Keep Trying…

Mississippi River Overlook, near McGregor, Iowa.

Mississippi River Overlook, near McGregor, Iowa.

As a self-taught (and still self-teaching) photographer, one of the great aspects of modern technology is the ability it allows to easily follow the work of others. Through blogs and social media, I have discovered a number of different photographers whose work I greatly admire; and who provide a source of comparison and inspiration. There is a downside to this, however, as often times it leads me to devalue my own efforts. I sometimes second guess decisions to post my own photos online, feeling that compared to others they just don’t stack up. I also feel tinges of jealousy; wanderlust, hard fought to suppress, screams with envy while viewing images of the western landscapes I just can’t get to as often as I’d like.

I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately, and I know it’s something I need to fight through. My photos might not be perfect, but skill wise they’re where I’m at right now. Beyond plentiful self criticism, my confidence has recently absorbed additional blows in form of contest rejections, art shows where barely a soul would stop to look, and even a few smug comments here and there. I’ve also spent way too much energy this season concerned with sales, or lack thereof. All this has left me in a creative funk and with regrets of wasted time. If I want to break through I need to push such noise aside, get back out in the field, and just keep trying to get better.

Iowa is also where I’m at right now. And it will be for the next couple of years. I’ve said it before, but despite this constant yearning I have to travel and explore new places, there is abundant beauty right here at home. A goal of mine, for as long as I am here, is to work to capture and share that. I want to show people that there’s something more to this “flyover state;” leave viewers with impressions of Iowa that belie the clichés.

So here’s to regaining priorities, putting myself out there again… and no more wasted time.

6 thoughts on “Keep Trying…

  1. Welcome back, Josh! I’ve missed your writing. I have been enjoying the pictures we purchased from you in my house. They have been a comfort. Thanks for the suggestion to follow Predictably Lost. I really liked that.

    • Thanks Barbara! It’s great to hear from you and I’m glad you’re still enjoying the pictures. And speaking of missing someone’s writing- what are we going to do now without the Predictably Lost blog? Wasn’t that amazing?! Daniel is still up in Minnesota and plans to stop in and stay with us for a night or so on his way back through. I’ll try to get the scoop on his next big adventure, and will be sure to let you know if/when he continues with his blog.

  2. I think you’ve raised an issue Josh that many of us have had to deal with, one way or another. One photographer dealt with it by no longer looking at other people’s work – also a good ploy to avoid any tendency to copy other’s ideas, no matter how tempting. My method has been to shoot what I want to, what gives me pleasure, and trust that somewhere out there, is at least one other who ‘gets’ what I’m on about. Once I settled on that, life became easier 🙂
    I really love the way you’ve framed the river with the foliage, my eye travels out and around again, a pleasurable experience 🙂

    • Thanks for the reply (and for still following my blog despite my frequent, long absences!) I think you’ve made some great points, especially in your ultimate decision to shoot what you want. I think my frustration comes not so much in seeking originality, but in what I feel is overall quality. For example, there are those out there that seem to turn out stunning images just day after day, one after another. I look at those, then look at what I’ve shot, and I feel guilty calling myself a photographer! (Not really, but sometimes it’s close.) I understand though that most of the people at the top of the field have put a lot more time into learning the craft, and I just started using a DSLR three years ago. I hope to get there some day.

      However, back to the originality issue, that’s something I’ve also struggled with and have been meaning to write a bit about- if I can ever get back in the routine of writing here. Specifically, this becomes an issue when I do have the opportunity to visit a famous landmark (especially in America’s national parks) and am confronted with a scene that I know has been shot time and time again. These are often referred to as “trophy shots” and you know you’ve stumbled upon such an opportunity by the throngs of other photographers garnishing gear more expensive than most people’s cars, pushing and shoving for real estate during times of optimal lighting. (On a western road trip last winter, this was a big moral debate for me. Ultimately, I decided to accept the fact that these places are so heavily photographed for a reason and forgive myself for joining the masses- to do just what you said, shoot what gives me pleasure. But I try to understand that these aren’t locations I will fixate on, and I’m not going to be one of those photographers who tries to build a career following the road map of others.) I guess that’s one good thing about where I live. Here in Iowa, I know there are some great photographers out there, and there are a handful that I follow and correspond with, but when I’m out shooting photos I never seem to come across other professionals or serious amateurs (which is more where I would place myself at this time.) So no fighting the crowds here!

  3. Josh,
    You have such a talent for writing and photography, that I always look forward to reading your blog and seeing your great pictures. Your pictures tell a story and each is unique. Someday we hope to get you to our little village in Africa to tell their story through your pictures.
    Keep inspiring us with your wonderful pictures.

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