This guest article is by Nick Smith.
Someone who I’ve followed for sometime is Trey Ratcliff. For those who aren’t familiar, he’s known for his HDR style images.
My Early Photography Influences
I first came across Trey way back in 2004 when I was studying at Art School. I was struck by his odd yet fascinating images.
After realising about his process and that software was needed, I never attempted to have a go. However I kept following his website as he frequently updated it with new photographs and stories. He always seemed to make it look so easy in the videos that he released. Because of that I always had the urge to photograph, however studies took precedence.
Some years had gone by and after picking up my camera again, I went straight to his site. I was excited as I was now able to afford the software he used. I thought to myself that I too would be able to create great images.
This was before I owned a car and the only locations I was able to get to was my local village. This didn’t matter as I was happy creating these HDR images. I was also enjoying the process of hunting for interesting locations in my local area.
Don’t Let Others Cloud Your Vision
During the end of 2013 I stumbled across a weekly competition. What a great way for me to share my results and hopefully win something along the way. After about a month or two of entering my images, I came to realise that HDR wasn’t popular among the judges. All of this effort, time and enthusiasm that I’d put into producing these wonderful images.
After getting some advice from some of the other photographers who also entered, I ended up ditching HDR altogether and changed my style. Just to please some judges.
With this change my photography did improve, however I was just doing it for a competition and not myself. I became exceedingly frustrated but persisted with my new process. I continued entering week in week out for an entire year. Over that period I succeeded once, however felt no joy.
After the year I decided not to continue with the competition (and also with the abrupt accident I had which caused me to break my camera). It was causing me more stress and anxiety than what it was worth.
Once I’d stopped entering I found myself more relaxed. No pressure to make a perfect winning image every weekend. I started to enjoy photography again. I was able to create something for me and not what a judge in an office thought was good.
Don’t Let Criticism Get You Down
Over the years or even centuries, artists have been criticised for the work they create. Like all artists we create because it makes us happy. Even now regardless of how old we are, we’re subjected to unnecessary worry.
When Trey was young, someone told him they would start a rumour. Naturally he started to worry, and it slowly started to get to him. Though one day he asked himself;
“Why do I care what people think? I’m not a bad person, I may even be awesome”.
So instead of spending all of that time worrying what others would think of him, he used that time to try and be awesome.
Even I worry about what people think of me and especially my work. “Will people like it? Is this a bad photo? Is it as good as so-and-so’s? Maybe I should have done this differently”.
It’s not the criticism that gets to me, I’m quite happy receiving it, as long as there’s an explanation behind it. Criticism is just someone else’s point of view, and their approach to a scene may have been different to yours.
Everyone will undoubtedly worry at some point in their lifetime. Though as my photography has evolved and I’m more comfortable with what I produce, that worry has been less and less. Probably because the images I’m making are for me.
Do Things That Make You Happy
After picking up a camera at the age of 35, Trey went on to start a blog. Where he would write stories behind each of his images. Not many people visited, but that wasn’t the reason for creating it. He just enjoyed doing it. He knew though that the right people would find it eventually.
I think I too am at that stage in my blog, I write because I enjoy it. It’s that point in my life also where friends venture to greener pastures and my social circle is slowly getting smaller. It’s a way of making conversation with people in a sense, even though they’re not physically in front of me. Sharing my thoughts to those who stumble across it.
So What Makes Me Happy?
Even though I moved on from HDR and took photos with a more ‘traditional’ workflow. The style didn’t really feel it was me. I continued anyway as I knew I would find it along the way.
With the unexpected accident which put my camera out of commission for 3 months. I didn’t really feel the same enthusiasm for it when I received it back. I took this as a sign telling me that I truly wasn’t happy. Thankfully during that period I found what did.
What makes me happy isn’t just about the image, it’s the entire process of image making, and in my case, this is with a film camera. I always told myself that the type of photographs I created would be for me. Though it was only really until I actually did this, did I start enjoying photography.
Whether film will be my main choice for the future to come, I am uncertain. However when that times comes, I know that my decision will uninfluenced. Other than what makes me happiest.
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