The drive for the better photograph


While I have done a bit of driving around to find a better vantage or hunting new landscapes and vistas, that is not the sort of “drive” I am talking about.I’m thinking more of the drive that makes us pursue more and better photographs of people, places, and things we have already captured.

I remember how proud I was of my first photographs of an elk. (You can see those photos and read about how not to approach an elk here- The Elk and the Tripod) I thought those images were amazing, that I was nearly ready to hop on a plane somewhere and work for National Geographic as a wildlife photographer. And yet, I kept going out, searching for more elk to photograph, thinking that I might somehow manage to capture some better images… And I am very glad I did. Looking back, those first images were almost laughable compared to some of the ones I’ve captured since.

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Young bull elk with velvet peeling from its antlers and females watching from behind

Young bull elk with velvet peeling from its antlers and females watching from behind

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And I realize now, that this image of a young elk is not the best photograph I can take of an elk. It may be one of the best I’ve done so far, but I can do better, I can keep improving. I can show more stages in the life cycle of an elk, capture different faces, different activities. I haven’t even come close to exhausting the possibilities with the few hundred images I have taken of them. There is a hunger to outdo myself… I suppose when I am out photographing, it is a very competitive activity, but the one I am competing with is myself.

The first Bobcat I ever shot. I was very proud of this image, and if I hadn't taken so many better shots since, it would still be one of my favorites

The first Bobcat I ever shot. I was very proud of this image, and if I hadn’t taken so many better shots since, it would still be one of my favorites

There comes a point, when you realize that something is good, maybe even really good, but that you can do better, that you can explore more of the world and share the world in better and more expressive ways.I have so many photographs that I’ve taken that I think are just fantastic and amazing, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying to go out and create even better, more expressive images.

The next time I captured a bobcat with my camera, the results were much improved.

The next time I captured a bobcat with my camera, the results were much improved.

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve photographed a species, if I feel I am in a situation where I can get better photographs or ones that show a different aspect of that species, then I am going to try for those photographs, even if I don’t have an immediate use for them.

Bobcat sitting and contemplating the world. A very different take on the bobcat from my other images

Bobcat sitting and contemplating the world. A very different take on the bobcat from my other images

I wouldn’t have the images that I do, if I didn’t hunger to improve and to share as much of the natural world as I can. It is the beast that gnaws from within. Sometimes the beast gets satiated, but then it comes back hungrier than ever. I hope you have your own inner beast, and that feed it all that you can

Bobcat stalking the shores. A fine image, but one that I will improve upon

Bobcat stalking the shores. A fine image, but one that I will improve upon

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website- www.galenleeds.net
This entry was posted in bobcats, elk, kayak photography, nature photography, Photo Essay, photography, ruminating, wildlife photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The drive for the better photograph

  1. Your words like your images, are so inspiring. I know exactly the feeling of which you speak. I find there are photos that I am proud I have taken, but there is the ardent urge to do better. And it is not for money or anything to bring recognition, it is for the pure joy of it. Photography is a passion and if paid to do it as a job, I think I would lose the fervor. I know this is true, because architecture and graphic arts went the same route. And they are professions I have gotten recognition and award. Oddly, that is not enough. As much adventure there would be working for Nat Geo like you mentioned, it would wear in time I bet meeting deadlines and client demand. That kills spirit. I love your photos and you have helped guide my direction in photography. You are a great teacher, even 3000 miles away!

    • I suspected some of you would know exactly what I was talking about, and that you and quietsolopursuits would be two of them. Glad I wasn’t disappointed

    • And there is that tricky balance between doing something you love and doing it because you have to, while keeping it as something you love. It is something I continually struggle with.

      In some ways, when I was new to cameras I experimented more, because I didn’t know what cameras could and couldn’t do. I sometimes miss that thrill of experimentation (I still experiment with my photography, but in different ways), but at the same time I am often happier with my images.

  2. I suffer from the same disease, the drive to take the perfect photo of every species I see. Since perfection can never be obtained, I guess that I’ll have to keep on shooting. A great post, and fantastic photos to illustrate it!

  3. Your photographs are tops, amazing! And your words today have summed up ‘what it is to be a passionate photographer!’ Keep it up, we love your work!

  4. lylekrahn says:

    Your comments also ring true with me. It’s the constant striving to get better that keeps the passion burning and growing with some frustrating moments thrown in for good measure. Great article.

  5. Nice evolution of photos! That bobcat is one handsome devil!

  6. newsferret says:

    I especially loved the Bobcat. Enjoyed all the photos.

  7. Thanks for visiting my blog and I had to check out yours. I love your wildlife photos – vivid images that make me want to reach out and pet them:-) I will check back often for more inspiration. Thanks!

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