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.
Sure, 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.
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.