10 Things Photography Has Taught Me About Life

Since I began this hobby two years ago, I have found that I do my best thinking camera in hand. Photographing in beautiful locations leads my mind to philosophize and romanticize. While I’m in no way the next Nietzsche, when I go out to shoot everything becomes clear and the world seems to make the most sense. Here are 10 things I have learned standing in open fields, sandy beaches, and on snowy mountaintops.

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1. Patience

Stay with it. Things are ever-changing and the most breathtaking thing could happen a matter of seconds after you decide to give up.
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Alaska cabin by candlelight[/one_half]
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2. Preparation pays off

A little planning and preparation goes a long way. I check weather forecasts, sun/moon angles, and terrain maps before heading to any location – and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to dig a headlamp out of the pack to hike back to the car after deciding to stay at a location well past an epic sunset.

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Volkswagen Dog Van Life
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3. You’re never in total control

Regardless of how much planning goes into a project, you never have control over everything. If the powers that be decide that today is not meant to be, well, it’s not meant to be.

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Fishing on a foggy day in southern Alaska
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4. The camera is unforgiving

It gives exactly as it receives. If you give it what it needs, magic will be produced. If you mistreat it, well, ugly things happen.
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Seashell on the beach of Sitka, Alaska
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5. Beauty is in the details

“When you start to change the way you see things, the things you see start to change.” – Wayne Dyer
Pay attention to the little things. Change your angle and focus on the things that most people would overlook.

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Bowling Ball Beach California sunset

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6. Don’t overthink. Go with your gut

Nine times out of 10, my “keeper photo” is the one I took when first walking upon a scene. It’s when I try to get fancy that things can sometimes turn out strange.

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Santa Cruz Lighthouse Surfing

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7. Slow down

When you break things down, photography is really just pressing a button on a camera. It’s natural instinct to want to speed through the process, but when you slow down and take your time you have the ability to anticipate what may happen next. There’s no reason to be in such a huge hurry.

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Yoga at sunset in the mountains
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8. Share

What good is creating things if you don’t share them with the world? Some of the people I call my best friends I have met on social networks where we have helped with projects and shared tips. The Internet of today is a remarkable thing and projects can be collaborated on with people never stepping foot into the same room. To waste such technology on sharing cat pictures and memes would be a shame.

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Crater Lake night
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9. The journey is the destination

No matter how many trips I’ve gone on, the famous quote holds true. The destination is always great, but getting there is the best part. Take your time. Drag things out. There’s plenty of things to see along the way.

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Tent camping in Colorado's mountains

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10. There are no shortcuts

Thanks, Joe Azure for reminding me of this. As many photography iPhone apps as I’ve downloaded and as much gear as I think will take me to the next level, there’s no one-click solution to becoming an expert. I feel like an amateur every day, but putting yourself out there and putting in the hard work always pays off.
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  • kristen

    i absolutely adore your philosophy and share it with all that i meet.. i wish to do the same with photography.. now 🙂

  • Joe Meirose

    10 things we all need constant reminder of. otherwise the fun is gone. Great read, thanks for sharing.

    • I enjoyed your zen-like ponderings and shared them on Facebook. It is all about the journey and being in the moment. The hobby teaches us.

  • Joseph breckenridge

    there is a book that appeared in 1979 called DISCOVER YOURSELF THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY by Ralph Hattersley. It is long out of print but used copies are available on Amazon. Someone is selling a copy for one cent (they make a little on the shipping).

  • Great post, Casey. Thanks for sharing. One thing that I might add, though perhaps this ties into your #8, is “appreciate where you are”. I often get so focused on photographing a beautiful scene that I forget to step back and just spend a few moments simply taking in the view. For me, enjoying being outdoors and wanting to share my experiences with others is what drew me to photography, so it’s important to not lose sight of that. Even though it’s tough, I like to occasionally leave the camera at home when I head out into the mountains. I’ve found that it really helps me see things differently, which hopefully will translate to photos that better capture the ‘feel’ of a place the next time I am out with camera in hand. Anyway, thanks again! I’ve really been enjoying your photography- keep ’em coming!

  • Avid mobile photography shutterbug – with Instagram, isn’t everyone – lucky to see this shared on Google+ .. I respect and relate.

  • Ramesh Sharma

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Great philosophy accompanied by even better pictures. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

  • Anita Ketelboeter

    Love your philosophy! The 10 things we all need constant reminder of.
    Eric Mickelson has some good idea’s as well! Take a few minutes and take in the view!
    As long as you supply Us All with your great photo’s we will keep viewing.
    Good Luck on your next journey.

  • Ed Barajas

    Thanks Casey for sharing your philosophy about what photography has taught you. This can be applied to just about anything in life and to anyone…oh if we just took the time to enjoy our surroundings!

  • Great post and great photos. I was planning of writing a similar post about “transferable skills” in photography for my fellow university students, when I found your post, thank you for inspiring me.

  • As my friend and photo mentor Galen Rowell used to say, “the best photos are the ones you could have taken but didn’t.”

  • Two things….when I met you up on Mt Evans, I realized “this is a smart dude” and came to check out your stuff. I’m hanging mine up now! But #3 is spot on, and that’s what my whole trip was about….getting out of control. Keep up the great stuff!

  • What an inspiring post, and what stunning photographs. Completely agree, there is magic in moments, and true magic is capturing those moments. You have done a brilliant job at that, both in images and words. Thoroughly enjoyed 🙂