This year I had the opportunity to teach two workshops in the Tetons/Yellowstone National Parks. Before I go any further, I want you to know that before teaching a workshop I arrive a few days early to check out the areas we will be photographing and to take a few personal shots for myself. In Teton National Park there is a row of barns called “Mormon Row” and this is where we took many of the students to photograph.
When I started going through all the photographs I looked at these barns and I discovered that I had a lot of photographs, but what I also discovered was how different all these images looked. I had images that I had light painted, shot with water in front, had bison in some, different angles and had one that was lit by moonlight only.
I have noticed that a lot of photographers will set up the tripod in one spot in order to get the iconic image that they have seen. These photographers are the “Checklist Photographers”, they have seen this image, and they have now taken the shot that everyone else has taken and are ready to move on to the next spot on their list. They now have that pretty photograph that they can show everyone where they’ve been and photographed, instead of exploring and looking for a different angle that people have not seen. This is not to say that I haven’t done this, because I have, but I have learned that you need to explore and look for new angles or different views so that you will come up with your own interpretation of the subject.
I had the opportunity recently to photograph Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park and this image has done very well for me this year winning the first place in landscape photography at the Florida Professional Photographers convention. In the past few days as I have been clearing out a lot of old magazines and I have seen a lot of images of Mesa Arch that are all of that same iconic image. It is a very nice image, but the image I took by going off to the side and coming in at a very low angle has given a different view to something that has been photographed by tens of thousands of photographers.
My point here is that after you get your “checklist shot” pick up your tripod and move around, look at a low angle, try from a different spot that you haven’t seen anyone try before. Try to get the shot that no one else is taking, it may be bad, it may be great, but if you don’t try you will never know and you’ll really never grow as a photographer.
Here are a number of images from the two workshops of the Mormon barns: