Tuesday, July 18, 2017


In one of the many classes I teach, I talk about being your competition's competition. 

I learned this valuable lesson when I was first learning photography: If you want to stand out, either, A) Photograph something nobody else has, or B) Photograph the same subject(s), but differently. In addition to this, I say, either do what others are not willing to do or don't do.

I'll start with this example. There is a popular natural arch in southern Utah with which thousands, if not millions, of photographers are familiar. It's called Mesa Arch, in Canyonlands. The magic of this arch is that it gives off this brilliant, surreal red/orange glow in early morning.
There are thousands of examples of this on the Internet. Just this one link alone will give you an idea.

When I want to photograph a commonly photographed subject, I do some research. When I researched Mesa Arch, I was looking, not only for what had already been done, but what had not been done. I saw many early morning, red/orange kinds of shots. I also saw one composite of the arch and the Milky Way which I thought was pretty cool. 

In 2014 I decided to do something different. I picked December as the month to go, hoping for snow-covered peaks on the La Sal mountains in the distance. My other decision was to photograph it at twilight, a few minutes after sunset, to pick up dark blues in the sky. My third decision was to do something else I had not seen: "paint" the arch.

I posted it on my Facebook page and someone commented that it looked like he was looking at the scene from inside an eyeball, comparing it to Salvador Dalí.

This next example is from my "Ghost of the Crescent" series. There is a beautiful and notorious Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas--The Crescent Hotel. It has a reputation in some circles of being the most haunted hotel in America. 

It was that reputation that gave me an idea. I had only lived in Eureka Springs for a month before coming up with the idea. I commissioned the help of a woman I had met at a local gift shop to serve as my "ghost" model. We spent a couple of hours creating several images both inside and outside the hotel. For this shot, I first demonstrated for her what I wanted. I then gave her clear instructions: When I say "now," you just start walking slowly up the stairs. Don't look at me; just look up as you're walking. Click. I got my "ghost" during an eight-second exposure.   

I was in the whirlpool in my apartment complex in Colorado talking to an avid hiker. During our chat, I told him I was a photographer. He excitedly said, "Man, if you're a photographer, you've gotta check out Lone Eagle Peak!" He got my attention. I checked it out a couple of weeks later. 

So, how does this fit into my message? Well, first, it is a very unique peak, even for Colorado. Secondly, it is a 15-mile hike, round trip. Whew! Would you take a 15-mile hike, up to 10,000+ feet in elevation, just to "take a picture?" 

I went on-line before I went there and all I found were phone camera pics of Lone Eagle Peak taken by hikers. When I sent this image to one of my clients who produces calendars, she immediately responded with a Yes-- she had never heard of, much less seen photos of, Lone Eagle Peak. 

Garden of The Gods, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was picked as the #2 best city park in the world a few years ago. The photos on this site will give you an idea as to why it's so popular.

Do what others do not do. I had never seen the Garden of The Gods photographed at night. If you ask any photographer why they have not done so, they will quickly reply with, "Why?" This is why.

This image of Garden of The Gods at night, is the cover of my new book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY, now in its third edition. This was a 5-minute exposure, about ten minutes after sunset. Like Mesa Arch, I "painted' the two formations in the foreground. With a 5-minute exposure, sensors and film pick up color in the sky not visible to the naked eye. it was pitch black that evening.

Here is another example from Garden of The Gods.This was a 3-minute exposure.

Do what others are not willing to do. It has been my observation that a lot of photographers do not feel comfortable asking people if they can photograph their property. I love talking to people, and I don't hesitate asking. The worst that can happen is they won't let me. If I ask, I might get some great photos; if I don't, I won't.  

There is this really cool museum along Highway 68 in New Mexico. I stopped, then walked inside to check it out. Can you say, OMG? The place had thousands of items, collectibles, and memorabilia that covered the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. I didn't hesitate to ask the owner if I could "take some pictures." I think he was honored that I was interested.

So, my message here is that a lot of photographers feel uncomfortable asking permission to photograph people's property. I'm glad I asked. Some of my favorite images in my collection were created because I asked permission.


I first heard about Rancho de Taos church in Taos, New Mexico when I was learning photography in Texas, in the late 1980s. I was fascinated with what I saw, with private lingering thoughts of, "Someday....." I later saw a photograph of the church taken by Ansel Adams. Years later I also saw a painting of it by Georgia O'Keeffe. 

Well, I finally got my chance several years later to see what I could do with it. And I did. I have several images of the church in my collection, taken from all angles. However, during my third visit to Taos, I wondered what else I could do with it---something I hadn't seen; something even I had not done before. 

So, I decided to try photographing, not the entire San Francisco de Así church, but only part of it, at night, with the stars flickering in the dark Taos sky. I converted the original to a B&W.

When you develop a mindset that you are others' competition, without being cocky about it, you start building self-confidence, and with confidence comes peace of mind, and peace of mind allows you to free yourself from whatever it is that holds you back. So, don't try to "take" pictures better that those you've seen. Create images that do not exist, that is, until you get a chance to create them! Have fun.

Contact me if you have any questions about my tip this month.