Find Your Vision and Work Your Ass Off

January 25, 2014  •  1 Comment

The world is full of photographers.  Especially with the advent of smartphones with excellent built-in cameras.  But even when one eliminates the smartphone shooters, there are still a gazillion photographers on the planet.  And while golf course photography is a tiny niche, there are many excellent golf course photographers ready, willing and able to photograph any course that comes calling.  So the dilemma is, how does one build a career in a field that has plenty of pros already on the scene?  

My plan all along has been to follow my basic philosophy on work, and to do a few things differently, style-wise.  My work philosophy has four elements.  

  1. Always show up.  No matter the weather, regardless of how I may feel when I wake up, 2 hours before sunrise, I always show up.  Some of my very best shots have been complete serendipity, a small window of spectacular light, sandwiched between a gray dawn and an overcast morning.  The fact is, no matter what The Weather Channel says, there's always a possibility that something uniquely beautiful will present itself.  
  2. Always be on time, with a smile.  As I've always told my sons, if you show up on time, with a smile, you're in the top 10 percent of employees.  And if you do a good job, you've rocketed into the top one percent.  
  3. Under promise and over deliver.  That's a simple one.  If you promise the moon and deliver a candle, even if that candle is a nice one, your client will be disappointed.
  4. Turn around.  I'm not sure who, but one of the landscape photographers whose work I follow, made that statement in a blog post a couple of years ago.  I don't remember whether it was his original thought, or one he was repeating, but it's great advice.  It's so easy to get focused on the scene that first captured my attention, that I often have to remind myself to step back and look around.  And I'm often rewarded with a second or third great shot.

Concerning style…
Though I am a fan of several golf course photographers whose work I follow, I've never tried to duplicate their style.  I'm way too ornery to want to be like someone else.  And I feel that attempting to copy another photographer's style is restrictive and, ultimately, anti-creative.  Bob Cupp, the highly regarded golf course architect, paid me a high compliment a couple of weeks ago.  After I shot Liberty National Golf Club for The 2013 Barclay's Championship I contacted Bob, who designed Liberty National with Tom Kite, and we've developed a good friendship.  We talk regularly and swap emails often.  So when Tudor Rose Publishing chose to use one of my images of the new Ambiente Course at JW Marriott's Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona on the cover of By Design Magazine, I called Bob to tell him.  He said, "I know.  I knew it was yours when I saw the cover."  I almost wrenched my shoulder, patting myself on the back.  Here was a great golf course architect, and a man whose creative judgement I respect, recognizing my work without prompting.  As an artist, having a unique, identifiable style is paramount and to have achieved that, at least in this one instance, is a significant validation.

And speaking of Ambiente… Jason Straka, of Fry Straka Global Golf Design, the course's designer, also padded my ego a bit in November when I  was in Scottsdale photographing the course.  Ambiente was scheduled to open on the 19th, and I was there the 15th thru the 18th, shooting.  Jason flew in for the opening on the 18th, and over lunch asked me if there were any holes that stood out to me.  The course is full of holes that stood out to me, but I told him, "The first".  He said, "What?  That's interesting.  We had to kind of wedge that hole in there, because there was nowhere else to go with it and I never thought of it as special."  Late that afternoon, I was back at the golf club, shooting around the clubhouse and Jason called me on my cell.  He said, "I'm sitting over here on 1, and you're right.  I've never looked at the hole in this light and it's really beautiful."  Having the ability to use a good DSLR and the digital technologies available today for editing and processing images is very important.  But for a photographer, having a vision is the most valuable asset, and helping a great golf course architect see something he hadn't noticed before is a great feeling.

So, if you're a photographer, here are some thoughts to consider.  Learn from, but don't copy other photographers.  Appreciate their work, but don't try to duplicate it.  Find your vision.  Work your ass off.  And have fun!

First green at JW Marriott Camelback Inn's Amazing New Ambiente CourseThe First Green, AmbienteJW Marriott Camelback Inn's Amazing New Ambiente Course, designed by Jason Straka of Fry Straka Global Golf Design


Comments

1.Jack Sauers(non-registered)
Excellent article and having worked with you on numerous occasions and at different locations-I can say you practice what you preach!
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