Why Now is All that Matters

Geo=thermal steam rises from a creek and, across the fields, is emitted from smoke stacks at the foot of a lovely mountain range in Iceland

Geo=thermal steam rises from a creek and, across the fields, is emitted from smoke stacks at the foot of a lovely mountain range in Iceland

Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105mm f4 lens @ 28mm. Exposure Details: 1/30 second @ f6.7

No it's not a portfolio image. Because I post, on average, 2 out of every 3 days it's not possible to limit myself to just posting my very best or favourite images. Who would I be kidding? I'd be lucky to make 30 images a year with which I'm really happy.

How I Rate My Photos

For those folks who rate their images in a program like Adobe Lightroom you might be interested to know that I hardly ever employ the 5 star rating. May I say that this approach has 3 critical advantages:

  • by having less 5 stars its easier to showcase your very best images
  • by surrounding yourself with your best work you'll do more of the same
  • by setting an ever higher standard for yourself your photography will continue to improve, probably at a faster rate than it would if you were less critical about the quality/success of your own images

So, while not a portfolio image, I feel the above photo still has value. Using the 1-5 star ratings within Lightroom I initially rated this photo as a 3 star, the rating I assign to images I consider deserving of more than just basic processing. After the image is processed I'm able to better decide whether to change its rating, up or down, or leave it as a 3 star.

For example a 4 star image is one I'm very happy with and likely to be one of the best from a particular shoot. But that's not to say that I end up with a 4 star image after every days photography.

Keep Your Expectations High

The reason I have so few 5 star images is that, to be worthy of a 5 star rating, I have to consider it to be amongst my best work (and I've been photographing for well over 30 years) rather than being one of the best images from a particular day's photography. I'd have to be so happy with the image that I'd consider printing it and putting it on my wall. And I have limited wall space.

Usually folks only get to see some of my images rated 3 stars or above. And while the above image attracted a 3 star rating ts not one of my best 3 stars. Its a bit like scoring it as 5 out of 10. And, for all you Uncle Harry's out there, why would you want to share an image with which you are only half pleased?

A Lesson Learned

Well, I suppose there's always an exception. In my case I make sure such exceptions are not a frequent occurrence. This photo made it onto my site for 2 reasons:

  • it demonstrates that, when things are against you, a little bit of composition can help you produce a reasonable result
  • it proves that effort is often rewarded, but not always when and where we expect 

The photo was made in Iceland. The steam stacks in the background drew my attention, as did the little creek in the foreground which was also emitting steam. Iceland is, after all, one of the world's best locations for geothermal power. The trouble was there was a fair distance, and not much of interest, between the two. The sky was also pretty bland.

We pulled our rented camper van over by the side of the road for a look. We were tired and really needed to make tracks. It was clear that I wouldn't be able to make a portfolio image. But steam, whether coming off a creek or venting out of a smoke stack is interesting and those distant hills sure looked promising. It was worth a photo, even just as a way to help me remember this weird landscape. Hey, travel photographers are tourists too.

Now here's the thing. After actually going to the trouble of stopping the car and getting out to make this photo my body was rejuvenated by the fresh air and movement and my mind was energised and keen to look for nearby photo opportunities.

You Reap what You Sow

We didn't have to drive far before we reached the top of a pass and looked back down onto this extraordinary landscape. Several hours of exhilarating photography followed, including a hike through a Mordor like terrain. What's more some of the photos made were amongst the best from that 6-week photo expedition that included Iceland, Greenland, Paris, Vienna, Salzburg, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Brugge.

Now if that's not reason enough to stop the car and take a look I don't know what else is. Just remember its not always about what you do now, in the present, but how what you do now transforms and creates what happens next, in your future, that determines your success. And that may be why Now is All that Matters.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru