Thursday, December 31, 2015

Embrace Light. Love Light. Know Light.

Lines & Shadows - Tehachapi, California
Photography is capturing light. Without light there is no photograph.

George Eastman said, "Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you're worth, and you will know the key to photography."

Most of the light that one captures is reflected light--you are not photographing an object or scene, but the reflected luminosity from that object or scene. Different surfaces reflect light differently, giving various amounts of illumination, or, in black-and-white photography, different shades of grey. A blown out highlight is too much light and a deep black shadow is the absence of light.
Fancy Eaves - Rancho Cucamonga, California
A photograph is two-dimensional. What differentiates one thing from another is light, or lack of light, or (more usually) both.  It's highlights, shadows, and those in-between tones that make the different shapes and forms within a photograph. In black-and-white photography, if the tones are all the same you won't see a picture, you'll see a grey rectangle.

What appears as different shapes and forms within a photograph is nothing more than different levels of luminance. One can "see" the light--look at the light in a given scene and in one's mind know how that will look in a photograph--and, using this knowledge, understand what will make a good photograph and what won't.

It's possible to photograph something that is quite boring and create a photograph that is very interesting. It requires interesting light. If the light is interesting, the photograph has the potential to be interesting no matter what the subject might be. And if the light is boring, the photograph has a pretty good chance of being a snoozer no matter how interesting the scene might be.
Shoots & Ladder - Pasadena, California
In photography it is more important to find good light than to find good subjects. A fence that no one thinks twice about could make a great photograph if the light is great. The eaves on an ordinary restaurant building could make an interesting image if the light is good.

The opposite is also true. A photograph of Yosemite National Park under ordinary light will produce an ordinary photograph. Boring light makes boring photographs.

The key to great photography isn't about owning the right gear. It's not about visiting the right places. It's about seeing the right light. It's about finding great light. It's about knowing light.
Black & White Stripes - Corona Del Mar, California
Your photographs will only be as good as the light that exists when the images are captured. Forget looking for great subjects, look for the great light instead! Embrace light. Love light. Know light. And, whatever the subject is, you have the potential to create great images.

Once you understand light, you can go about creating your own light if you'd like. No one says that it has to be natural. You can artificially illuminate a scene. You can add your own illumination to the existing light, or you can use artificial light exclusively. You can make your own great light when it doesn't exist naturally. You have the ability to control it.

Photography isn't so much about seeing what nobody else sees. Instead, it's thinking differently about the things that everyone sees. It's understanding light at an intimate level when others don't. It's showing people what was right in front of them, but they couldn't see because they couldn't read the light. 
Window Shadows - Las Vegas, Nevada
Photography is about seeing and thinking. It's not about thoughtless snapshots. It's not about having a certain brand of camera. It's not about placing a watermark on your images. Anyone can do those things, but not everyone can see and think photographically.

Seeing and thinking. That's photographic vision. It's using your creative mind to capture something that only you could create. It's making your own unique interpretation of the scene.

To summarize all of this into a simple and practical application, the next time you are out with your camera, make an extra effort to find interesting light. Forget whether the scene is interesting or not, focus on capturing great light no matter the subject. An ordinary subject can make an extraordinary photograph if the light is right. It's your job to find it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The 10 Most Popular Roesch Photography Blog Posts of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, here's a look at the most viewed posts on the Roesch Photography Blog published over the last 12 months. 

#10: Vintage: My Kids At The Beach - South Carlsbad State Beach, California
Rushing - Carlsbad, California
We took our kids to the beach after a visit to Legoland. And, of course, I had a DSLR with me to capture it all. I gave the images a vintage look in post-processing, as if they had been captured on film a few decades ago. This post was published on September 22nd. 

#9: California's Central Coast - Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, Morro Bay & San Luis Obispo
Sunset At Morro Rock - Morro Bay, California
A weekend trip to the coast in February yielded some of my all-time favorite photographs, including Sunset At Morro Rock, which is probably my favorite color photograph. This post was published on March 25th.

