View Full Version : Commitment
October 1st, 2007, 02:07 PM
I spent the last week on a photo trip around the Eastern Sierras, with a couple friends. The weather and conditions were superb. I got a lot of pretty good pictures, but nothing extraordinary... nothing of the kind of pictures I was really after.
Why not? It was at least partly because of the behavior of the people I was with. Ironically, they are both fine photographers. The issue was their lack of commitment to getting the best photographs possible.
I have an old article on my website which touches upon this:
This last week was a good reminder of how true the words of that article are. During my trip, my photo partners wouldn't get up early to photograph the day's first light; they wouldn't stand out in the hail to get the shot; they wouldn't wait it out for an hour while a promising situation became magical; they wouldn't park illegally (where it was safe) to take a picture; they wouldn't jump barbed wire fences to get the shot; etc. In sum, they systematically circumvented every extraordinary photo opportunity that presented itself, for the sake of comfort and convenience.
A lot of aspiring photographers have a desire to produce wonderful work. If they really want it, they need to do what it takes to make the great pictures happen, instead of just being casual about their photographic practices. There are lots of talented and skilled people in the world, and commitment to getting the best shot you can, regardless of what obstacles stand in your way, is one of the big demarcators between the talented and the achievers.
October 1st, 2007, 02:21 PM
How so true! I have had my share of wrestling with this very issue in the past, be it in the field of photography or at work. To be honest, I had been that other person who was not commited at certain times. When that happened, I've felt very uncomfortable knowing that I was wrong.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to get everyone's 100% commitment. The best one can do to is to operate in solitude. But that is not an option for many situations, especially projects and team work.
Most people say that they are commited when they're merely involved.
I tell this following joke to my clients every now and then.
When one has bacon and eggs for breakfast, one can say that the chicken was involved whereas the pig was commited.
Thanks for bringing this up.
October 1st, 2007, 02:35 PM
We (my DH) and I tend to travel and have frequently travelled with friends. We gave up on it unless we speak before hand and decide exactly if we are on the same page. We like to cruise so that if we have a difference of what to do there is no love lost between friends - we can go our own ways and yet be together. But communication is key.
Just like shooting a wedding. If the b&g hire you to do all posed shots and you shoot only Photojournalistic style, the result will not be as expected. Someone missed the communication of the end result.
If you want chocolate and I want vanilla, we'd better discuss it before we order and say we'll share. Sometimes we have to define if it's French Vanilla or Marble Swirl and how far away it is to get the Rocky Road.
October 1st, 2007, 02:41 PM
Mike, its why I shoot alone. I actually went to several camera club meetings here--and there are some very good photographers in the group, but--I find it very distracting to shoot with others--let alone what you mentioned. I will say---I don't park in 'no parking' areas also LOL. I would also add that I would love to have some photographer friends--whether I shoot with them or not. I often feel sort of isolated as a woman photographer in this area with no one that loves it as I do. My spouse (my best friend) understands my passion (as he did for years with my art), but he totally doesn't really understand when I start talking about either a shoot, a print, etc. LOL.
Our shooting here in the east is so different than in the west---but it still takes commitment. I find myself sort of in 'zen' mode when I shoot--often spending a long time in one area (if 'fertile') though maybe only getting one or 2 decent shots from it--but still--for me, and maybe its my background (textile artist using a variety of processes), that it IS the process that I love.
October 1st, 2007, 02:43 PM
Yes, Kathy, I agree, but let's keep this on topic. I used the behavior of the people I was with as an example, but one could just as easily be uncommitted on one's own, as is more in line with the article I referenced. This topic is about commitment to do one's best to get a shot, not about how to get on the same page with others (though that is a worthy topic of discussion in its own right).
October 1st, 2007, 02:55 PM
By the way, I have to mention an opposite case, involving Asher.
Asher came up my way last spring, and had a few minutes to get together for a quick photo shoot, before heading to events in San Francisco. I took him to see an elegant clarkia (a wildflower), and... without the slightest hesitation... he laid right down on his belly, in the dirt and mud, in his fine clothes and sharp shoes, to get his shot of the clarkia.
He makes the commitment to getting the best shot he can.
October 1st, 2007, 03:04 PM
If I were committed to shooting and you were as well, we 'd have to decide on what the result would be and how we would obtain it. Sounds like you have different expectations of what the results would be shooting. So, the committment is still there - but maybe at different levels.
I still stand by the fact that it's all about communication. Could you have gone by yourself and returned to be with them another time? Did they know your intent and intensity of getting what you wanted?
