How I Became A Better Photographer

How I Got Started

Like many people, I had my first experience with photography as a child. I took snapshots of school trips and family events using disposable cameras, and early digital cameras. It was fun, but it wasn’t until I took a formal photography class in high school that I saw that photography could be more than that: It was a way to create. 

After that I came to really enjoy the act of photographing. I liked to get out with my camera, but I never really made the time. I thought it would be nice to be a better photographer, but in the end I just wanted to take pictures and have a good time. This held true through college, so my work was fairly stagnant during those first six years. After graduating though, I went through a period of turbulence that ultimately changed my perspective of photography. 

During these years of job instability and major life changes (passing of my grandfather, getting married, moving, etc), photography became a way for me to channel my creative drive. It was a way for me to center myself, focus on the moment, and deal with the frustration as I tried to find my place in the world. I would go out into nature to hike, spend time in solitude, and photograph the interesting things I found. Unbeknownst to me, this set up how I would create in years to come. 

Exploration Photography

Eventually I got what I thought would be my dream job: a gig as a designer at a photography backpack company. This prompted my wife and I to move to Saint Louis, MO. It was exciting, but we knew very little about the city and state we were moving into. As a way to familiarize myself with our new surroundings I began walking the city with my camera, and later, with the encouragement of my new friends, I eventually branching out to nearby state parks as well. I was amazed at the beauty of Missouri, and I had a lot of fun exploring the different landscapes. 

So, when I was subsequently laid off because of issues within the company, I threw myself into exploring and photographing the state over the following year. I hiked 3-6 times a month, venturing deeper and deeper into the wilderness, and I created more photographs then I ever had before. This resulted in my first show, *Solitude and Reverence*. 

As I continued to explore natural areas, and parts of Saint Louis, I began to realize that while my photography had gotten better, I wasn’t really happy with most of my work. I began to search for new avenues to continue my growth: researching the history of art and photography, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube tutorials, studying photographers I admire, and starting this blog to work on my storytelling skills. 

Up to this point I had given little thought to why I liked photography, and what about my favorite images worked. As I continued to learn more, it hit me: if I don’t know where I am going, I’ll never be able to get there. If I just keep trying new and different things without an end goal, I'll only burn myself out. This prompted me to figure out what about my favorite images works, and focus on using this insight in the future. Needless to say, I have found it hard to categorize what connects my work. I enjoy photographing nature as much as the city, and I switch between different types of photography shot to shot. 

But when I look back at what brought me to this point, and what I want my work to be in the future, it becomes obvious that my favorite images all share a common theme: exploration.  

I enjoy exploring state parks as much as Saint Louis because it gives me the opportunity to experience and discover my surroundings. My desire to travel to new locations comes from the need to discover what those places have to offer. That is what inspires me to create, and and why I love photography. 

Moving Forward

Coming to this realization has probably been the hardest part of my journey as a photographer. I know I still have a way to go before I feel completely confident as a photographer (if I ever do), but reflecting on everything that I have gone through to get here has made me want to share my years of knowledge and experience to help others with their own journey. This is actually what I plan to start using this blog for. Hopefully reading about the successes and failures I faced will help encourage others to take the steps needed to become better photographers.

However, this doesn't mean I plan to stop exploring anytime soon. I still want to share my adventures to foster an atmosphere of creativity and discovery, but this is only one part of growing as a photographer. Without the knowledge and understanding of how to make a good photograph, being in an inspirational location will only take you so far. That's why starting next week I will begin in this new direction as I break down my thoughts on what it takes to make a good photograph.

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