1956 Chevy Bel Air At Cameron's Dairy - Tehachapi, California
Flickr can sort your photographs based on "interestingness" and I shared what they rated as my best five. This was published on September 4th.

Pacific Dudes - Avila Beach, California
I explain a good method for researching digital cameras using resources available on the web. I also explain that gear doesn't matter to photography. This was published on September 30th.

Little, Big - San Luis Obispo, California
Some different people asked me what settings I used on my Nikon D3300, so I explained what camera settings I used (and why) in this post. It was published on April 3rd.

Zebras Below The Castle - San Simeon, California
I captured over 600 exposures on one fully-charged battery during a weekend trip to the coast, and still had enough charge for probably another 100 frames. Amazing! I published this article on March 24th. 

#4: Interview With Alien Skin's Jimmy Beech
Glacier Point Infrared - Yosemite National Park, California
It's not every day that I have the opportunity to interview someone within the photography industry. This is one of my favorite posts just for that reason. This was published on August 1st.

#3: Awesomeness: Anything Can Be - Bringing Hope To Kids With Cancer 
Rae and Unicorn by Jonathan Diaz
This is a great heartwarming story about a photographer bringing joy to kids going through a tough situation. My daughter loves the photograph above. I published this article on September 4th.

#2: Thoughts: Nikon D7200, D5500 or D3300?

A pointless post about gear. I don't like these kind of articles, but they're requested often and are usually very popular. This was published on March 3rd.

#1: Get 8 Free Custom-Made Alien Skin Exposure 7 Film Presets!
Tree In The Meadow - Yosemite National Park, California
Who doesn't like free stuff? I created eight presets for Alien Skin Exposure 7 software and made them available to everyone for free. Cool, right?! I published this post on June 26th.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

American Resilience In Redlands

On December 26th, my family and I traveled to Redlands, California to visit some family that we weren't able to see on Christmas Day. We loaded up the car and drove the usual way. As we approached, on the same street that our family lives on but about two blocks away, we drove past some apartments that we'd seen many times before.

This apartment was recently made famous by a horrible incident not far away in San Bernardino. Yes, this is where the husband and wife lived who were Islamic extremists that shot up a Christmas party. We had driven past these apartments just a couple of days before the shooting, but, like everyone else passing by, we had no clue of the evil being plotted inside.
American Flag Nailed To The Door of Barbarity - Redlands, California
I'm not going to rehash the gory details that have been endlessly repeated on the news networks. I'm not going to say the names of the husband and wife involved, because they don't deserve the attention that they wanted. I don't want to bring any additional fame to them and what they did. It's not worth my time or my words.

After the shooting in San Bernardino, the President of the United States came out and said, "We will not be terrorized." I said aloud in response, "Too late."

Islamic extremists are targeting workplaces, commuter trains, rock concerts, holiday parties, and normal places where everyday people exist. This is where we live, work and play. It's in the back of my mind as I go about my daily routine. Is this the site of the next terror attack? Am I safe here?

I am already feeling terrorized.

We will be terrorized because we've already been terrorized and because we're not doing enough to prevent future terrorism. Our system is full of gaping holes. Unfortunately, there will be more attacks and attempted attacks.

It's not politically correct to stop terrorism. There are politicians who won't even verbally acknowledge that there is a problem in the first place (at least they won't say it in public). Or, if they do acknowledge that a problem exists, they'll never say what the problem actually is. There is a bigger fear of how some people will personally respond to violent radicalism than the evil plans that are being devised right now to kill innocent people.

Political correctness (which is a nicer way of saying censorship) is a big problem. The neighbor of the shooters who knew that those two were up to no good did not report it to authorities because of fear of backlash. The authorities, who already knew who these two were and that they were up to no good, did nothing because of fear of backlash.

