Good morrow and welcome to PPT; I’m sharing 7 of the best life lessons I’ve learned by being a photographer. One of those is, sometimes in order to learn, your lessons really have to hurt.
I’m lucky in that I’m a good student. Sit me down with a textbook or a teacher and I can learn just about anything. But the problem I’ve found with that kind of academic learning is that it’s temporary. The knowledge comes into my brain, bounces around for awhile, and then six months later it flutters out of my ear or nose or something. Not really sure how it gets out, but I do know that it’s gone.
But you know what kind of knowledge does stick around? The kind that was painfully gained. If some lesson hurt you to learn it, then I guarantee you are going to hold that lesson dear for a long time to come. Let me give you an example:
When I was living in LA and just starting out with photography I spent a lot of time exploring the southern part of the Palos Verdes coast around Abalone Cove. In spring of 2008 I went out a couple of nights in a row: the first night I decided to experiment with night photography, so I cranked the ISO on my trusty old Nikon D50 to a whopping 1600 and took some really awful photos.
The next night I was in more of a seascape mood so I hit the beach, found this rock, and created a seascape composition. Being fairly inexperienced with photography and seascapes I was pretty happy with what I thought was a novel composition, some interesting motion in the water, and decent light and drama in the sky. In other words, I had a keeper! And I couldn’t wait to process this shot into a little bit o’ magic once I got home.
But once I actually pulled the image up on my computer I discovered to my horror that I had left my ISO at 1600 from the previous night. And on the D50, ISO1600 was pretty much the equivalent of pouring sand on your sensor. Upon a close-up of the image; you can see how much of the detail is obscured by noise and crap! My amazing shot…ruined!!! Well you can bet that since night I’ve double and triple checked my ISO before every shoot.
Another, more tragic example. My camera falling lens-first onto a rock. A first-person glimpse into a $750, blink-of-an-eye equipment loss. But you know what? That $750 lesson has stuck with me and now I always make sure my tripod is level and secure before I take my hands off of it.
These kind of mistakes suck. They hurt, they’re expensive, they wound your pride. But the moral of the story here is to not be afraid to make them, or to fail spectacularly. Because those failures and mistakes will teach you stronger and more enduring lessons than a constant string of successes will.
Alright, let’s see here. I’m in a location I’ve photographed a dozen times before, and I’ve got the same composition I’ve shot a dozen times before, and I’m here at the prescribed time for good light, now I just have to sit back and take my nice, boring shot. This is a series of my 7 favorite life lessons I’ve learned by being a photographer. Now I want to talk about how Business as Usual is Boring.
I am anti-icon. The Tunnel Views, the Golden Gate Bridges, the Torres del Paines, the Antelope Canyons. Each of these places is so spectacular and famous within the photography community that they have become cliches. They are beautiful but boring, and you can find better things to take pictures of.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever shoot these places. In fact, there are great reasons to shoot the icons. If you’re just starting out they can be a great place to test and improve your photography skills. By shooting an icon you have taken one big variable out of the equation: the location. You know it’s going to be jaw-dropping.
And heck, these places have become icons for a reason: they’re insanely beautiful. It’s hard to go to places of such grandeur and to not need to take a photo. So yeah, there are some great reasons to shoot the icons.
But for purely personal and artistic reasons, ditch ’em! Leave the parking lots, pull-outs, and crowds behind. Get off the beaten path and go exploring. The uncertainty can be daunting when you don’t know what you’re going to find, or if you’re potentially going to miss out on a great shot somewhere else because you accidentally ended up splashing through a ravine instead of shooting at Glacier Point.
And face it, a lot of times that’s exactly what happens: you try to discover some new vantage point at Horseshoe Bend and get totally skunked, while your friends at the classic view are happily capturing some breathtaking sunset.
Yeah it sucks, but the flip side is so incredibly rewarding that in my opinion you can’t afford to not take the risk. Look at Galen Rowell, a giant of a photographer, and my #1 influence. That guy practically lived off the beaten path, and by doing so he popularized so many of the icons we shoot today: Horsetail Falls, Mobius Arch, Cuernos del Paine, and more.
