Inspiration can come from the most unpredictable sources. It's different than motivation, although they seem to run together like cream and coffee. Inspiration just yields a brighter glow and using inspired moments can be fuel for making powerful photographs.
Recently, while teaching a Mentor Series Ultimate Photo Adventure (http://www.popphoto.com/mentorseries) along with adventure photog Michael Clark and wildlife master photographer Bob Smith at Heart Six Ranch in Wyoming, I was moved by the confidence of one of the riders. Totally random and unexpected, I sensed we were in store for a photo op that might prove memorable.
Arriving at the ranch we discussed potential photos we'd like to try to create to offer a variety of lessons to the group. This included portraits, inside and outside, some action shots and so on. Across the dirt road from the ranch house was a large meadow. The ranch was slightly elevated from the meadow and a small crystal clear river meandered through the valley. Thinking big, as you should always do for making great photos, I asked if there was any possibility of having a few riders running through the river for us. Large horses splashing through the river on a sunny day, mountains in the background, this could be really visual. You have to ask these questions or you might miss out.
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It was a blistering hot day in the mountains and the ranch manager agreed it might work. Four riders were asked if they'd like to ride for us. For them, this was a nice break from the routine days of taking tourists on slow trails and long rides. Here, the riders could use their skills and run their horses they way they were meant to be ridden. Excitement was brewing.....for everyone.
As is customary, and important protocol for assignments, workshop, or any other type of photographic opportunity, you get things figured out in advance. Talk it through, get the angles, where's the sun, talk about speed, water depth, what they can and can't do as riders in water. Without this sort of preliminary discussion you are just guessing and minimize your chances of getting the shot you want.
As the photo group gathered at the waters edge near the curve in the river we had collectively chosen as our staging point, I asked the four riders, "Who is the best rider?" One might think it was silly for asking this. And, it was. That was part of the intent. We all knew it would draw a response. But, I asked this for a reason too. One, to see if there is a top rider, so we know whom to place in the right spots, but also jokingly breaking the tension. Let's face it, everyone was about to shoot action like they've never shot before and were all excited and nervous.
Without hesitation, rider Samatha Cook raised her arms high into the sky. She was the smallest rider full of life and thirsty to help.
"WOW, that was fast," I yelled out. And she meant it. She was confident, skilled and eager to run. I knew I'd be aiming my autofocus on her and her horse, McCue. I found her attitude and pure delight in riding for our group inspiring. I knew she'd photograph well and thus my motivation increased. I wanted to get cool shots to share.
Ya never know where inspiration will come from. But when you do, just run with it.