It's not politically correct to say that most acts of terrorism worldwide are committed by those practicing Islam (even though this is true). In fact, there is a bill right now in Congress (currently in the Judiciary Committee) that makes it illegal to say so--it would be considered "hate speech." I suppose the 1st Amendment doesn't exist anymore.

There is also a general decline in morality in America. Earlier this year Vladimir Putin criticized our nation's lack of morals, and, while it may seem like a case of hypocrisy, he actually had a very valid point. We don't hold dear the virtues that once were our foundation, and on occasion have down right rejected them. In addition, we don't have the same fortitude that once made us strong.

Yet, despite the political correctness, despite our immorality, despite our cowardice, we still somehow have resilience. A whole bunch of it, in fact. I was surprised.

When we drove past the now-vacant apartment that the shooters had once lived--the place where they plotted murder and constructed bombs--which is now boarded up, some anonymous person has nailed an American flag to the door.

It was such a simple yet bold statement. And it really struck me. We will bounce back. We will recover. We will survive. We will overcome. We will move forward. We are tough as nails. We are Americans.

It doesn't matter if nobody superimposes an American flag over their Facebook profile picture (like so many did for France). That's not real. That's the fake world of social media.

People rarely consider what the colors--red, white and blue--of the American flag symbolize. Over the years it has meant different things, but in 1986 President Ronald Reagan put it this way: "Red for courage and readiness to sacrifice; white for pure intentions and high ideals; and blue for vigilance and justice."

That definition is what America is all about. That's what we celebrate. That's is why we are so darn resilient. You may be able to wound us, but we will most certainly overcome your hate and destruction.

There are plenty of people who don't like Reagan's definition. Some people ask what their country can do for them (instead of what they can do for their country). Some dislike our high ideals, or, at least resent where the high ideals came from. Some would argue that vigilance is narrow-mindedness and that justice isn't about character. These people sabotage our resilience.

The American flag is nailed to the boarded-up front door where two barbaric individuals once lived. Their actions are despised. Their names will be forgotten. Thanks to courageous people who are ready to sacrifice with pure intentions and high ideals, with vigilance for justice, we have a strong resilience. And, because of that, it is true, we will not be terrorized.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Denny's Diner In Monochrome

Denny's - Tehachapi, California
My family and I frequent Denny's Diner. I mean, we're not there every single day and the staff doesn't know us by name, but when we do eat out there's a reasonable chance that the place we choose is Denny's. Kids eat free on certain nights, sometimes we have a coupon, the place never closes, and there's something for everyone, including the picky eaters.

Occasionally I have brought a camera with me to the restaurant. And, every so often, I have captured an image or two inside. The photographs in this post were captured using a variety of cameras, including a Sigma DP2 Merrill, Nikon D3300 and a Sony RX100 II. Gear doesn't really matter, vision does.

These images are related to Street Photography, but purists of that genre will argue that indoor photographs don't count. Whenever you are photographing people unaware and capturing the human condition, to me, whether indoors or outdoors, that's street photography. But, perhaps, the broader "photojournalism" title is most appropriate. Or maybe I should simply not care what label someone might put on these.

Whenever I go to Denny's I like to order breakfast, no matter the time of the day. I like to sip on a hot cup of coffee and enjoy the company I'm with (my family). Just as long as my two-year-old son isn't cranky, it's an enjoyable experience. And if I also capture a good photograph while I'm there, well, that's just a bonus.

The Bright Lights of Chance - Tehachapi, California
Lonely Diner - Mojave, California
Denny's Diner - Tehachapi, California

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

It's been a crazy year for our family, but not a bad year whatsoever. We've done a lot of things, visited a number of places, and had a lot of fun. We've also experienced plenty of change. Shift happens.

Our kids have grown so much. They're getting older and bigger and smarter. They've changed, growing into themselves. It's been bittersweet to watch. It's an honor and joy to see them change, but sometimes I wish that they could stay little forever.

My wish is that on this day you find peace, joy and love.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Do I Like My Own Photographs?