As a more personal example, take a visit to Yosemite I made a few years back. That day the sky was full of dramatic clouds and as always when that’s the case, the temptation was to go to a safe spot, like Valley View or Tunnel View. But instead I decided to take a chance and see if I could find something unusual
As I hiked up the endless, steep switchbacks along the Upper Yosemite Falls trail the storm clouds began to break up, and warm light was streaking through the Valley. By the time I got to Columbia Rock the texture and light saturating Yosemite were spectacular, and I was able to take a great photo of Columbia Rock. But as happy as I was to see that image pop up on the back of my camera it wasn’t quite what I’d hoped to find. So I continued up the path and came to a spot where it was possible to scramble up the cliffs along the north side of the trail.
That put me in an unusual vantage point and I was able to come home with an incredibly unique shot of Yosemite Valley which has since become one of my best-selling and best-known photos.
So what’s the lesson here with this No Risk No Reward mantra? Simple: get out of your comfort zone! I’m not saying you have to scale cliffs or do something dangerous or unsafe. Just push your boundaries a little bit. Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes or miss out on opportunities by trying something unknown.
You may fail more than you succeed but when you do succeed it will be surprising and novel and amazing. And personally, I think that new experiences are the foundation to having an interesting life. So try something new, try something unknown, and make your time on this planet as interesting and rewarding as possible. And for you photographers: this is a guaranteed recipe to create images that are yours and yours alone. And who among us doesn’t want that?
As always, thanks for watching! You can see more in this series here:
Sometimes the key to success is knowing when to give up, and when is that?…….Never! This is a series of my 7 favorite life lessons I’ve learned by being a photographer. In this video I want to talk about the power of perseverance.
Some things in life you can control, like whether you buy white or wheat bread. But many things you can’t. In nature photography it is much the same.
In fact, out here you’re lucky if you control 50% of the process. You and your camera show up but nature has to meet you halfway. Your camera technique can be impeccable, and your composition masterful, but if the light doesn’t cooperate then you get bupkis. Or conversely, if the light is killer but you screw up somehow, like maybe you accidentally left your camera at ISO 204,800 from when you were trying to shoot those nocturnal hummingbirds. Either way, you go home with nadda.
So what can you do? Only one thing, and that is just give up. Not! Just wanted to see who was paying attention. All you can do is keep trying. Over and over and over.
In early 2010 I was spending a lot of my afternoons scouting the Santa Cruz coast for new locations to shoot. On March 13th I came across a neat shelf which showcased cool features like a gaping sea cave, vivid green algae, and this rocky pinnacle. Even cooler, as the waves crashed against the shelf they would wrap around this pinnacle and form a 15-foot waterfall down the back side.
This had the makings of an awesome photo, but everything had to be just right: nice light behind the pinnacle, and a tide and swell high enough to send water around the rock to make a great waterfall, but not so high as to wash me away into the ocean. So I estimated when the right tide would be and started making trips.
On March 14th I came out at sunset and had some ok light, but it was all to the west. Boo.
Ten days later the tide was right again. So on March 24th I visited the shelf and got the exact waterfall action I was looking for but the heavy clouds kept any color from creeping into the sunset. Boo.
On March 30th conditions were looking promising so I again took a trip. and Again I had some decent light but it was all to the west, with nothing of interest happening over my little rocky point. Boo.
Now I was 0 for 4 attempts on shooting this wavy waterfall. But did I give up? Heck no! I just kept trying and on April 9th the tide and clouds were looking good. So out I went yet again and this time everything fell into place: the clouds to the southeast lit up with color, and the waves sent gorgeous cascades of whitewater around the rocky pinnacle to give me my waterfall. And all that effort and repeated attempts made the final image even sweeter to me.
The moral of the story here is pretty clear: when you want something, go after it. Over and over and over. Never give up!!!
As always, thanks for watching! You can see more in this series here:
Greetings home slices, In this series of videos I’m sharing 7 of the best life lessons I’ve learned by being a photographer, and right now I want to talk about those little nagging doubts we all get when trying to decide whether to go for something or not.
Lesson 2: Just Do It!
Hmmm, could be a good sunset tonight? But then again, maybe not. So hard to tell tell…is it worth going out to shoot??
Here’s an easy way to tell if something is worth doing: JUST DO IT.
