Get the Shot (or not)

MercurialI am rather particular about semantics and the manner in which I speak about my own art. You will never hear me define my photographs as “shots”, nor will you will ever hear me proudly declare how “I got the shot” while expressing the ideas or mechanics behind a photograph. Quite contrarily, a professional photographer known for his bold (and refuted) sales claims seems to really enjoy using both. A new generation of landscape/nature photographers has fallen under his influence and they also seem to love using these terms of conquest. The contemplative, perceptual, passive act of moving deliberately and slowly through a landscape in search of creation seems to have been superseded by epic-everything, moving quickly and far (extra points for defying death), and getting “the shot”. I have heard a number of stories from workshop students relating how they covered in previous workshops thousands of tiring miles in one week chasing epic weather and light over epic locations. My own workshops and personal photographic style run completely counter: One location, slow movement, connecting with the land, and a big emphasis on perception and vision. In other words, photographs exist everywhere and can be made at any time and under any conditions. You and your ability to see are your only limitations.

The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.” — Ernst Haas

A bigger issue with “the shot” is the implication that there is only one photograph to be made from any particular location (I have been asked by students and tour clients “where is the shot?”). By limiting yourself only to your preconceived ideas (or mine) and/or photographing what has already been photographed, you cheat yourself out of a world rife with images.

Make art, photographs, or images. War against the shot.

I’ll be presenting and teaching at the 12th Annual Moab Photo Symposium, May 1-3, 2015. Register now for this wonderful experience while seats last. 

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

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11 thoughts on “Get the Shot (or not)

    • Thanks for commenting, Mark. That’s a mechanical/operational statement, no? I might say that to my camera (when no one is near) – it’s a “great photograph” to me. Words matter.

  1. Great thought-provoking post Michael. I also find that many of my photographer friends think that more is better. I feel successful when I can get one image I am excited about. Ansel Adams said, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”.

    • Thank you for your comment, Denise. More is only better if the images improve through that process. The brain should be engaged in the field: Thinking, considering, and editing. Too many photographers save these steps for post-production and hope that Lightroom/Photoshop will do its magic.

  2. Mark Adamus is a good example of a workshop guy who emphasizes taking you around on epic thousand mile journeys chasing the light over the course of a few days.

    • Hi Rebecca: I suspect that this approach works for many based on my views of photography forums. On the other hand, I have found my life’s work tremendously fulfilling and meaningful and it all takes place fairly close to home (and I proudly declare it to be my own unique work). I encourage others to similarly find their own photographic voice – chances are that this work is likely to be “quieter”, far less “epic”, and closer to home. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Pingback: The Shot | Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog

  4. Hi Michael,

    Just found your blog. Love this post, it resonates strongly with me. I need to tape the Haas quote on my camera 🙂 Also going through your portfolios on your website and enjoying your work.

    Best,
    Ross

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