Sun Rays Over Cummings Mountain - Tehachapi, California
I recently came across a question that I had to stop and consider awhile before answering. "Do you like your own pictures?" Am I satisfied with the results of my photography?

The photograph above, Sun Rays Over Cummings Mountain, I captured last month. It's a better image than 95% of the photographs that I've ever captured, and better than 99% of those captured more than three years ago. It's a dramatic monochrome landscape with depth, contrast and atmosphere. It has good compositional balance.

But I'm not satisfied with the image. I worked on it for a long time on my computer. I made a couple of different versions. I couldn't get it right. The edit that I finally settled on is the one you see above. It's not perfect. I was tired of editing it, so I decided that it was good enough and quit messing with it any further.

Do I like it? Am I satisfied with it?

I don't think that "like" and "satisfaction" are the same thing (although they are seemingly similar). I can like something but be dissatisfied with it. We have to look at these two things separately, and then bring them together later.

Satisfaction has to do with contentment. If you are satisfied you are content, and if you are dissatisfied you are discontent. I would define contentment as being at peace with limitations, shortcomings and situations. You know something's not perfect, but that's alright, because it doesn't have to be perfect.

In Sun Rays Over Cummings Mountain there is plenty that I could be dissatisfied with. Perhaps it's the location--maybe the image would be stronger if it were a more dramatic or interesting location. Perhaps it's the gear--maybe the image would be stronger if the camera had a larger dynamic range or if I had used a large-format film camera.

Alternatively, I could be satisfied that I've created what is probably the most interesting image of this location ever captured. I could be satisfied that I had a camera with me, because if I had bigger gear I most likely wouldn't have had it with me when this scene unfolded. A camera with limitations in hand is far better than a camera without limitations at home on a shelf.

Contentment is a choice. It's purposefully looking at the positive instead of the negative. It's seeing the glass half-full instead of half-empty.

However, I don't think contentment is ignoring the negative, because negativity serves a purpose. I can see what wasn't perfect and try harder next time. It's a driving force for improvement, and in this way negativity can be positive. So it isn't pushing every negative thought away, but it's making peace with the negative thoughts so that you are not a negative person.

Contentment is choosing to not get so overly wrapped up in the negativity that you miss the positive. It's not regretting everything that went wrong, it's accepting that some things went wrong, but you can learn from those, and that no one has ever created a perfect photograph because it doesn't exist--there will always be some "wrong" in every image captured.

Like has to do with taste. It's opinion. Do I like ice cream? Yes! Do I like mayonnaise? Absolutely not! You may hate ice cream and love mayo. Everyone has different tastes.

Tastes can change over time, too. Maybe you didn't like baseball as a kid, but now you do. Maybe you thought wine tasted gross but now you are a connoisseur of sorts. Maybe you used to listen to "hair metal" but now you can't stand it. Things that you once didn't like you might now love, and things that you once did like you might now hate.

There are a number of my photographs that I once thought were great, but looking back they were pretty mediocre. I cringe at many of my older images. My tastes have changed. What I like has changed. What I think is "good" has changed. And it will continue to change.

If I like an image it is because it fits my tastes. Sun Rays Over Cummings Mountain fits my taste (at least for now, I might someday hate it). I like the image. It's not my best photograph. It's not likely a Top 10 favorite, but it's probably a Top 25 (I haven't tried to rank it, it's too soon for that). It doesn't have to be at the top of my portfolio for me to like it. I like it simply because that's my opinion.

I like the photograph, but I'm not completely satisfied with it. I imagine myself capturing a similar, yet superior, photograph sometime in the future. Perhaps the scene will be slightly more interesting. Perhaps the lighting will be just slightly better. Whatever it is, I see Sun Rays Over Cummings Mountain as the catalyst that makes the future image possible--that and lots of work.

