The Importance of Shooting for Yourself in this Internet World of Photography

Here at oopoomoo we have always emphasized creative vision in photography. As a photographer you should honour your interests and express those interests from your heart. In short, we try to teach photographers to be artists. Unfortunately, social media and the internet don’t reward the slow path to self discovery but instead it rewards instant gratification, easy to digest imagery and techniques of the day with photographers scurrying all over the globe to get to iconic destinations to make replica images or replicate techniques of other photographers. There is little reward for nurturing your own creative vision. We have written about his extensively before here and here.

Artists stand out with their individual expression - ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Artists stand out with their individual expression –
©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Recently, our friend and oopoomoo photography assistant, Catherine returned from taking a workshop with esteemed photographers Freeman Patterson and Andre Gallant. Catherine has long been interested in things that most other photographers pass by. She came with me once on a Canadian Rockies ‘Glory of Autumn’ photography tour and spent her time taking pictures of rocks and sticks while everyone else was making images of mountains and lakes. The other photographers just could not figure out why she was ‘wasting her time’ shooting things she could photograph at home when she was in the Canadian Rockies! The truth was simple – Catherine was following her creative muse, sticks and stone moved her more than big mountain scenes (read about Catherine’s experience at this link). She honoured herself by not caving to peer pressure and shooting for herself. Fast forward to her workshop with Freeman and Andre. Catherine was given an assignment to make reflection shots… in cars. She took to the assignment with gusto and came away with an impressive body of work, so impressive that Freeman singled her out from the class as an example of creative vision. By following her heart, and her interests Catherine emerged as an artist.

Even if no one else 'gets' your work, you still have to do it, you never know what will emerge! - ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

Even if no one else ‘gets’ your work, you still have to do it; you never know what will emerge! – ©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Last October Samantha and I came up with a workshop idea in the Canadian Rockies called “Beyond the Icon”. The idea was to strip away the temptation for photographers to make or expect classic Canadian Rockies iconic photos. We went after the fall colours were over but before winter ice and snow set in. It was the season of browns and for many photographers the Rockies looked blah (if that is possible). We also purposely took our participants to unknown locations and even just stopped roadside randomly and gave out photo assignments. The results from the participants were impressive and it was fulfilling to see growth in the participants’ creative vision. Sam and I also had the opportunity to do these same assignments along with the students. And we got to spend some time before and after the workshop making personal images. After the trip I noticed that my creative vision was evolving from big vertical landscapes in theatrical light to more intimate, abstract and graphic images. Recently, I finished processing the images from this outing (finally!) and thought I would share my 25 personal faves from the trip in this post.

What is your creative vision? Have you seen it evolve over time? Are you able to be true to yourself in spite of external pressures to shoot something different from what you love to shoot? We would love hear about it in the comments on this blog or share some images with us on the oopoomoo Facebook Group.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

 

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.

18 Comments

  1. Connie Quinton
    September 14, 2015

    Darwin, I like those images my favourite is still the one by Nordegg. It is great one can share their creativity freely on this site.

    Reply
  2. Christy Nielsen
    September 14, 2015

    I’m really happy that you are writing about this topic. I did a photo workshop in Iceland in Jan ’15 and when I signed up I was not YET aware of the concept of the iconic location (in the photo world sense of it). I was very unsettled about some aspects of the workshop – loved Iceland, the organization, but was left with a nagging unsettled feeling about the philosophy of the leader who seemed to be in some kind of competition, was dismissive of learners, and seemed to resent that to make a living he had to drag all these “mere amateurs” along with him. It was disheartening. When I got back I started to explore more to make sense of my experience and discovered apparently a dark side of what I started to jokingly call the “photography industrial complex” (especially on display on places like 500px. As you pointed out, isn’t about vision but recognition. Not meaning to diss 500px altogether, there are some remarkable images that I take inspiration from and I sometimes use it for reference, but there is definitely a clique. I’m not sure I’m articulating this as well or “authoritatively” as I’d like because I’m not sure I quite understand it completely yet (and maybe that isn’t possible or necessary). However when you mentioned the term “trophy shot” during the Black Diamond workshop – it really resonated with me and I felt a whole lot better about my photography and why I do it as a result. I was pretty discouraged after Iceland. Black Diamond helped me regain my balance. Thank you for the article.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      September 15, 2015

