Yesterday I greeted the arrival of the new issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine with a groan and a sigh. The issue is dedicated to night photography, and has oh so many photos of the Milky Way in various settings. The current issue of Adirondack Life also has a cover photo of the Milky Way. Please, enough with the Milky Way photos. Despite the setting every photo looks the same. Why? Because the Milky Way always looks the same. The shot has become as cliché’ as a sunset over water. The photos of the Milky Way in this issue look exactly like those of another photographer featured a year ago in the same magazine. In fact, I assumed it was the same photographer until I saw the byline. No originality or creativity at play. Enough.
My photography trips to the Adirondacks this month focused both on new areas I first explored this summer and tried and true locations that have been visited and photographed by myself and countless others over the years. The new areas are those of which I have never previously seen a photo, or at least a good photo. I’ve had time to reflect on the photos I made on those trips and have found a greater sense of satisfaction and pride in the work I created from the new locations compared to that from the iconic, well-known spots. And I know why.
I feel as if my creativity is enhanced when visiting a new location, as there is no preconceived idea of how and what to photograph. There’s no bias. My mind and eyes are open to any and all possibilities. And I certainly like the feeling of creating something entirely new (at least as far as I know), as opposed to a photo from someplace popular that is largely derivative. Yes, the lighting is always different, but the composition is often very similar to what has been done before. Mind you, the photos I did make from the two iconic and oft-photographed spots I visited this month are arguably the most stunning and beautiful of the group and probably the most marketable. But I feel a lack of accomplishment, a lack of creativity on my part.
The reason these locations are so popular is because they offer spectacular views. By visiting these spots I feel like I sold out and took the easy route, the route that most guaranteed a good or great image. I went for the low-hanging fruit. Such images may look good on social media or in my portfolio, but in the end they leave me feeling a bit empty. What they have in aesthetic beauty they lack in creativity and originality, and to that end ultimately represent an artistic failure on my part. A failure to take chances, to explore, to be different, and most importantly, to express my own voice and vision.