Editor’s Note: This article was first published on deviantArt.com. They asked me what inspires me to create, what fascinates me from an artistic perspective and what inspires me to keep creating. So, here are the thoughts that crossed my mind regarding this topic.
During my studies of Information Management I was introduced to landscape photography and some basic techniques through a fellow photographer and good friend. His interest and enthusiasm for photography simply took off and I was virtually instantly fascinated by creating images. When I first saw his photos and those of other advanced and experienced photographers I also wanted to be able to create something like this by myself. I began to learn like crazy, read articles, tutorials, essays and since the very beginning I have - to a certain degree - photography on my mind every single day. During the very first years I was like being obsessed by everything related to creating images. My mate and I did lots of photo trips together and I practiced and learned a big deal, often near my current residential area. After the first two years when I thought I can handle all the technical aspects and know how to use a camera properly we started to plan longer and more ambitious photo tours to foreign countries and spent more money on traveling.
When I was thinking about my progression in photography I figured out that I at first was interested in the technical aspects of photography and things like how to create impactful image compositions and how our eye-brain combination sees things differently than a camera and so on, but when you "mastered" things like ISO, aperture and shutter speeds, filters and all of that, the interest shifts more and more to the artistic side of creating images and you begin to think about your vision and what you really want to show with an image and a lot about understanding your chosen subject. In my case this is nature. I began with a fascination for landscape photography but after all the years of traveling and spending a lot of time being outdoors observing nature, planning trips and trying to understand weather, light and maps I eventually ended up to value nature and the experience of a trip more than a possible photo. Nowadays my mantra is experience first, photography second.
After almost ten years now I recently noticed that photography has changed my way of seeing and enjoying nature, being outdoors and traveling and even my whole way of living. Before photography and arts came into my life I was in general a more sports and consume oriented person, I think. Today I am way more experience oriented and I have a completely other thinking about lots of things about life, society, careers, what it really means to be happy and our modern way of living in general - all thanks for being engaged with arts for many years now. It is not always the easiest way to live, but at the end it is more satisfying and a lot more interesting - at least for me it is. I guess everyone has to figure this out for themselves. It's definitely not for everyone. From personal experience I can tell that you will definitely have to suffer sometimes like e.g. finding yourself alone in a foreign country sitting in the rain somewhere at a remote point at the edge of the map with no mobile reception or any other connection to people and asking yourself "what the hell am I doing here?" or when you had several trips with bad photo weather in succession (like I had last year). Being right in this kind of situation and mood you certainly want to quit and do fun stuff back in your comfort zone instead. But hold on (!), stay focused and ask yourself why you initially started with arts when you have a hard time or situation and feel unmotivated and dejected. When you've successfully handled a situation like this you will be stronger and proud about it later! For me the right balance between comfort zone with "office work" and new challenges with "outdoor life" and photography is the key. I am free to create when I really want to and not because I need to make a living and pay the bills with my art. I really like and appreciate and I am deeply thankful for having found this way of doing my art. For me an artist must not necessarily earn most of the money with their art to be professional. It is more a way of living and the right inner mindset, engagement and sometimes even suffering for what you really want.
I especially like how all the experiences with nature and the way of seeing nature as a landscape photographer often make you humble. As a photographer you begin to really be aware of all the little details in nature and you begin to recognize the time of the seasons changes and things like when the flowers and trees are blooming, when sunrise or sunset is, where the sun's position is when, how the quality of light is with all its nuances and so on. I noticed that I really began to see nature with other eyes than before - and I began to like and value it more. This is what inspires me to create today, all those new experiences, the constant change in approach, thinking and technique. It is no longer the technical aspects of an image or how it is made or with which camera model, it is more and more the whole process and motivation of creating itself and how this changes me and my thinking. The idea of the next trip, the joy of planning, studying maps and previsualizing possible images in my mind, building up a thrill of anticipation each time and also enjoying all the sometimes strenuous long driving hours, exhausting hiking tours and to focus on exploring new locations (without any expectations for that specific tour and without distractions of ever beeping devices), being creative with the composition, technique and post-processing and then later share my new "creation" - the image - with other like-minded people who share my appreciation for those places and the experiences is what image creating is all about for me now. I'm just enjoying this experience as a whole and this drives me to keep creating. For me it is just plain fun and this is reward enough. I came to the conclusion that it's better for me when I create images only for me without possible clients, publishers, contest juries or other expectations from others in mind. Do your art only for yourself to be (and stay) or become happy with it.
In addition I love the contrast to my other life as a software engineer. After all that perfect planning and execution in advance of a photo tour you sometimes end up standing on a mountain summit at the right time and then there is pouring rain and no sun, no light to work with and there is nothing you can do other than to deal with it and make the best of the circumstances and possibilities nature has offered you. Contrary to software development where you as the creator can control almost everything, in the realm of nature photography it often is just not in your hands and you have to accept that. This is a very humbling experience - and one lots of the people today with all with their nagging and first world problems (àla why is there no wifi in this alpine-tunnel) should experience at least once! Experiences like this when you are really alone somewhere or afraid of something often put minor things we previously complained about back into perspective. To a certain extend one can learn to read the signs of mother nature but you can still get disappointed at any time and you have to accept that. This where experience first comes in. If you are always goal-oriented you won't be very satisfied and pleased with nature photography after years of doing it. But instead of complaining use these moments when you're in nature and feel your body after an exhausting hike or the winters freezing cold in your bones and enjoy, feel and know that you're still alive and not only yet another zombie sitting at the computer the whole day. Spending some time outdoors in nature away from any devices and media and whatnot is always a good idea.
With the experience of the past years I've more and more realized and came to the opinion that the best photographer is not the one with the most spectacular photos but the one who has most of the fun exploring the world and scouting new locations and perspectives, simply creating new photos in the field (without any pressure or expectations) and who is also enjoying the selection and post-processing process back home in the comfort in front of the computer with a hot tasty coffee and some good music. This is what it's all about - having a good time doing it! In my humble opinion the best photographer is the one who has most of the fun doing it!
So, keep in mind to enjoy the ride. Stay humble, enjoy nature and enjoy life!
Feel free to add any comments or questions below.