes whenever I fall asleep in front of the TV. It happens probably three or four times a week, and it has become a running joke between us.
In my defense, it’s because I’m tired, and I’m tired because I get up very early in the morning to take pictures.
After my family, photography is the center of my spare time. While I go to work Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4:30 pm, I only do that to pay the bills. My day job with Charles Schwab is not that exciting – I review Durable Power of Attorney documents for our customers – and so it doesn’t take a lot of brainpower. I put on my noise-canceling headphones (they look like something you wear on the tarmac if you were directing planes to their gates) and I read legal paperwork all day long.
Yep, it’s pretty boring, so my mind wanders a lot. I like to think about my next photography adventure, and it usually involves getting up early in the morning to catch the sun as it slowly lightens the sky. You may have heard of the “golden hour,” which is in the morning from sunrise to about 45-60 minutes afterward. It also occurs about 45-60 minutes before the sun goes down. Photographers love to take pictures during this hour because the light is always softer and not too harsh. The hour BEFORE actual sunrise (and one hour after sunset) is called the “blue hour,” and those are my favorite times to take pictures.
I always bring a tripod to avoid camera shake, and I use the waxing or waning light to create silhouettes of different objects. Trees make great subjects, and since they are everywhere, I have a lot of places to choose from.
A few weekends ago I chose Cross Timbers Park as my latest location, which is 3 miles from my house. It’s a series of trails that wander around Denton Creek on the west side of Lake Grapevine. Because it was November and the leaves were turning colors, I had a unique opportunity to capture the beauty of autumn. The air was perfectly still and crisp, and as I scouted out my first sequence of shots without my gear, I closed my mouth and took several deep breaths. The moist earth combined with the dormant grass filled my nose and lungs, and I closed my eyes for just a moment as I took it all in. Memories of camping with my family and as a Boy Scout passed through my mind, and I reveled in the peace and quiet that surrounded me.
I grabbed my gear and headed down the trail. I pulled out my iPhone and opened an app that showed me exactly where the sun was going to come up over the horizon, and so I assembled my camera onto my tripod and pointed it in the direction of a huge, solitary tree. And I waited…
It didn’t take long for the black sky to turn slightly less black, so I aimed my camera and took several pictures of the tree and the surrounding brush. As I slowly made my way down the trail, I stopped, positioned my camera, and then took several more images. The nearly full moon had already disappeared below the horizon, but the soft light from the sun gradually brightened the sky. I captured the frozen dew of the grass, and in one spot, a light mist rose from the creek. I adjusted the dials on my camera and snapped images of whatever I could find.
As the sun crested over the tops of the distant trees, I used that time to capture the yellow light as it slowly revealed the scene in front of me. Dark greens and browns turned lighter as the sun continued to rise, and I found myself mesmerized by the harsh textures of decaying grass and wilted flowers. The rain from a few days before still hugged the ground, making it muddy in spots along the trail, so I had to step gingerly around the puddles.
I’m sure that if someone had observed me, they would have laughed at the wonderment on my face as I “oohed” and “aahed” between shots. I tend to talk softly to myself as I take in the beauty around me, and this time was no different.
When the battery life indicator on my camera went red, I slowly packed my camera into my backpack and made my way back. However, my session was not complete.
I came to a small bend in the trail that cut through a grove of trees, and it was simply too perfect for me to not take more pictures, so I quickly assembled my camera again, replaced my battery, and took several panoramas of the light filtering onto the trail. The textures and colors of the bark and leaves and grass were magical as the long shadows created a surreal, intimate landscape. I will never forget that scene.
My name is Taylor Stonely, and I am a digital photographer hoping to capture and write about photography in my world, hence the name “photographerable.”
Whenever I take pictures, I always leave wishing that I could stay just a little longer, as if believing that if I take too many pictures, there won’t be any to take for next time. The act of leaving a scene is reminiscent of saying goodbye to loved ones as you pack up your gear and drive slowly away. That nostalgia pushes me to come back again, and I anxiously wait for my next photography adventure!
Thank you Taylor for your inspirational Story. When I read your story, I truly was inspired. That is exactly what it takes to become a good photographer. Tenacity and the will to go out and practice photography, just for the love of it. Great job.
If you are interested in following Taylor further in his photographic career, please follow him at: http://www.taylorstonelyart.com You will then see what this daily practice has done for him. Or follow his blog at: https://photographerable.com/