If I don't like my photographs I have the power to change that. I can try different compositions and subjects. I can try different focal lengths, apertures, shutter speeds, lighting, etc. I can visit different locations. I can try and fail and try again. It's up to me to create photographs that I like, and I have the ability to do that. But's it's not necessarily easy, and, in fact, it might be quite difficult.

And it's not worth worrying about what other people think of my photography. I like to receive positive feedback and I dislike negative feedback. I think that's normal. People like to be validated by their peers. But I'm not doing this whole photography thing for them, I'm doing it for me. I'm doing it because I enjoy it, because I'm good at it, because I have a deep-down desire to express my creativity, and because it is a stress relief for me. So it really does not matter what other people think or say about my photography, just as long as I'm happy with it.

I can be happy with my photography and like my own images and still be dissatisfied with them. It is natural and even good to strive for improvement, to become an even better photographer. It's not bad to pursue perfection. However, I need to be at peace with the fact that I will never be a perfect photographer and I will never create the perfect image. I have to choose a positive attitude despite the imperfections and limitations.

The question is simple: do I like my own pictures? The answer is complex, but can be summarized this way: yes, but I'm always trying to improve. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tehachapi Christmas Parade 2015

Parading Fire Trucks - Tehachapi, California
I live in the quaint town of Tehachapi, California. This is small town America--you know, where it's common to run into people you know at the grocery store. There's a nice charm to it that simply doesn't exist in big cities.

Every year Tehachapi has a Christmas parade through downtown. People gather along the streets and cheer as emergency vehicles, school marching bands and home-made floats slowly pass by. Christmas music plays softly from speakers attached to the light posts. It ends with Mr. and Mrs. Claus waving to the crowd, and is followed by the annual tree-lighting ceremony.

My family and I try to go every year. It's become a Christmas tradition for us. And, since we are moving out-of-state next spring, this was our last opportunity to experience the parade.

As is typical, since we are in the Tehachapi Mountains, the weather was a bit chilly. We dressed warm in heavy jackets and beanies. We found a spot along the curb. No surprise, we ran across some friends.

I brought along my Sony RX100 II camera. Despite the limited high-ISO capabilities, the camera did a fine job of hand-held existing-light night photography. I post-processed the images using Alien Skin Exposure 7 software. This post is just a sampling the photographs captured that night.
Parade Watching - Tehachapi, California
Parade Watcher - Tehachapi, California
Looking At The Lights - Tehachapi, California
Street Vendor - Tehachapi, California
Sikh Rider - Tehachapi, California

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Autumn Photographs 2015

A Lovely Fall Day - June Lake, California
Today is the first day of winter. It has felt like winter for several weeks now, but today it's official. This means that autumn of 2015 has come and gone. It's over, vanished like the once green leaves that used to clothe the now barren trees.

I decided to go back and look at my fall foliage photographs captured over the last three months. In this post you will find my autumn images from this year.

Autumn is an excellent time for color photography. The trees put on a vibrant show. Everything changes. In a short time the weather turns from too hot to too cold. The trees turn color and then lose their leaves.

For these photographs I used several different cameras, including a Nikon D3300, Sony RX100 II and a Canon N. I bet you can't tell which photographs are from which camera. That's because vision is more important than gear. Several of the images are a part of my Impressions series.

An Orange Tree - June Lake, California
Pops of Fall Colors - Silver Lake, California
Yellow Streak - Mammoth Lakes, California
Pine Tree Grove - Mono Canyon, California
Autumn Colors In Mono Canyon - Mono Canyon, California
Green And Yellow Trees - Mono Canyon, California
Patch of Yellow - Mono Canyon, California
Autumn Yellow - Mono Canyon, California
Turning Trees - Convict Lake, California
Autumn Beginnings - Stallion Springs, California
Leaves & Stone - Stallion Springs, California
It's Not Easy Being Green - Stallion Springs, California
Elk In The Neighborhood, Autumn 2015 - Stallion Springs, California
California Autumn - Redlands, California
When Autumn Turns To Winter - Stallion Springs, California

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Elk In The Neighborhood

The Neighborhood Elk - Stallion Springs, California
Sony RX100 II, 1/125, f/10, ISO 1000, 100mm (equivalent).
Recently the local elk, which live on the nearby historic Tejon Ranch, have wandered into my neighborhood. They do this many times each year. They've even come right up into my yard several times.

