The Making of a Good Photograph – Part III

Creativity and Your Style

One of the coolest things that I love about art is the ability to be creative; to do your own thing.  Each of us has our own individual background and experiences.  Those experiences have partially shaped our personalities.  We all have our own natural born talents and aptitudes.  And when we combine those aptitudes, talents and experiences, we get our own unique selves.  No one else is like you, no one. 

So, today we are going to discuss creativity.  We have looked at a few of the basics of photography – composition, exposure and dynamic range.  There are so many more details that we could go into here – how to adjust contrast, color balance and saturation, flash fill like I mentioned last time, depth of field versus shutter speed and so much more.

I took this photo in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada in early 2019.

But my purpose in doing this little series was not to present an in-depth photography course.  No, it was simply to offer a few easy tips on how to improve our travel photos to make them a bit more engaging and a bit less documentary.

How do we go about that?

Since many of you who will be reading this post are interested in travel, let’s start with travel photography. We need to face this simple fact – almost everywhere we go has been photographed before, and probably many, many times. So before you snap that photo of this or that famous view, stop!

Think about trying to make a photograph that is unique to you – your own view. Try to find a viewpoint that is more unusual, and that will bring a new perspective to your subject.

I took this photo on the Park Avenue trail in Arches National Park in February 2018.

This trail is super popular and really well photographed, but that early February morning I found this dead tree and rock formation well positioned against the famous formation, the Three Gossips. But from this viewpoint, the shot is pretty unique. You probably wouldn’t even know this is the Three Gossips on the right of the photo had I not mentioned it.

The Three Gossips in Arches National Park from 2018.

Of course you probably recognize the formation above now that I am showing a photo from a more familiar angle. But I still made this photo my own. How? I selected my view to include a couple of other formations – the Ram (at least I call it that, which is actually the remains of a broken arch) and some other rocks in the background. I used a telephoto lens to compress the view, creating the impression that these formations were closer than they really are. The sky was kind of whitish as a storm was coming in. So, I converted the image to monochrome and added in a strong warming filter to create a more surreal, impressionistic image of the Three Gossips.

The point I am trying to make here is this – don’t just snap that same old photo that everyone else has taken thousands of times. Take your time; think about what you can do to make that famous view yours – an image like no one else has made before. Be yourself, and do not be afraid to be different. Try something new. Break the rules to a point.

Sometimes to get a unique shot, I will even step away from the main trail. Now let me say a couple of things here. Always, always be respectful. Never do anything that could cause damage. Also, DO NOT GET LOST! Remember where you are and how to get back to the main trail.

I took this image several years ago in Natural Bridges National Monument in southern Utah. I found this pool of water behind one of the bridges and thought this made a cool photograph.

Yes, I had gone off the trail a bit to find this image. But I was just walking around the backside of this bridge through the sand – no harm done there. And I think the black and white with the water pool is quite unique. No one else will have this view in their “Natural Bridges” portfolio.

Be unique. Be yourself. Try something that you haven’t seen before – experiment. The totally wonderful thing about the digital age we live in now is how much creative freedom it gives us. If you don’t like your image, delete it and try something else.

And don’t be afraid to photograph something different, not just the “grand view”. Try a different “grand view”, or hey, try something smaller and more focused.

This is another image from the Park Avenue trail in Arches. Once again I have stepped off the main trail. I took this using my wide angle lens looking up one of the side canyons toward the west.
This is an older shot I took in Canyonlands National Park in the Needles District on the Colorado River overlook trail.

Don’t be afraid that someone won’t know where your photo is from; that’s why we write and have captions.

Hopefully you are getting the idea about using creativity to develop your own style. Being unique is the best thing about each of us. Don’t hide who you are; be you and be proud of it.

I hope you find this post useful for your future travel photos.

Safe travels and happy blogging in 2022!