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on Jan 8, 2010 in Friday Thoughts

UpRighting the World with Photography's Greatest Reward

Photographic rewards come in many flavors. You’ve got contests, that’s pretty cool. Who hasn’t had one or more of their family members tell you that you should go pro. That’s rewarding. There is getting your photographs published in a magazine, getting your own book and of course there is the sale of a print for a handsome price. That’s just downright sweet. Topping this is that moment when you think you’ve made that great click and then when you’re looking at your images later, you know you’ve made that great click. Now we’re talkin rewards. But I think there is one even greater that comes from photography for many of us fortunate shooters.

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Do you ever feel that you’ve got everything backwards and perhaps you’re looking at the world upside down? Not so much as the world as a whole, just the photographic world. For example, have you heard this silly competition thing between Nikon and Canon owners? Or how about Mac and Windows? While there are some great jokes for one side or the other, what gets me is when folks actually take it all really seriously, like the future of the planet depends on determining which is best. And it seems like just yesterday there was the pixel race, who’s got the most. Glad that’s cooled down so now we can debate who has the best high ISO. Now there’s a debate that keeps you on the edge of your seat!

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One of my all time favorites that come up almost yearly for the last 30 years I’ve been involved in the sport, is the question, “Do I buy the current model or wait for the next, best body that surely is coming?” One of our best selling images still to this day, was taken with a D1 body, an image with a little noise, not super dupper tack sharp but yet, the light, color and gesture just keep it selling and selling. Even with that knowledge, I’m always one of the first to jump on new technology just because…because history has proven for us it’s a wise business move. But this doesn’t bring the greatest reward in photography I think.

Photography is a struggle, at least it has been for me. I’m talking the whole package, from the content creating to the image selling to maintaining business . It’s a struggle. In the beginning I remember bad times when selling a lens was the only way to pay bills. I remember passing on projects because there simply was no capitol to fund it. I painfully remember those projects I didn’t do to my best ability for lack of knowledge. Yet even with those struggles, somehow, we managed to keep moving forward. There isn’t a day that Sharon & I don’t wake up and look at our home and pinch ourselves knowing that photography paid for it. Even this to me isn’t close to the greatest reward photography has to offer.

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Since our oldest son Brent was two weeks old and Jake at two days old, they have been out there with me when I was shooting. Brent’s first word, seriously, was Nikon (he had a damaged FM-2 he played with as a kid). When we went camping, speaking engagement, a party, a conference, or nearly any social function, photography was somehow involved. And so it has been for 22 years. Today was an example of exactly what I’m talking about. Working on a new project, Sharon, Jake, Brent & myself spent the day flying in WWII warbird T6 Texans. The air to air photography was amazing and I was incredibly fortunate again to be working with our youngest son Jake. You can see him being ninja shooter, a little bit of forehead peaking over his camera as he photographs the plane I’m in. And as you can see, I’m photographing him photographing me (or he’s photographing me photographing him).

Then after our morning flight, we landed and Brent & Sharon went up and flew and Jake and I photographed their flight. Afterwards we all got back together and went to a hamburger BBQ in the hanger with other pilots on the field and talked planes. Stories from WWII, Korea & Vietnam as well as “ramp rumors” filled the air. It was just a helluva day!

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And now we’re getting to what I think if the greatest reward photography has to offer. And that’s permitting us to follow our passion and share it with others. This can be done in many ways and all day long. I’m so fortunate that I have a great family who not only have supported my craziness for all these years, but actually participate in it. And what’s still amazes me that the one type of photography that gets us all out together and incredibly excited is not wildlife, landscape, skiing or fly fishing photography but is aviation photography. Anything that brings and keeps a family together is a good thing. I’ve seen photography work its magic on other families and I’m so glad its part of ours.

In our family, Dad gets away with nothing and this is particularly true with photography. I have a house of very qualified critics who have no hesitation telling me their opinion of my images (I wonder where they got that from, must have been Sharon). It’s a reality check I relish because their comments are not just based on technical or artistic merits, but also how Dad’s photography should be felt. That’s when the world all turns upright again and I experience photography’s greatest reward. Forget everything else and just open your lens, shutter and your heart and let the light in and then share it. You too will experience photograph’s greatest reward!

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Photos captured by D3s, 70-200VR2 on Lexar UDMA digital film