I'm not a wildlife photographer, but sometimes wildlife photography opportunities present themselves, and so I take advantage. That's the case here. I didn't search out these elk, they were nearby out in the open.

Elk are big. Their horns are intimidating. These animals could really do some damage. You don't want to get too close! You should exercise caution when photographing them.

Within the wildlife photography community you will commonly hear that you need certain gear in order to be a wildlife photographer. You'll hear this within every genre, but it seems especially prevalent with wildlife photographers.

I used a Sony RX100 II pocket camera to capture these photographs, which is not one of the cameras on the "approved" list for this type of photography. It goes to show that any camera can be used to capture great photographs--even wildlife photographs--as long as the photographer is capable.

Sure, there are certainly some cameras and lenses that would make wildlife photography easier. But limitations can actually drive your photographs to be better by forcing you to be more creative. Limitations are only "bad" if you let them be. Instead, think outside-the-box. Change your approach. Use what you have to the best of your ability. And don't worry what others think of your gear.
Bull Elk Dinner - Stallion Springs, California
Sony RX100 II, 1/100, f/3.5, ISO 160, 52mm (equivalent).
Elk In The Neighborhood, Autumn 2015 - Stallion Springs, California
Sony RX100 II, 1/500, f/8, ISO 400, 100mm (equivalent).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Editing Choices Are Critical To Photography

Sunrise At The Wind Farm - Tehachapi, California
I usually don't make multiple versions of the same exposure; however, occasionally I will make multiple versions of the same image for different reasons. Perhaps because I'm not sure exactly how the image should be post-processed. Perhaps because I want to make a point here on this blog, which is the case with the images in this post.

The backstory is I'm driving early one morning a couple of weeks ago on a backroad through the Tehachapi Mountains in central California. This is an area known for wind and wind farms. As I'm driving this fantastic sunrise unfolds in front of me. I pull over, grab my Sony RX100 II camera, roll down the window, and expose Sunrise At The Wind Farm

When I post-processed the image I made the color version at the top of this post. It's how I envisioned the photograph when I captured it. It's a bright, contrasty, colorful photograph. The sky looks like fire.

On a hunch I made a second version of this exposure: Dramatic Sky Over The Wind Farm below. Instead of color I went monochrome. It completely changed the look and feel of the photograph. 
Dramatic Sky Over The Wind Farm - Tehachapi, California
It's a darker, more brooding image. The sky is more dramatic, but far less breathtaking. Since color has been removed, you obviously don't even notice that it's a "golden hour" photograph.

The two images, made from the same exposure, are in many ways opposites. The top photograph is lovely and happy and brings to mind new beginnings. It has lava colors, and they eyes are easily drawn to the sky. The bottom photograph is scary and depressing and brings to mind apprehensions. The eyes are more drawn to the wind turbines. The top image is positive, the bottom image is negative.

One exposure post-processed different ways creates two completely different messages. They nonverbally say different things. They portray contrasting feelings.

You have the ability to make your photographs speak to the viewer however you want them to. You have to consider what you want them to say, what feelings you want them to give, and then make choices that allow the images to speak that. Those choices begin before the photograph is exposed and continue right on through post-processing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Everyone's A Photographer ...And How To Stand Out From The Crowd

Sun Rays Over Cummings Mountain - Tehachapi, California
Everyone is a photographer. Everyone has a camera. Hunter Schwarz, an author at, stated, "Mankind has taken a lot of photos." That's a tremendous understatement, but entirely true.