      Hi Christy, you did definitely experience the worst of the “photography industrial complex” in Iceland. There is a dark side to photography, for example, ‘instructors’ who really don’t care about teaching but only do it because it pays the bills or allows them to get their travel paid for. We often hear from many of our students about distasteful experiences with big name shooters and we saw that in Antarctica to the extreme – see myth 10 in this article. Then there is the male dominated culture of trophy where it’s all about perceived extremes to hunt down and kill the biggest trophy shot at any cost. Finally there is the cult of celebrity where it is all about being famous (again at any cost) and not so much about integrity and ethics or care for nature or others…. Photography is a powerful tool for personal expression and nature photography can be used for good (instead of evil). I love how you are a true photographer because you use photography to tell stories of things that are meaningful to you and you are not doing photography to impress others, keep up the great work!

  3. Paul Zizka
    September 14, 2015

    Great read Darwin, and wonderful images. Love the simplicity of the scenes. Thanks for putting those thoughts out there. Social media has changed photography forever. I would venture a guess that for the first time ever, there are more photographers shooting for recognition/ephemeral feel-good rush than there are people who do to fulfill their creative side. I look forward to meeting you and Sam eventually and discussing this more more.

    Reply
    • Dave Spence
      September 14, 2015

      I agree Paul. So much of the social media experience is a “feel good about me” thing There are some photographers like yourself, Darwin & Sam who try to inspire others & open up the floodgates of creativity in others (while subtly and tactfully promoting your brands). Thanks to all of you for showing us that there is more to photography than the golden/blue hour!

    • Darwin Wiggett
      September 15, 2015

      Yes Paul, it is too bad and so sad that the cult of celebrity has spoiled the reasons why people got into photography in the first place, personal expression and awe and wonder of the world around them. Now it is just about who can go to the farthest destinations, use the newest techniques and the best gear to make images that shout ‘look at me’. Photography has deep meaning and is art when the images come from within. Sam and I look forward to hanging out with you, we admire your creative vision and passion for photography.

  4. Diane Girard
    September 15, 2015

    Thanks for this inspiring piece Darwin, especially the part about “honouring herself by not caving to peer pressure and shooting for herself”, and that “as a photographer you should honour your interests and express those interests from your heart”. I can totally relate with Catherine’s interest in things that most other photographers pass by, taking pictures of rocks, tree trunks, rust and any object that sparks my creativity. I often receive “strange looks” from people when I take pictures with my back to the classic picture spots when we travel. Too bad they don’t try it themselves…and, quite frankly, I find that “shooting from the heart” is a lot more fun too!

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      September 15, 2015

      Shooting from the heart always produces more interesting and unique work and tells us a lot about the person behind the lens!

  5. Kat Enns
    September 15, 2015

    I read this with great interest, and thanks so much for posting this discussion, and your lovely photographs, all of them stunners. Everything you say here is so true. My largest knowledge gap is functionality from processed photograph to print. i dont see any field workshops being offered for that….but we all have examples of what you identify. Its very refreshing to see it all laid out here. No one told me to take what I need in the way of lessons from the big photographers, and listen with respect to criticism, learn from it and create based on my own vision before. As a footnote, I looked through Bruce’s photographs of a field course he took at a well known and often over-photographed bird shoot location in NM, showing literally hundreds of would be photographers straining to get past each other on the edge of the water, while the leaders/ teachers (famous, established), were set up off to the left shooting something else with a small loyal band standing around watching them, being careful not to get in the way. Its not just about getting their travel paid for while they lead these, it feeds their massive egos as well. I know not many people are going to love my rough buildings and odd photographs, but thats ok. Thanks for this.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      September 15, 2015

      Hi Kat thanks for your reply.

      We were talking to Royce Howland last night and he told us that he is planning a course called the expressive print that will take the image that you make in the field and process to your vision and translate that to a print (picking the best printing surface, and technical considerations that will get your vision on paper). You may want to contact Royce for more information – http://www.vividaspectphoto.com/

      And those massive egos sure do get in the way of teaching!

