Why I Love Photography
Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Photography has been one of the most popular hobbies in the world for decades and, with the advancement in camera phones, almost everyone today takes photographs on a regular basis. However, for others, like myself, it goes beyond just snapping away some pictures on your phone when you're on a night out or walking the dog. We spend a small fortunate on equipment, get up at ungodly hours for a nice sunrise and stand in cold locations trying to get that perfect shot. In this blog, I am going to go through the reasons that motivate me to do these things even though to many people it might seem crazy to go through all that for a photograph.
I CAN'T PAINT TO SAVE MYSELF
When I was younger I was never particularly strong at art during any point through primary or secondary school. I enjoyed it, at times, however I was never particularly good at it. I never managed to find a niche that worked for me, for example I wasn't good at painting but neither did I have a knack for sketching with a pencil. Nor was I particularly motivated by the art history we were taught, and growing up in Scotland, much of that focused on Charles Rennie McIntosh but his work never really inspired me. There was certainly an element, like most people, where I wasn't enjoying art because I wasn't good at it, however this didn't mean that I wasn't creative. I still had this passion for being creative and enjoyed it when I was able to build something like every kid does when they go through a Lego phase. Photography allows me to create a stunning photograph by using what I see in front of me, like a painter painting a landscape. I may not be creating something from a blank canvas but the composition and editing of a shot is down to me and it allows me to scratch that creative itch. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a building, or viewpoint, which looks fairly mundane but finding an angle and composition that makes it come alive. Or taking several photographs, which look average by themselves, but blending them together in a way that makes one great photograph. Photography allows me to flex that creative side of my personality, without me needing to have excellent control of a paint brush.
THE ANALYTICAL SIDE
As much as I have a creative side to me, the more dominant one is my analytical side. I enjoy planning things out and structuring things in an order that makes logical sense to me. Yes, I enjoy creating and have those moments of spontaneity, however I usually produce my best results when I have put thought and planning into a photo shoot. In photography, you need to have that technical side in order to know how to work your camera to get the best results. This is why many people get frustrated when they see a great image and have a the perfect angle in mind, however the image captured on the camera doesn't reflect what they saw with their eyes. In photography, you need to understand the technical aspects in order to the best results and you can't rely on the camera, or Photoshop, to do this for you. They are just tools at the end of the day and once you have a composition thought out, then you need to know how to use your equipment to capture that composition effectively. Even though being analytic is the more dominant side of personality, I am someone who is neither extremely creative or analytical, and even though I don't just enjoy sitting outside with my camera until a spontaneous idea comes to mind, I also don't enjoy endless hours analysing and setting up every single little setting on my camera. I understand enough to capture the photographs I am looking for, however I do not spend hours reading through the instruction manual of the Nikon D810. This brings me to another reason why i love photography, the balance between creativity and analytical thinking. For me, photography almost perfectly balances the two. Yes, you need to have that eye for a good composition but the analytical mindset is also essential to get the best results. So photography satisfies both sides of my personality and hence why I get a lot of enjoyment from it.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
Another aspect of Photography that I enjoy is the variety of different types of photography. To name a few, there is wedding, landscape, street, wildlife, food, black and white, portrait, macro, architecture and product photography. Therefore, even within the hobby itself, there is a large variety of different categories that are almost separate hobbies in and of themselves. The skills required to be a good food photographer differ greatly from those needed to be a successful wildlife photographer. The former can take time and adjust lighting to set up the shot and get the angle and effect they are looking for. The latter must react to natural light and the behaviour of wildlife to adapt and capture the shot at a moments notice and, in some cases, all whilst not trying to be eaten by your subject. So having a hobby which allows me to switch between different styles keeps me engaged because sometimes I don't want to be out in the cold waiting for a nice sunrise and I'd prefer to be indoors trying to create a nice macro shot and set up the lighting without relying on the weather changing. It also allows me to avoid the types of photography that do not appeal to me but still having plenty of other options to explore. For example, wedding photography has never really interested me but that doesn't matter because that list is so extensive I could spend my whole life just focusing on a handful of those topics and still have more than enough to explore creatively and technically.
THE SATISFACTION OF THAT BUCKET SHOT
One of the peculiar things of human psychology is that we do not appreciate things that are easy to come by or that are readily available to us. If we have achieved something that many others have done, then for that reason it can sometimes seem not so special. For example, if I mention to someone I have climbed Ben Nevis, then they might sit up slightly but I won't get the same reaction compared to if I said I've climbed Mount Everest. This is because thousands of people climb the highest mountain in the Scotland every year, however nowhere near as many climb the highest mountain on earth. Satisfaction also comes from the challenge that posed for us on a personal level and this directly correlates how much we get from an accomplishment and how long that lasts. If I was out of shape my whole life, had never run 1 kilometre, let alone 5, then had to train myself for over a year just to get to decent enough shape to run a 5k, then I probably would get a lot of satisfaction despite how many people do this every year. This is because I would know what it took for me to get to that point and I would enjoy the accomplishment so much more because of the suffering I went through.
Photography is not short of challenges for anyone and one of the most satisfying accomplishments is getting, what Peter McKinnon refers to as, the "bucket shot". The bucket shot is a photograph you have in your mind for a long time and would one day like to achieve or a specific subject or location that you would like to photograph. It might be a location that you have never been to before and is across the world or it is somewhere you have been often but have never captured it with the perfect conditions and lighting. For me, the bucket shot I have so far managed to capture, is the Calton Hill one I currently have on the homepage of my website. I have it there, not just because of the quality of the photograph, however the satisfaction it gives me because it took a lot to finally get that shot. I was asked to get it for someone and it was to be a Christmas or Birthday gift, depending on the timing. I do not stay far from Edinburgh, so I originally didn't think it was going to take me too many attempts...how wrong I was. I researched the location by looking at other shots that had been taken there to see the kind of composition, which would work. The first time I went through the weather was nowhere near perfect but I was happy just to go and finalise the composition, scout out the best location and angle. Then a few weeks or so later I went again, this time with the aim of getting the shot, but the weather still wasn't perfect. This continued for some time with it never quite being right and the train journeys racking up. I started getting more and more frustrated, and after going through once to find the weather being so foggy that I couldn't even see the top of the hill from street level, I started researching the weather as much as possible. I started looking at all the meteorological websites I could find as well as googling live street camera views of Edinburgh just so I could get an accurate idea of what the weather was actually doing. Then one summer evening, I travelled through and the weather was almost perfect, the sun was setting nicely, the colours were vibrant and I captured the shot. This was now over a year later and the irony is that I spent far more money on train tickets than I did for the large print that I eventually gifted in the end. At times, the whole process was frustrating, I doubted I would ever get it and at other times I went through with high hopes of good weather only to be disappointed by a grey and colourless sky. However, that suffering now makes me appreciate it so much more, it was my Everest, something I had to work so hard for, and dedicate so much time to, that it eventually paid off. The best thing is, it isn't the only bucket shot I have manged, nor is it the last bucket shot I have on my list. Therefore, the satisfaction from achieving each of those bucket shots just fuels me on more and more to keep practising photography.
So these are just my reasons for why I love photography and I am sure there are others out there who share these, and different reasons, for pursing it. Let me know what motivates you to pursue photography or what get's you out of the bed on an early morning for the sake of your favourite hobby.