A lot of photographers, myself included, spend as much time talking themselves out of shooting as they do into shooting. I get it: your time is valuable and you don’t want to waste it on a wild goose chase, or a wild light chase as the case may be. So you start to ask yourself questions like “How are those clouds looking?” “What’s the forecast say?” “Is the storm going to break in time?” “Where’s the best place to be?”
Ostensibly questions like that aim to help you make an informed decision about whether or not to go shoot. But the hidden purpose of these questions is to cast doubt on the idea of shooting in the first place. After all once you start to ask yourself a dozen questions about whether something is worth doing, more often than not you say to yourself, “meh, I’ll just not do it.” But in my experience it is damn near impossible to actually predict what’s going to happen, with light in the sky or with any other new experience. So you should just go out and shoot. Just do it.
Let me give you a case in point. When I first moved to Santa Cruz in 2009 I lived in an apartment with an ocean view. Very handy for checking out the conditions on the coast. One day it had been raining incessantly all morning but when I heard the rain stop in the afternoon I went out to check the view.
It was still completely overcast, but with the tiniest, faintest, merest strip of slightly brighter overcast just above the horizon. I literally had a 20 minute debate with myself over whether I should go out or not. In the end I decided to go, and this is what the conditions were like when I got to the beach:
I can hear you all cheering with excitement. Yeah, it was pretty gray and the part of me that wanted to stay home was doing a little victory dance in my head, “see, I told you it would suck.” Still, I had come all the way out to the beach, I figured I ought to look around.
I headed down to the south end of the beach and found some neat mudstone rocks I’d never seen before. As sunset approached the sun slipped into some unseen break in the clouds, and the light began to do this:
As the sun continued to drop below the horizon the clouds lit up with a combination of magenta and pink I’ve yet to see repeated. Suffice it to say that I stood on, watching this, with my mouth agape like some slack-jawed yokel. At least I had the presence of mind to hit the shutter button a couple of times, and came home a better image.
The moral of the story here is clear: in photography and in life, it’s easy to second guess yourself, to ask doubting questions, and to talk yourself out of doing things. But you never know what the experience is actually going to be like until you try it. So just do it. Because you never know until you go.
Photography has taught me valuable lessons that have improved my life immeasurably. In this series discover 7 of the best life lessons learned through photography.
Lesson 1: Image is Everything!
For those of you who haven’t heard of Peter Lik, he’s probably the most commercially successful landscape photographer of all time. A few years back he traveled to New England for the fall color change, took a single frame of some pretty trees reflected in a pond, made a single print of that shot, and sold that print for a million dollars. Yup, a million. He has galleries in major destination cities like Honolulu, Aspen, Vegas, and Miami, and each is immaculately presented: the photos are huge and beautifully lit, with ridiculous wow factor. The galleries reek of upscale chic and you can expect to shell out at least a couple grand if you want to hang his work on your wall. Personally I’m not a huge of fan of Lik’s. He’s a decent photographer but often I find his colors over-saturated and feel that he could do more with his compositions. And the guy himself is uh, somewhat over the top. He presents himself as an extreme wilderness adventurer with an unparalleled dedication to his craft, which may be true if you come at it from a standpoint of an armchair photographer, or it may not if you come at it from the standpoint of someone like Marc Adamus, who just spent weeks by himself backpacking and photographing in the Yukon Territory. But as much as Peter Lik’s extreme persona rubs me the wrong way, I admit to having a huge amount of respect for his business acumen and marketing savvy, because he understands one thing very clearly: how you present yourself to the world is how the world will see you. I’m not saying you have to be a caricature of awesomeness to be successful in life. I am saying there are some fantastic lessons to be learned here, one of the most important of which is how you value yourself. Do you approach your work with an attitude of self worth or self doubt? Let me give you an example. When I was first starting to do art festivals I had the most rinky-dink, cheap booth setup I could make: a back wall for displaying framed prints and a handful of wooden boxes for displaying matted prints. What this setup said was, “ooh, I’m just starting out, please pity me!” It smacked of self doubt. But I learned my lesson, and now my booth says, “I respect myself, I respect my work, and so should you.” Another great example for all the artists out there is pricing. The tendency is to say “I’m just starting out,” or “I’m just a beginner,” or “I’m not trying to get rich from this,” and to set your prices super low. And true, if I can make a 12×18 print for $6 and sell it for $7, well then I’ve made a profit. But what does that say about how I value my work? And how other people should value my work? A second great lesson to take away from this is not just how your present yourself, but what you present in the first place. I once heard that the difference between a professional and amateur photographer is that the professional takes way more bad photos. But the question is, what photos does the professional show? Consider two guys of equal talent. One shares all the photos he takes, good and bad. You know what happens? He builds a reputation for himself as a mediocre photographer who occasionally produces good work. The second guy is brutal in his self-editing and only shares his absolute best stuff. Even though he’s not a better shooter than the first guy, he builds a reputation as an excellent photographer. Here are two sets of images I took. What does each set say about me as a photographer? The first says that I shoot a random mish-mosh of stuff, not that impressive. But the second set says “here’s a guy who takes seascape photography very seriously.” So what’s the moral of the story here? You don’t have to be disingenuous and pound your chest, saying “I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread!” But if you value yourself, your work, what you do, and you show people that then people will value you too. And that goes for life as well as art. Please leave your own thoughts in the comments below.