Like Diane, I wouldn't park, even if it's safe, in a no parking zone. I probably wouldn't climb a barb wire fence either. It's there for a reason - usually my safety. Will I lay in the mud - you bet! Will I hike a few miles, yes. But, when I go out with someone else, I have to define with them what my vision is because I don't want to be disappointed. Otherwise, I do see it as a solidary endeavor. If I shoot a wedding with you, I have to know ahead of time the wedding schedule and expectations, do I not? Why is this different?
October 1st, 2007, 03:53 PM
As I mentioned, the relevance of commitment to successfully taking your best photos remains primary even when you are shooting alone. Ergo, commitment and communication are not the same thing. Commitment is not all about communication; it is, in fact, mostly not about communication. They are separate issues, even if they can be interrelated in some cases.
So, again, please, let's keep the topic of this discussion in this thread about commitment to taking your best shot, and reserve discussion about the importance of communication to its own, separate thread.
October 1st, 2007, 04:10 PM
Sorry, but I am going to take you to task here... If you were so committed, why is the behavior of the people you were with even relevant to this thread? You brought them up and listed them as the problem, so I think Kathy's comments are valid! IOW, you're blaming a third party in this circumstance, but not allowing others to offer suggestions about how they avoid that very issue with a third party to insure adherence to their own commitment when the prime time arrives...
If the post is only about commitment, then you should be telling us why you allowed the behavior of a third party to interfere with achievement of your goals to begin with...
October 1st, 2007, 04:57 PM
Originally posted by Jack Flesher
"If you were so committed, why is the behavior of the people you were with even relevant to this thread?"
The behavior of these people is only relevant as an example of lack of photographic commitment leading to mediocre results. Perhaps my example is not the best, for making my point, because my example mixes more than one issue, both commitment and communication. That's a fair criticism. In this case, let me slightly adjust my example:
On this trip to the Eastern Sierras, Mr. S and Mr. B were not committed to getting the best shots that they could. They were unwilling to get up early for the best light. They were unwilling to wait for situations to materialize. They were unwilling to jump barbed wire fences. They were unwilling to stand in the hail. Due to this lack of commitment, they got lesser shots than the best they could have.
Forget that I was even there. In this re-versioning of the example, the focus is strictly on their behavior and their results, with me removed from the equation. In fact, we can even note that they communicated well with each other, and they were in agreement with each other about being uncommitted to taking the best pictures they possibly could.
"You brought them up and listed them as the problem, so I think Kathy's comments are valid!"
Please read what I've written again, and note that i never suggested nor implied that Kathy's original comments were not valid. In fact, I said that I agree with her. I only asked that the topic of communication be reserved for another thread. As for the validity of her later claims that communication and commitment are the same thing, and that commitment is all about communication, those claims remain untrue, regardless of whether I brought the other people's behavior up and listed them as the problem.
"If the post is only about commitment, then you should be telling us why you allowed the behavior of a third party to interfere with achievement of your goals to begin with...
No, it doesn't really make sense. That aspect of the story, even if notable in its own right, still remains an irrelevant tangent to the main point.
But if it makes you happy: I allowed their behavior to interfere with the achievement of my goals because it was their car and they called the shots. Perhaps this showed lack of commitment on my own part. If so, that doesn't change the fact that lack of commitment negatively affected results. Perhaps we could have communicated better with each other. That doesn't change the fact that lack of commitment negatively affected results, either.
And the fact that commitment, or lack thereof, is an important factor to the level of photographic results achieved, is the point of this thread.
So, for the sake of argument, I take blame in this course of events. Now that we have established this, let's discuss the topic of how commitment relates to photographic results, as I originally intended, even if I did address is in a problematic way.
October 1st, 2007, 05:14 PM
So, for the sake of argument, I take blame in this course of events. Now that we have established this, let's discuss the topic of commitment relates to photographic results.
Okay, fair enough. Then all I can say is if you want great images, you need to be committed to getting yourself in positions or circumstances that lead to opportunities for great images. If you're not willing to do that, then you might as well give up on photography. BUT! Not all great images happen at early morning, in hail-storms or at sunset, nor do they always (or even often) require you to break traffic or trespass laws to obtain them... Sometimes they happen where you least expect them, and other times they happen wherever you create them, like in a studio.
I think the real issue here is what does one do about their commitment to obtaining great images when circumstances alter their preconceived notions about what they hoped to capture in a given situation. As I see it you have two choices: Accept the change, forget about images and enjoy the experience, or adapt to the new paradigm and figure out how to make some different great images...