  6. Stefan
    September 20, 2015

    Interesting vision on vision!
    We are just finishing a 3 week holiday tour through the Rockies in Canada. I was prepared by the beautiful and inspiring ebooks from you Darwin, thanks for that info. And yes, when the first time visiting Canada the Rockies are impressive (I am convinced they will remain like that even the second…third etc time 🙂 and yes the lakes and other icon places are amazing. During this holiday I was reading a book from Freeman Patterson (Photography and the art of seeing) and one of his exercises is to stand where you are and make 25 beautiful images. I can assure you, the first 10-15 is relative easy but then….grrrr. What I learned from his vision is that around you is so many other beautiful and interesting items, compositions or whatever you like. I still made the well known icon images but also started to look around and made more detailed images and saw so much beautiful other things. Which on itself strengthen the iconic ones to show in what environment those places are.
    And the best truth you wrote Darwin is to make those images which you as photographer like most. I am also a great fan of David Duchemin and you both share that same vision which supports my learning process in a way I appreciate. Making images which I like and appreciate in the first place.
    Thanks and hope to see more from Canada coming years……

    Reply
  7. Jens
    September 21, 2015

    As a photographer I have read numerous articles about the importance of being active in social media. How you are supposed to use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Google + to steer viewers or customers to your photography website. When it first started, I enjoyed posting on Google + because it seemed like photographers kind of embraced it. There were a lot really good photographers sharing photos, articles, ideas and equipment reviews that I found really useful. It was part of my PLN ( Personal Learning Network ). Over time, I’ve kind of lost interest in Google +. I see photographers who have thousands of people in their circles and millions of views, yet their photos really aren’t that great. I’ll see a photo taken in midday ( harsh light ) with a crooked horizon and it has 250 + 1’s. While a beautiful black and white photo that is very creative can go largely unnoticed.

    I really liked WhyTake and saw some of the most spectacular nature photos I’ve ever seen on that website. A few photographers, left nice comments on some of my images and when I visited their WhyTake portfolio and saw how impressive their photos were, it really made me feel good as a photographer. One day when I looked at my WhyTake account it said Kah Kit Yoong had added one of my images to his favourites. I was thrilled, that such a wonderful photographer liked one of my images. Sadly, WhyTake is no more, I guess things just kind of got out of hand as more people discovered the website. First you could only have 50 images in your portfolio. I think this was a good policy. Then they started a policy where you could only join if you were invited by the WhyTake staff.

    My other concern is I have a photography website and blog. The internet universe is so vast, sometimes I feel other than my mom ( which is good enough for me ) no one sees my website or reads my blog. I’m glad I read your blog post, I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about deleting my Google + account. I’m not on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram and I don’t feel that I’m really missing out on anything.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      September 23, 2015

      Hi Jens, thanks for the comments, Social Media is like Junior High, it is about being cool and popular and not really about art or creative vision of quality of work. Keep making images for yourself and from your heart and photography will always be a meaningful outlet for you!

  8. Allison George
    September 23, 2015

    Beautiful Images Darwin

    Reply
  9. Kyle McDougall
    September 28, 2015

    Great post Darwin, I couldn’t agree more with it. I’ve met and had discussions with a number of photographers who base the “worth” of their images off of how successful they are on popular sites such as 500px. In doing so, they’re writing off a bunch of very personal and creative images that they’ve now deemed unworthy. Images that are a stepping stone towards developing their own creative eye.

    In my opinion, people overcomplicate their photography careers, engaging in arguments, criticism and striving for fame. In doing so they miss all of the important and amazing things that matter most like experience, creativity, growth and connection. It’s posts like this that hopefully influence people to “see the light” and become more comfortable shooting from the heart.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      September 28, 2015

      Hi Kyle,

      You really summarized why chasing fame is a shallow endeavor, thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  10. Sarah Marino
    October 6, 2015

    First, I thoroughly enjoyed the photographs you shared with this post. They demonstrate the point of the post really well – there is so much to see and photograph beyond the trophies if a photographer takes the time to visually explore, experiment, and seek their own path.

    I wish I had internalized the message of this post much earlier in my pursuit of photography. Although I do still seek out the trophy photographs sometimes, I am so much happier and fulfilled now that I am spending more time on the subjects that interest me the most. I also appreciate how you and Sam model these practices in your writing and teaching. I really respect this approach and your positive influence on the landscape/nature photography community.

    Reply
  11. Curso Fotografia Bruno
    October 7, 2015

    I plainly agree with it. It is difficult to decide for ourselves if we like or not a piture made by ourselves, principally because we are too critics with ourselves. First the hart, second everybody else.

    Reply

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