If at first you don’t succeed….Dust yourself off and try again (*Aaliyah* I can’t believe I am using this line!)
I bought my first DSLR a few years ago and my dad actually advised me to shoot in Manual mode from the get go. It was hard, very hard considering all I had to do was put it on Auto and I didn’t have to think about anything else other that pointing and shooting. Nevertheless, I love challenges (well some challenges I guess) so I decided to go a head and figure out Manual mode.
I received my camera a few days before Memorial day so I resolved to take a trip to Sequoia Park with my husband and use my camera then. I didn’t think I had anything worthwhile shooting at home or in my neighborhood so I thought cameras like mine were only supposed to be used during important moments or special trips.
We went ahead and embarked on our journey to the Sequoia’s home town. We booked a hotel through Hotels.com and rented a car to insure a safe (r) and fast(er) ride there. We only lived about 4 hours away from Sequoia Park, but we really didn’t want to use our car. SO we planned the whole trip so well, I felt like we got the greatest deals both in our hotel and the car and I even got some good ol’ advice from my dad about photography. We packed our stuff, tripod and everything rejoicing on how perfect the trip seemed so far.
Once we got to the hotel, it seemed pretty obvious the weather was … well, crappy. However, I still had the hope that once we got to the park somehow the sun would shine down on us, unfortunately the closer we got to the entrance the closer my heart got to fully sink down my stomach.
How on earth was I ever going to shoot the images I wanted? I mean, forget the fact that the sun was nowhere to be found, it was raining!!!!!!!!! HARD! Did I mention the snow?! Yes it even snowed for a bit :s
Needless to say I was so disappointed, I also knew the chances of us going back there were slim. At least we wouldn’t be going back there in 5 years (it’s been 6 so far). I had to choices:
1. Go back home
2. Stay and check at least some stuff out and get wet, really wet.
We decided leaving would be even more lame so we stayed. I am so glad we did! And that is the whole point of this blog.
By the time we made it to the iconic tree trunk you can drive your car through it was no longer raining, at least not as bad. It was pretty foggy though. I guess pictures were going to have to be left out for next time right? NOT!
I remembered my dad would stick his camera in a plastic bag and go shooting in the rain. Weather shouldn’t intimidate a photographer, it should only challenge him/her.I asked my husband to fetch me a plastic bag (because apparently I couldn’t do that for myself lol) and stuck my camera in it, put it in a tripod and started shooting and voila! That is when it happened, I couldn’t believe my eyes.The images were actually incredible considering the situation. The fog and the humidity in the greenery actually gave me the most amazing colors. I still go back to those photos and I can’t believe I almost let my frustration take the best of me and missed out on that natural beauty. After all these years I actually noticed that my best photos are usually when I am taken out of my comfort zone. Those moments when I actually have to make it or fake it are the moments of redemption for me and when I take the best photos. Moments when I cry, and I really have to brake myself out of the shell and just do it. In this situation, not only did I have to figure out a way for the bag not to show in the images, but also I had to figure out the dang manual mode. Aperture, exposure, shutter speed and the rest of the package, but you know what? I had a lot of fun.
Back in college one of my photo essays I had to present was Identity Portrait and I decided to shoot my husband. He hates being the center of attention so needless to say he hated every single shutter click sound. He wasn’t cooperating and was complaining quite a lot. At some point I just lost it and walked over to the window in my living room cried and yelled and cried some more. I told him how pathetic it was he was not helping and asked him to just sit by the window and be natural for crying out loud! Oh my goodness, I took complete control at that point and started shooting again. For some reason ideas started floating in my head. I got some pretty cool ideas, I asked him to just hang out with our California Mountain King snake because I knew that relaxed him. I started a conversation about the dang snake and before I knew it my husband was completely relaxed and cooperating fully, but above all he was being himself. That was my assignment and I nailed it, in fact I nailed it so well that it landed my a spot in the school’s art gallery for a semester and 3rd place at the school’s photo contest.
I went from feeling in total despair to feeling pretty dang awesome. This is the way it will always work with photography, only those who continuously challenge themselves can become the best. And honestly, this is the way it works with life itself. Challenges are supposed to make you, even brake you, but in the end the results will always be well worth it. I look at the photos on the National Geography site and I am always amazed, the photos are always incredible because they are the product of people who have challenged themselves in remarkable ways. They are always trying new stuff, new places, they can never get enough.
My dad is already making sure I take on the challenge of making it to the Nat Geo group of photographers one day. We’ll see, but for now I am happy to tell you that whether you are encountering a difficult time as photographers or on your own daily life facing your challenges can only make you stronger and better. We can get better, rise and overcome. As a christian, I know that God endowed us with pretty amazing potential and it’s there for us to use it. Got challenges? Well let’s embrace them and know that we will only get better and better. Some more good news? Your images will only get better too! Remember how I mentioned that I began shooting on manual from day one? Well that has given me more freedom that I could ever imagine, it has also made me way better than I could have ever been had I tried and stayed shooting on Auto. I know exactly what I’m doing now (most of the time anyway) and “if at first I don’t succeed, I’ll dust myself off and try again!”
The images above & below are the ones I took during the trip to see the Sequoias, you’ll see what I was talking about. These images are mostly processing virgins, with little or no touch ups. It was all a work of nature!