October 1st, 2007, 05:25 PM
I can sense your disappointment. Maybe they were there just for the 'holiday', whereas you wanted more. They may be 'fine photographers', but it seems that they have got lazy, maybe jaded in their outlook. You stick to your guns, (or least your telephoto's), the journey is the destination. You can't teach pork, best not to worry about it.
Now, are you going to show us some of your 'disappointing photos', so we can say 'they aren't so bad' ;-)
PS this was written, before Jack's was answered, no response required, since You have explained a bit more in your reply to Jack.
October 1st, 2007, 05:28 PM
Thanks for raising these thoughts! I actually have this conversation with myself all the time and I found your comments prompting a new voice in my internal debate on how serious I am about the photography.
I have taken my share of risk to get a photo, but I wouldn't hold it against anyone if they didn't want to take the risks I do. I think there is a fine line between courageous acts and foolish acts. Usually the difference is motivation - does it benefit YOU or does it benefit someone else?
Laziness is another matter...
October 1st, 2007, 05:32 PM
I'm in complete agreement with everything you just said.
I totally agree with you that if you want great images, you need to be committed to getting yourself in positions and circumstances that lead to opportunities. I also totally agree with you that not all of the great situations happen in early morning, sunset, etc., and and that many great opportunities arise when you least expect, and when you create them. I would add to this that I feel that, even there, commitment comes into play: commitment to keeping photographic perception in mind, commitment to fully working the subject, etc.
I also agree with this:
"I think the real issue here is what does one do about their commitment to obtaining great images when circumstances alter their preconceived notions about what they hoped to capture in a given situation. As I see it you have two choices: Accept the change, forget about images and enjoy the experience, or adapt to the new paradigm and figure out how to make some different great images..."
In fact, I tried to do that, in the circumstances of this trip. Here's an example, which is very different than my normal stuff:
October 1st, 2007, 05:47 PM
Here's an example of my results, which is very different than my normal stuff:
so, look what your friends got you to do, else you would have come back with just your 'normal stuff'
'That's not so bad'
('Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance' - the bit about removing the cylinder head bolts... You are old enough to have read it, I bet)
October 1st, 2007, 06:09 PM
In fact, I tried to do that, in the circumstances of this trip. Here's an example, which is very different than my normal stuff:
And a very nice capture it is! (Is it the little homestead South of Bridgeport on 395?)
October 1st, 2007, 06:35 PM
Lots of times I go out shooting with my husband. We have similar interests and he is really an excellent photographer but he doesn't have the passion I have for it (but he does support it!). When we spend a photography day together, we always have to talk about it before hand. Saturday was a great example.
He shoots with a 24-70 and a 20d - I have a 5d and I had my 24-70 and a 70-200 to go shoot. We went to Disneyland. I wanted to shoot the parade there - action/long lens and it required sitting around and waiting for the parade if we wanted a good spot. The 24-70 for me wasn't long enough. It's all he wants to use. My spot was great and his wasn't. He could have moved - requiring him to sit on the sidewalk, cross legged. I was standing on my bench - I am short . He was sitting. No shots for him. He didn't like waiting and he ended up putting the camera away and just watched. He had a choice. So did I. He could have moved; He could blame me or he could have tried for shots that would be half committed. He made his choice. I got my shots. We talked about it. There are options if you are committed and your party isn't.
Mike - I think your image is lovely!
October 1st, 2007, 10:52 PM
Doing the best shot require solitude of the photog…
So many things involved in the brain at that time!
Solitude doesn't mean to be alone… but to be closed to open communication with other at the time.
THEE best shot is an affair between the subject, the photog and a camera in between…
Others will appreciate (hopefully) the print later…
October 2nd, 2007, 12:08 AM
I agree that commitment is an essential ingredient to becoming an accomplished photographer. Lucky moments aside, the best shots typically require us to work hard for them, then can require any (or all) of the following:
Without the commitment to get the image that you intend to capture, the above list will probably seem scary.
However, in my opinion, to have commitment requires something else, something more powerful: passion. I think that passion is the essential aspect that drives our commitment, and therefore allows us to progress as photographers.
October 2nd, 2007, 12:07 PM
Ray, Jack, Kathy,
Thanks. I'm glad you enjoy the picture.
Yes, that's the little homestead on 395, a little South of Lee Vining, not far from Mono Lake.
I agree about your thinking about the best shot.
I agree. I am not sure that passion is necessarily the only source for this kind of commitment, but it seems to be the most common and the most powerful.