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Ephemeral, Zion National Park

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 30 December 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

With the new year approaching it's hard not to reflect on the year just passed. By my count, in 2010 I photographed in four states and nine National Parks, not to mention some beautiful oughta-be National Parks like Big Sur, Mono Lake, Antelope Canyon, and Sedona. Maybe not a particularly long list of locations by the standards of many professional nature photographers, but one that I'm nevertheless quite pleased with.

Volume has never been a big part of my approach to photography; I'm so much happier spending time becoming intimate with a great spot than I am simply checking off one marquee destination before moving to the next. But I'm afraid I can take this familiarity thing to extremes and sometimes need something to shake me out of my familiar world. My good friend and fellow landscape photographer Don Smith is the person who usually gets me out of my zone of familiarity, and for that I'm quite grateful. This year Don was the catalyst for most of the new places I visited, including Hawaii and Utah's Bryce and Zion National Parks.

My tendency to focus on the known isn't limited to location choices--in the field with my camera I'm nothing if not patient, sometimes to a fault (stubborn?), locking in on a scene and working it to within an inch of its life when it feels right. On the other hand, Don tends to move around a lot, always in search of something better. Hmmm....

Don and I log many hours together, both in the field and on the road. This year our travels included two long road trips, one to Arizona and one to Utah, plus a couple of weeks photographing in Hawaii, bookending Don's Kauai workshop. On these trips we spend lots of time talking about photography (among other things) and I think we agree that our contrasting approaches have rubbed off to each other's benefit. Don has always been a passionate landscape photographer, but the bulk of his 30+ year career as a pro photographer has been in sports, where everything moves and the photographer must move or be left behind. My background is far more narrow--as a landscape photographer exclusively, I frequently joke that I don't photograph anything that moves. Don's active style and my static style each have advantages and disadvantages, but since Don and I have started shooting together, I know I've become a little more active in the field, and I think he has become a little more deliberate.

That said, Don and I will never approach our craft the same way, nor should we, because there's no one best way to photograph--the "best" way to shoot is the way that most suits your personality. But I think every photographer needs to shake things up a bit as a reminder that there are other ways to do it. You can shake things up by observing other photographers in the field, browsing their images, reading what they have to say about photography, and (most importantly) going out with your camera and consciously trying something different--if it feels right, make it yours; if it doesn't, return to what feels most natural. And I suspect that even if you discard an experimental approach, your photography will improve slightly for the experience.

Which is a roundabout way of getting to today's image from my recent visit to Zion, my first time there as a photographer. Don and I had tacked on an extra day at the end of his November Southern Utah workshop and were extremely fortunate to catch the park at its fall color peak. As we usually do, we went our separate ways with an agreed upon time to meet back at the car. I wandered up the trail toward the Narrows and spent most of my time photographing these little scenes that felt like ephemeral, fortuitous gifts--a day earlier or later and I'd have missed them entirely. As always, I spent a lot of time with each scene, but I also forced myself to move along sooner than I otherwise would have. Leaving was usually difficult, but each time I moved on I was rewarded with something new, just as good, that I'd have otherwise missed.

And isn't that a great metaphor for the carrot that keeps photographers advancing? It's these unexpected, memorable opportunities just around the next bend that get me most excited about the new things in store for 2011. Stay tuned....

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Elora from Genoa, Italy

Oh Gary this was a wonderful post - I enjoyed what you said very much. I admire both your work and Don's and always enjoy your tales and explanations of how you get these marvelous images and how you feel while taking them. It is so great that you were able to forge such a great friendship together! Good luck for 2011 - I'm certainly looking forward to it!

30 Dec 2010 8:33am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Such a beautiful capture... the colors are great ! I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year... all the best :)

30 Dec 2010 10:53am

Vaido from Võrumaa, Estonia

Very beautiful variety of colors and details here! Best wishes for the New Year.

30 Dec 2010 12:10pm

RobertB from Oshawa, Ontario, Cape Verde

Your photography has been an inspiration to me over the last year, and has helped me in my photographic endeavours. You travel to places I have dreamed of visiting, and they are all at the top of my list of places to experience first hand. I've learned a very important lesson from reading your wonderful commentary; rather than be envious, just get out and shoot since there is so much to discover in my own back yard if I only have the patience and am willing to look beyond the obvious. I look forward to more of your outstanding images in the new year.

30 Dec 2010 5:02pm

Chris Delle from Natomas, United States

Beautiful capture, perfect focus that leads the eye right to the leaf and the great detail there. I also like the twisted tree branch bokeh on the left side, very nice touch.

30 Dec 2010 6:00pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

Happy New Year Gary! You and Don both continue to be an inspiration for me, and you have both helped me in immeasurable ways throughout the year! I know that wherever I end up, those lessons and words of wisdom will go with me!

31 Dec 2010 3:47pm

¨‘°ºO Dutçh Oº°‘¨ from Neverwhere, United States

Happy New Year Gary!!!

31 Dec 2010 6:40pm

Skyriani from Nelson, New Zealand

Here's to a wonderful new year, Gary!

1 Jan 2011 12:07am

Claudia Halbert from Portland, Or, United States

Gary, Wishing you a Happy New Year. Loved your post about Don being the Yin to your Yang and how you learn from each other. So looking forward to seeing you (again) in Death Valley. What a great way to kick off 2011. Great shoot too with good control of DOF--as always!! Best to you.

1 Jan 2011 5:33am

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

Spring in advance? already tired from the winter..? Or you leave us and you have been skiing?...
I wish you all the best, Gary! Happy new year!

1 Jan 2011 11:12am

PD from Kansas, United States

Happy New Year Gary!

1 Jan 2011 5:37pm

Julie from Easton, United States

Another great shot! I admire your patience and find your shots a true inspiration! I agree everyone has their own way and tastes of photography, and to change things up a bit from time to time is always a challenge! May you have a wonderful year ahead!

4 Jan 2011 6:12am

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Awesom text Gary...definitely words to live by...amd I will keep trying to do that. Your images, your philosphy, your style,your kindness, and your heartfelt images will NEVER go out of style with me and I am sure with all of the others who are fans of yours like me. Tapping in to your ingenuity and artistic magnificence is like turning on a faucet of the best tasting water to be found...always refreshing, always new, always loving, and always so very very beautiful and eloquent. Your words are jewels of wisdom and kindness that replenish us all...That's pretty much what I think of your work and your images...Thank you so very much for everything in the past and everything yet to come...I, for one, can hardly wait...Happy New Year to you and your family Gary!!

4 Jan 2011 6:09pm

@Denny Jump Photo: Thanks, Denny, I always appreciate your comments and the time you put into them. I hope you and your family have a great New Year too!

Cherished Keepsake Photography from Chapmanville, United States

wonderful capture

5 Jan 2011 1:55pm

Sylvie49 capture image from Anjou - Maine et Loire, France

de belles couleurs.

7 Jan 2011 2:39pm