From 1826 through 1900, according to Schwarz, only a few million photographs were captured across the world, but by 1930 about one billion pictures were exposed annually and by 1960 that number increased to three billion. In the 1970's an average of 10 billion photos were captured each year, and that number increased to 25 billion in the 1980's and 57 billion in the 1990's. Beginning in 2000, the number of photographs captured annually across the world spiked steeply, passing 380 billion in 2012. We're expected to surpass one trillion in 2015!

I have no idea how anyone knows for sure just how many photographs were captured each year. This seems like an impossible task, and I feel bad for whoever had to come up with the answer. Perhaps that is why a simple statement of "a lot of photos" is the best response.

There's a saying that you've probably heard before: "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile." Even a hapless snapshooter that knows nothing about photography and uses their cell phone as their camera will capture a good photo every now and then. There are literally hundreds of millions of these "blind squirrel" photographers out there across the world capturing the occasional good image. Add it all up and that's a heck of a lot of good pictures created by hapless picture-takers.

Because every year camera gear gets cheaper and cheaper--you can buy a DSLR that produces good image quality and a lens that's not terrible for under $500--it's easier now than ever to become a "professional" photographer. That's not to say that everyone who calls themselves "professional" actually delivers professional-quality images. But it's not hard to buy a cheap DSLR, print some business cards for under $20, set up a free or cheap website, and watermark your images--who's to say that you're not a professional?
Glacier Point Infrared - Yosemite National Park, California
It used to be that developing and printing photographs required skill and experience in the darkroom. Now software will do the post-processing for you--just pick the "filter" or "preset" you want--and send it off to Costco. The mystery has been removed as photo editing has been opened to the masses.

Anyone can be a photographer, and, because of that, everyone is a photographer. There is an over-saturation of photographs in the world. I'm reminded of the scene in The Incredibles where Buddy (Syndrome) says, "And when everyone's super, no one will be." Photography, in a way, has been cheapened--way more supply than demand. Everyone's a photographer, producing hundreds or even thousands of images annually.

This is not necessarily bad news. Gear is both better and cheaper than ever. There are things that you can do photographically now that would have been extraordinarily difficult or even impossible just 20 years ago. There are so many more ways to share your photographs with the world than there ever was before.

But it's also much easier to get lost in the crowd. The photographic crowd is unimaginably massive. It grows significantly larger every year. Most of the photographers who are "big" now made their name known when the crowd was 80% smaller than today. What would have gotten you noticed 15 years ago is not even close to good enough now.

To stand out from the crowd and get noticed is not easy. It's a seemingly impossible task. But it is possible, and people do it every day. I have some thoughts on how to achieve this.
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
First, whatever the crowd is doing, that's what you shouldn't be doing--do the opposite. You have to go against the grain. If everyone else is using the same gear, photographing the same subject, doing the same post-processing effect, do not do those things yourself. Find the things that very few, if any, are doing. Do what no one else is doing, think what no one else is thinking.

Second, you have to be creative like mad. There are tons of creative people in the crowd. You need to find ways to up the ante on your own creativity, which is an essential element of photographic vision. You have to make sure that you are the most creative person that you can be.

Third, you have to go where others are not going and at times when they are not there. Stand out from the metaphoric crowd by not being anywhere near an actual crowd. Photography is in part about being at the right place at the right time, and that often means doing things that others are not willing to do.

Finally, to stand out from the crowd, you need to interpret the scene and not just capture it. Most picture-takers are documenting the scene in front of them, but very few are interpreting it. Charles Hawthorne said, "The world is waiting for men with vision--it is not interested in mere pictures." Most people are capturing "mere pictures" and few are capturing interpretations of the world. You must infuse your images with your own unique thoughts and feelings. It's not necessarily about seeing something that hasn't been seen, but thinking differently about what everyone sees.

Mankind has indeed taken a lot of photos, and the vast majority of them are uninteresting. Most are not good at all. Very few speak to the viewer. It is those who can create meaningful photographs that will find success.