Photograph A Life Well Lived

As a photographer these days it’s all too easy to get caught up in the technology end of making pictures or the online world of social media and self promotion.  So much time is spent sitting in front of the computer editing and developing images, returning emails, updating facebook, twitter, blogging, participating in critique/discussion forums, etc., and so little time is spent experiencing life and the subjects we love to photograph. Frankly, sometimes it really bums me out, almost to the point of questioning the sanity of pursuing a career in photography in the first place.

I recently read a great essay by Guy Tal on his blog about photographing the experience.  It can be found here and definitely is worth a read, as is all of Guy’s work.  It helped remind me of why I first got excited about photography, specifically outdoor photography.  It was a way of recording and communicating the experiences I was having in the outdoors hiking, biking, fishing and skiing.  I gravitated to the outdoors long before I began carrying a camera along and the motivation for my pilgrimages was always to awaken my spirit, to feel alive and experience the beauty of a world much larger than myself.  At some point my desire to create images became one of the primary motivations for striking out into nature.  I began putting a lot of pressure on myself to come home with great images, you know those big bold dramatic landscapes that get everyone all hot and bothered online these days.  Guy’s article warns us about missing the experience of being there in the effort to create an image.  If we do indeed create an epic image but have missed the grander experience before us, what have we really gained?  The article goes on to say that one’s work will greatly benefit from truly experiencing a place, getting to know it intimately and that only by doing this will one begin to make inspired images.

For me this couldn’t be more true.  Whenever I’m in the field (or anywhere for that matter) with the primary goal of making a great image I’m often disappointed.  However, if I’m focused on the experience, open to whatever happens I find I’m able to create images that have a lasting appeal, and for me greater impact and meaning.  So if you want to make great images, start by having great experiences and this can only come from a life well lived or living life to its fullest.  So get off the computer, facebook, twitter, etc. and get outside, spend time traveling, being with friends or family, whatever you want but focus on being there, experiencing life.  And I promise the images will come.

vermont pond and canoe

© Kurt Budliger Photography

The above image was made just before dawn while canoe camping with my family in northern Vermont.  I awoke for a sunrise shot but a thick fog had settled over night and would prove to mask any warm morning light.  I left the comfort of the lean-to and my sleepy little ones and spent some time sitting by the lake listening to the loons calling before getting out my camera to make this image.  The experience was amazing, one I won’t ever forget.


~ by kurtbudliger on March 15, 2010.

2 Responses to “Photograph A Life Well Lived”

  1. Both the composition (I love how the canoe is not entirely in the shot–perfect) and colors are impeccable–nicely done!

    I like the words, too…that really is so true.

    Do you mind if I ask what camera/lens you used?


    • Thanks for the kind words David. The camera and lens combo for this shot was a canon 5D and 17-40L f4. I’m currently shooting with the canon 5DII and love it!

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