Thursday, December 27, 2012


I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions. I just don't see it that way. In fact, I'm more interested in moving past the lull in the holiday season and getting back to shooting. 

This time period at year's end, most magazine stories have gone to bed. New features have yet to be assigned, and I find myself thinking about what new projects I want to undertake, the time necessary to complete them, funding them, and ultimately, how they will be shared.

(Above: 54' Crown Victoria spotted in farmers field while shooting assignment for Smithsonian Magazine Below: 60,000 year old fossil turtle exposed in the White River Badlands for Audubon article)


End of the year thinking equally allows time for reflection on what's been accomplished. That's a good thing. Its important to look back and see if the goals you set were met, the challenges in your path averted, and if those advancements motivated you to greater depths. 

It's natural set-up for peeking around the corner into the future. So, if you've got ideas floating around your head, the key to creating memorable photographs is to follow through with them.

(Above: Abandoned Herring factory in Iceland on personal trip experimenting with HDR)

Look at the majority of your favorite iconic photographs seen in print. Chances are those images were taken when the photographer was on assignment. Those photographs came from a self assigned theme, a feature or news story, advertising campaign, ect. The point is, the photographer was out shooting.

Human's are meant to explore. Getting out there discovering is the path to creating important photographs. I have always found in each assignment I find numerous assignments within that assignment. Being out there shooting opens the door to visual moments. And they don't have to be world changing moments, they need only be significant captures. And, that can happen in your own neck of the woods. The key again is to be out there shooting.

Look to the new year as an opportunity to take risks with your work. 

MOST IMPORTANTLY.....Don't talk yourself out of a personal assignment before it even begins. 

You will amaze yourself how well you can swim when diving in the deep end with a purpose. Tying those images together into a theme, certain single moments will rise to the top and stand alone. Those images are often greater than the sum of the parts.....but this is how you get them.

You are out there, thinking, polishing, discovering new ways to photograph the world around you. 

(Above: Ice Field, Alaska on personal photo shoot. Below: Nude taken during one of my
workshops at the MPC-Minneapolis Photo Center)

Follow your own instincts, don't pass by moments that speak to you. After all, this is what separates you from other shooters. Its defines your vision, you input, your style. You need not travel across the globe. Often, these projects can be acquired in your own town. Pinpoint what is of interest to you. Grab your camera and start investigating everything about it. The visual discoveries that you make become tools for the future. Exploring new ways to make an impact, light, lenses, angle, technique, are all at your disposal.

And once again, don't get lost in the process. If you aren't successful on a days shoot, examine why. Rethink the approach and get back out there. 

Food for thought.....Most feature stories see thousands of images made during the course of the assignment. Yet, come publication time, a mere handful are used in the final presentation. Only the strongest photographs make the cut. Less is more. 

The great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said, "Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst."

I teach an Environmental Nude Workshop at the Minneapolis Photo Center. I have little experience in shooting nudes. I view the nude as one of the most difficult subjects to undertake. That said, I approach the nude subject as I do all others. Using light, shadow, composition and mood, to stir the imagination.

Take the time to find new ways to communicate. Put your audience in the image. Don't be frustrated that eight hours of time to create a 1/30th of a second wasn't worth it. Organization and preparation are huge but necessary ingredients in a photographers job. Nothing is ever gaurunteed. You can only anticipate and be ready to receive the visual gifts you've put yourself in position to receive.

(Below: Sea kayaking at sunset, five second exposure for 
Jewels On The Water-Lake Superior's Apostle Islands book project)

Looking ahead now, I have numerous projects that are beating a drum loudly in my brain 
even I write this note. Camera is loaded, mind is open. 

Let the games begin.


  1. I want to take more photos this coming year to and it is a good idea to give oneself an assignment. I finally joined the photo club here in town and pushing myself more. Thanks for your blog. More people should read and comment.

  2. A "kick in the pants" inspirational piece that I intend to take to heart. Maybe I don't even need a resolution - I'll just get out there with my camera. Thanks Layne!

  3. Great post Layne — and you could swap out photography with many other projects or endeavors and it would apply as well.

  4. Great post. I did have great time reading the articles here. I too am a lover of photography and I have been taking pictures for more than 2 years now. LJ Photos is one of my partner.