Hey everyone. RC Concepcion here. I am a Photography and Photoshop instructor over at Kelby Training and a fellow 500px user. You can check out my 500px work here.
In this guest post I’d like to share a different kind of tutorial with you — instead teaching you technical skills, I will reveal the importance of listening to your inner voice. As a photographer this inner voice can save you from trouble, push you to take the best photo, aid you in letting go & discarding a bad one and in general it’s a great voice to listen to. Here’s my story of how the inner voice came through for me on my urbex journey in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
One of the things that I love about photography is the amount of stories that can go into the picture. Obviously, the picture itself has the 1000 words, but I’m talking about all of the stories that give the picture a personal level of meaning. Stories that largely go unnoticed until you sit with others and reminisce about the specifics. While I feel like I am lucky enough to be able to serve as a witness to the world in pictures (the charge of the photographer), I also create to give me these little signposts to my own life. Lessons I feel like I can pass forward at some point to my child. This lesson for me was simple — listen to the voice inside you and push. Very carefully.
I was sitting in Milwaukee, WI getting ready for a talk that I needed to do the following day at the Convention Center. I’ve been on a hunt for a set of pictures that fit an urbex feel for a revision that I am doing for my book on HDR. Driving in and looking at the area from the highway I just didn’t think that Milwaukee would be something that would be able to give me what I wanted. Feeling uninspired, comfort sat in. There I was, in shorts at the hotel, looking over the menu for what to have for dinner. The last thing that I wanted to do was get my camera and go shoot.
While we love to make pictures, there are times that you just get cold. It happens to everyone. Every photographer out there hits this crossroads, and wonders “I’ll go out there and what if I come back with nothing... I can just sit here.”
At these moments, there are two things that I remind myself. First, I am guaranteed to get 0 shots if I stay home. Getting out there increases that chance. The chance is why we do what we do. It is that moment where everything aligns and we are given the gift to make a shot. We train hard at our craft to be able to perform our best at that very moment, but we must be available to that moment in order for it to happen. Legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky famously said “You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and it could not apply more here.
Second, it would shock many people to realize just how much goes into the taking of some of the best pictures. Many people on 500px hike incredible distances. Are awake ungodly early. Some don’t sleep at all. Some pictures are months in planning with many moving parts. And often, all of this dedication results in a picture that just doesn’t stand up. It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn that I can put so much into a picture and it can suck. And that is ok. Putting in that energy is part of the process of being a photographer.
This pushes me, motivates me, and mocks me. I grab my camera and sit with two browsers open. One has 500px up. The other Google Maps. I start looking through inspirational images where people have shown up to Milwaukee and represented, putting their fingerprint on photography. I decide I’ll aim simply. There was a big church that I passed on the way in — the Basilica of St. Josaphat. I will get there and conquer my apathy by making a shot.
How ticked off was I when I got there and it JUST CLOSED!!
Dejected, I throw myself into the car. This confirms that I shouldn’t have attempted to make a shot. While I was upset, I wasn’t going to make the night a complete waste. Pulling up Google Maps again, I opt to go along the water, trying to find locations that I can make a shot from. In a short amount of time, I run into an area in Milwaukee known for Urbex — the Solvay Coke and Gas factory. Now, there is a standing order to arrest anyone at that facility, but I didn’t care. Beaming, I ran into the facility to make some pictures, ever grateful that my dedication (that I normally would’ve caved on) paid off by getting me a location where I can try to make a shot. Sitting in the hotel, I would’ve never pushed through to find this and now I’m sitting in near darkness, trying for a picture. I could not have been happier.
As I am finishing up a shot, I get this feeling. “You have taken more than your share here. “ - I say to myself. Not wanting to be particularly greedy I decide to pack it in and head back to the car. There were a couple of other kids with some P&S cameras making shots. They giggled past me as they came in, perhaps finding it funny that a grown man was spread eagle face down in a burnt down factory. (Hey… you ain’t shooting if you’re not getting dirty.)
I pack it up and head to the car. Driving a block down the road, I cannot help but look at some of the iPhone shots I took while there. I quickly get one ready to post on my Google+ and write a short story on it.
As I am writing the post, I feel a car very slowly passing me. I look up to see not one but two squad cars on the opposite lane, wondering what I was doing. I smile, wave, and go back to writing my post. The cars slowly make their way down to the facility.
In photography, that same voice that tells you to push harder can also serve as a guide to tell you to pull away. I’ve learned (the hard way unfortunately), that the voice is never wrong.
Thanks for reading. You can read more about me at aboutrc.com, follow me on Twitter or visit my 500px page. For more tutorials visit previous blog posts on Long exposure photography by Matt Kloskowski or Great Gatsby portraits by Alex Huff.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!