In short, these are the best photography-specific gloves I’ve used and so handy they’ve become my go-to glove for any non-technical cold weather activity. Check them out at https://photographygloves.com/
What makes a good glove? In my opinion the most important things are warmth, dexterity, weatherproofing, and construction/durability. And when it comes to photography I’d add two more things: ease of operating a camera, and ease of operating a smart phone. Most gloves I’ve owned are great in one or two areas but lack in the rest. For example, I have a pair of leather and goose down mittens that are beautifully constructed, completely waterproof, and my hands have never once felt cold while wearing them (even while out in temps as low as -5°F for hours at a time). However, they are so big and bulky that trying to photograph while wearing them is like picking up marbles with milk jugs taped to your hands. Or conversely, for ages my photography glove of choice was a fingerless glove with a convertible mitten top. They were very maneuverable gloves, but flipping the mitten part back exposed all of my fingers down to their bases. Which meant actually using them to photograph quickly led to cold hands.
Vallerret has tackled these issues by creating a line of gloves that target good performance in each of those six categories. At present they have three styles: the simple Merino Liner, the Trigger Mitt, and the Markhof Pro Model (as seen in the photo above). Ignoring the liner for the time being the main design feature of the gloves is the FlipTech Finger Caps, which allow you to flip back the glove on your index finger and thumb, but only at the tips. This helps to keep the rest of your hands covered and warm. The Finger Caps are held in place with magnets, giving you unencumbered access to your camera and/or phone. That alone is an amazing feature if you are used to using any other kind of glove for photography. So these earn very high marks for dexterity and ease of using your devices. One exception to that is the merino wool liner. Although it does work with smart phones it’s not optimized for their use. Meaning that sometimes tapping on the phone’s screen was inaccurate or the phone didn’t respond.
In terms of construction the gloves are made from excellent quality materials including leather and twill outers, with merino wool inners. The merino allows for warmth without bulk, which means the gloves have a more comfortable and svelte fit, leading to good dexterity even with the Finger Caps in place. All the materials are either waterproof or water resistant as well, making these a great all weather glove. The weatherproofing works well though I did notice that after prolonged contact with snow (like if I was shoveling snow for a few hours, or if I spent the day snowboarding in wet snow) both kinds of gloves would eventually soak through. Granted, both of those uses are outside the scope of the design. These are photography gloves, not heavy-duty winter or snowboard gloves. However, it should be noted that because the Finger Caps are designed to allow your finger and thumb to be quickly exposed to operate your camera, that opening allows for snow to get into the glove. Because of that I’d say that these gloves are best suited to cold, but dry-ish conditions, including about 95% of all conditions you’re likely to encounter with photography. If you are going to be doing anything technical or doing something where your hands will be exposed to water for a few hours at a time you might need a more weatherproof glove.
As far as warmth goes I personally have a problem with cold fingers if I’m not moving. Therefore I found the gloves to be colder than their specified ratings, especially if I was simply standing around shooting. If I was active (hiking, skiing, shoveling, etc.) then the gloves kept my hands warm. I found the merino liner to be a bit colder than expected, and I think partly that’s because it’s incredibly lightweight (although well-constructed and comfy). Because of that, along with the touchscreen inaccuracies mentioned above, I swapped out Vallerret’s merino liner with a thicker, windproof, touchscreen-compatible polartec liner from Black Diamond. I found the combination of the Black Diamond liner with the Vallerret Trigger Mitt to be an outstanding combo that was warm in conditions down to around 5°F (if I was staying at least somewhat active), and maybe 15°F if I was standing still.
