Do It For Yourself

Gerry van der Walt All Authors Leave a Comment

The Great Migration is currently in full swing in the Masai Mara and it it without a doubt one of the most photographed natural spectacles in the world.

Gerry van der Walt - Masai Mara River Crossing

In today’s world of social media, digital content and the ability to easily share your images through these various platforms it is quite predictable that during this time of year we will see a lot of migration images being posted.

What I find very sad is that there are photographers out there who leave comments on some of these migration images breaking them down and saying that there is nothing new or exciting about them anymore as it has all been done and seen before.

Now whether these photographers have actually photographed the migration themselves I do not know – but I do know that this kind of approach is not only unnecessary but also shows the lack of passion some people have for the craft of wildlife photography.

When an image is posted that is different to the general type of migration images out there – due to a different angle, location or unique type of (over) processing – I find it pathetic that some people will compliment that image and at the same time break down the other images out there which are more normal.ย  Normal not because it’s a bad image but purely because we have become desensitized to the scenes and subject due to the amount of digital media we consume online.

Gerry van der Walt - Masai Mara River Crossing

It is this kind of thinking that causes a lot of people not to post their images online as there is a perception that if it is not new and unique your images just are not good enough.ย  If we had to stop taking images of subjects and scenes that have been photographed before we would surely then have run out of natural subjects to photograph by now?

There is no right or wrong way to photograph something like the great migration.

There are no rules as to how you should present images you have created of something like the great migration.

The only mistake you can make is to actually give a shit what other people think and say about your images.

Your images are exactly that – yours!

Be proud of your images, now matter how ‘normal’ others say it might be.

Yes, hundreds if not thousands of other photographers might have taken similar images in the past but in order to find your own photographic voice you first have to first sound like a lot of other people.

There is nothing wrong with that.ย  We all have to go through the photographic journey in order to find our own creative voice.

If you are heading to the Masai Mara to photograph the great migration – or any other natural subjects for that matter – do it for yourself.

Photograph the way you want to whether it has been done before or not.ย  Yes, try different things and experiment with angles and various other techniques but do it for yourself.

Yes, we all want to create memorable images that other people like but please oh please do not make that the reason for picking up your camera.

Do it for yourself, do it with passion and most importantly – enjoy the experience.

Gerry van der Walt - Masai Mara River Crossing

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 0

  1. Tom Hadley

    Every time I worry about whether people will be accepting of my work I remind myself of the old Andy Warhol quote:

    “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art”

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  2. Kevin McDonald

    Wise words Jerry, photography is a very personal thing, that others might like our images is an added bonus to the satifaction of getting (for us) a great shot. Keep up your good work and enjoy the migration!

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  3. Wayne Marinovich

    Great post Gerry with stunning photos.

    I remember the old Japanese manufacturing mantra “there is no best only better”. No photo is ever perfect, there is always the chance to do something better and different. That is what I strive for as an artist and I use that word very loosly. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I have only done one Migration and will no doubt do more. What it comes down to is – you get wildlife lovers that take photographs, and Photographers that choose to photograph Wildlife. The later do it for money and often only claim to love Wildlife. I have been on tour with many of these Grumpy muppets….

    Keep well

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      Thanks for the comment Wayne. Agree completely. It is the reason we do what we do that defines us. And if you stick to your passion you will always have a great time and, more than likely, create great images!

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  4. David Lloyd

    A very good ( and passionate!) post, Gerry.

    Two things I’ve long learnt:

    1. Take photos for yourself first, foremost and only. Everything else will develop most naturally from there.
    2. Never mind if someone has the photo already, it’s nice to have your own too.

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  6. Morkel Erasmus

    Great post Gerry, and I concur wholeheartedly with the comments above as well.

    I shared a migration image on my FB timeline last week which, to me, was just mind-blowingly beautiful and had high impact. I used words to the effect “now THIS is how you take a migration photo” in trying to express how hard-hitting this image was to me personally. This might be the image you were referring to, as it sort-of went viral on FB last week, and it may not. In any event, my thoughts below.

    By no means do I think ANY migration image is “boring” or “normal” as it’s a spectacle I love to see in images over and over again. Though this particular image was evocative and moody, I think we need to be realistic in our own expectations. Like you said – sooner or later 99% of it will have been done before, and if you only shoot to get “something different” you will have no chance of shooting anything after a very short while. Many of us try to describe our photography in terms like “getting unique visions of nature” and the like, but if we’re honest with ourselves pretty much 99% of our images do look like something that’s been done before or follow some sort of generic “recipe” (they look ‘stock-standard’ as it were).

