Are You Looking for A Shot, or YOUR Shot?

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I have thousands of images of egrets, and hundreds of egrets plucking seafood from the brine.

I could shoot pictures like this all day, and the problem is that I do precisely that. I return to Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve visit after visit, year after year, making the same images over and over and over again.

BolsaChicaD610-9472Sure, my timing is getting better and my shot discipline has improved and my lenses have gotten longer and my camera sensors are more, um, sensor-ific, but ultimately these images mean little to me. When I see images like this, I think about the technical challenges, but I feel very little.

Offered an opportunity to show some of my wildlife work, I reviewed tens of thousands of images from the dozen years I’ve been shooting digital, and made the shocking discovery that my best images reflect a personal style. And I like it. And now that I know I have a style that I like, I no longer go to my favorite wildlife spots looking for A shot; I go in looking for MY shot. Like the two below, taken on the same visit as the two above.

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In my past corporate life, we used to say that “Success leaves clues.” It’s important to own and learn from our mistakes, but we can also learn a great deal by studying our successes.

Which reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon featuring a couple at a fancy party. The gentleman is up on a chair examining a painting with a magnifying glass, and his wife explains to the hostess: “He knows all about art, but he doesn’t know what he likes.” Ruthlessly editing my own collection of images and then spending weeks reverse-engineering the ones I prefer has made a huge difference in how I shoot and edit, because it allowed me to build on strengths rather than focus on weaknesses. And I figured out what I like.