The gloves have a low-bulk fit, which is nice for feel as well as dexterity and comfort. The wrist cuff is snug and low-profile, and I found it to fit smoothly inside of my waterproof jacket’s sleeve, unlike many other gloves I’ve used where a bulky cuff makes it difficult to fit inside the jacket sleeve. A quick note on sizing: although my hand measurements put me squarely in the middle of the Medium category I found the gloves to be a tiny bit too large, with the fingers in particular being a little too long. That extra space is actually good with the thicker liner, but note that if you wear the Vallerret gloves on their own and you’re on the fence between sizes, I would go with the smaller one.
With that quick overview of the gloves, let’s take a look at what Vallerret says about each:
100 % Merino Wool inner: Nature’s best weapon against the cold ensures a warm glove for photography.
100 % Merino Wool Insulation: Using our proven natural fabric we’ve added a wadding layer for extra warmth.
FlipTech finger caps: You’re ready to shoot in seconds. Just flip the finger cap and enjoy full access to your dials.
Magnets: Keep the FlipTech open and out of the way, increasing your access to your camera.
Ergonomic fit: Our mitt has a fitted design to ensure a great camera feel
Goats Leather and Twill: Premium Goat leather and waterproof twill for optimum protection against winter. Water resistant suede and YKK zips included.
Non-slip grip: Our sticky grip keeps your camera safe.
Photography specs: SD-Card Pocket
Jersey Cuff: keeping your wrist toasty warm, slip on and slip off with ease.
TEMPERATURE RATING: -15 degrees Celsius / 5 degrees Fahrenheit
Markhof Pro Model
100 % Merino Wool inner
FlipTech finger caps
Softshell & Suede
Non-slip grip: Featuring Mt Cook of New Zealand
SD-Card or hand warmer Pocket
TEMPERATURE RATING: between -5 and -10 degrees Celsius / 14 degrees Fahrenheit
100 % Merino Wool Liner
Ergonomic fit: Fitted glove to ensure a great camera feel
TEMPERATURE RATING: 2 degrees Celsius / 35 degrees Fahrenheit
Markhof Pro Model
100% Merino Wool
100% Merino Wool
100% Merino Wool
Premium Goat leather, waterproof twill and water resistant suede.
Windproof softshell and water resistant suede
100% Merino Wool
FlipTech Finger Caps with Magnets?
Non Slip Palm?
SD Card / Hand Warmer Pocket?
2 C / 35 F
-15 C / 5 F
-5 C / 14 F
My Performance Ratings
Markhof Pro Model
Warmth (with / without liner)*
9 / 5
8 / 5
Dexterity (with / without finger caps removed)
9 / 7
9 / 8
2 (will stay warm when wet but has no actual weatherproofing)
Construction / Durability
Ease of Photography
Ease of Phone Use
Overall Features and Design
*Warmth – I found each glove hit its targeted temperature rating if I was active and wearing a liner with the glove.
As mentioned in the beginning of this review these are the best all-around photography gloves I’ve used. I like them so much that they’ve become the glove I reach for for everything except technical winter activities or prolonged exposure to wet conditions. I wouldn’t mind if they were a little warmer or a little more weatherproof, but those are easy compromises to live with for such a feature-packed, well-designed, comfortable, and dexterous glove. And with a thicker liner underneath there’s very little to quibble about at all.
I’d recommend getting either the Trigger Mitt or the Markhof Pro along with a warmer, touchscreen liner from a 3rd party like Black Diamond. In choosing between the Trigger Mitt and the Markhof Pro, the compromise is a little extra warmth traded for slightly less dexterity in the Trigger Mitt. More dexterity but less warmth and weather proofing in the Markhof Pro.
If you’re looking for a new glove for your photography these Vallerret gloves are highly recommended and you can check them out on Vallerret’s Website, www.photographygloves.com.
Vallerret sent me these gloves for free to try. However there was no financial compensation for this review. I do NOT earn any commissions from Vallerret on sales. Furthermore, honesty and credibility are fundamental to any gear review so I have endeavored to make this review as objective as possible.
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