The Difference of a Year

The quality of one’s photographs should improve over time, whether through technical competence or through improvements in compositions, but hopefully both.  For me, these changes are evident during the “competition” phase of the year when the call for entries open and close.  This is the part of the year when I review the photographs posted on this blog and begin the process of narrowing down the possible candidates for entry.  The trend that emerged at the end of this process was slightly surprising: The final photographs I selected were all architectural, interiors, or structures; none were nature landscapes.  This was a major shift from the previous year.

Old Sugar Mill, Clarksburg, CA
Old Sugar Mill, Clarksburg, CA
CA State Fair, Sacramento, CA
CA State Fair, Sacramento, CA
ISO400, 23mm, f/16, 13 sec
The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

(click through on the images to view in 700px)

Now, there are several obvious reasons for this shift in subject matter.  Few day trips to the Eastern Sierras, Yosemite, San Francisco, and points north this past year.  Through 2011 and 2012 I took advantage of the National Park Annual Pass I purchased and averaged 2 days a month in Yosemite, which often served as a gateway to additional visits to Mono Lake, the Eastern Sierras, and locations along Hwy 395.  There were also frequent trips out out to San Francisco and Marin.

Secondly, spending between $60-100 each trip for gas alone has curtailed the frequency of long drives.  Now, I try and combine outings with friends downtown with a few hours of shooting nearby urban scenes afterwards.

Thirdly, photographs from oft visited locations such as Yosemite, fall color in the Sierra, and even San Francisco produce photographs that are usually very similar to everyone else’s photographs.  It is difficult to find an original composition.  The well-photographed locations become a bit stale.  Unless you have a block of days to explore an area, you tend to feel rushed to hit as many places in a day as possible rather than risk focusing in one small area and coming away with zero acceptable images.  But by hitting multiple locations, you are also at the mercy of the prevailing conditions (sun, clouds, light).  In contrast, by hitting only one spot and working it or hitting one spot multiple times, you start to understand the location, look at smaller vignettes available to you, and even being to formulate the type of conditions needed for a specific vision.  It may take multiple visits to get those conditions just right.  That is time and gas costs I did not have this time year.  There were certainly more instances of quick local drives to explore derelict buildings.

So as a starting photographer 1 and 2 years ago, I did find it necessary to see if I could replicate the skill and vision of iconic images and locations.  Now the focus is more about finding the lesser photographed locations, converting to monochrome to invoke a different mood, and even shooting out of my comfort zone and style.

The next 12 months?  We will have to see.

© Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

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6 thoughts on “The Difference of a Year

    1. Thanks Melinda. It was pretty useful for me to revisit the photographs I chose last year and realize where many of the images could have been improved. Hopefully I’ll feel the same next year!

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