    I like to think of it this way: sometimes we are able to interpret/present the scenes before us in a unique way, and sometimes we do it in a generic way. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the privilege of witnessing the scene taking place in front of me that I find that I am not even thinking about trying to convey it in a unique way and I just snap images instinctively, many of which will be “stock-standard” as it were. I think it’s important to not separate our photographic vision from the reason why we photograph – which for any real lover of wildlife should be to enjoy, document portray and share the things we are privileged to see.

    Wayne put it nicely when he described the difference between wildlife-enthusiats who love to photograph and photographers who happen to choose wildlife subjects. Finding the balance between the 2 might be the key – being lovers of wildlife (sensitive enough to be responsible with nature when we are enjoying it) while being passionate photographers at the same time. It’s a fine line indeed, but one that is amazing to travel on if you can get it right.

    Striking this fine balance will also enable you to enjoy those sightings where photography isn’t conducive just as much as those where you get the killer shots…and it will make you enjoy/take pride in your images even if they are not as unique as others might want them to be. When you do get that special, unique, high-impact image you will be able to appreciate it all the more.

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      Thanks for your thoughts Morkel. Yeah, I think we are thinking of the same image. It is some people’s comments on this image that got me going on this – find the approach some people take to wildlife photography quite sad. There is so much more to enjoy, share and experience.

      As always, well said and thanks for your comment!

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  7. Adrian Wright

    I remember the first time someone loaned me an old Nikon D50 and 70-300 lens and I set off into the Kruger on a rainy day to try and capture an image or two.That day I experienced the bush and every animal like I never had before. There was a real appreciation for every animal, bird, bug or tree and I noticed things I had never noticed before. The shots weren’t great by professional standards but they each related an experience to me. I almost had more fun going through the photos that night than I did taking them. Needless to say the next morning I set out into the bush again and shortly afterwards I bought my first DSLR.

    When I eventually started posting my images online, and comparing them to other images by pro photographers I honestly felt intimidated and wondered whether I should even continue pursuing photgraphy much further. As a hobbiest who doesn’t have the money to go out and spend R150000 on camera gear, or take weeks off of work to be in the bush, how could I ever compete? Why would anyone ever want to look at my photos? In fact, just getting my shots to look like the stock-standard shots everyone is used to seeing would be an achievement.

    Two weeks ago I was in the Kruger again, and found myself rushing around the first few days anxious to make the most of my time and capture something “unique”. I didn’t have much luck. On the last day of our trip I went into the park alone. Driving slowly beside the Sabie River that morning with my window lowered and the cool morning air brushing across my face, the smell of the water and the reeds, the sound of the birds stirring to meet the sunrise, and the beauty which is the African bush being put on display in front of me again, I was flooded with a sense of nostlgia. This is why I started taking photos! To be out here, to smell the river and to see the sunrise and to enjoy the opportunity of trying to capture even a vague sense of that emotion, and then to go home and relive that moment through an image and possibly even share it with a friend or family member. That’s what photography is to me. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to learn or grow as a photographer, it just means I get to enjoy the process of improving rather than constantly trying to measure up.

    In essence, my shots may never be able to compete with shots taken by guys who have the privilege of being out in the field every day, but that fact doesn’t make my experience any less valuable, or my shots any less enjoyable. At least not for me.

    Thanks for this post Gerry!

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      Thanks so much for your comments Adrian!

      “To be out here, to smell the river and to see the sunrise and to enjoy the opportunity of trying to capture even a vague sense of that emotion, and then to go home and relive that moment through an image and possibly even share it with a friend or family member. Thatโ€™s what photography is to me.” So very well said!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Drew Cairncross

    Morkel, I have a comment regarding the following statement, as made by yourself…..

    “but if weโ€™re honest with ourselves pretty much 99% of our images do look like something thatโ€™s been done before or follow some sort of generic โ€œrecipeโ€”

    What are you smoking, and have you developed “Chad Cocking” syndrome? Here is my take on the matter, and everybody needs to take this from where it comes. (an enthusiastic amateur, who ventures into the bush far less frequently than others privileged enough to have the equipment I have.) Whether we want to believe it or not, we are tuned into our own style, and own way of seeing things. When the term “push the boundary” is stated, one has to ask what boundary is being pushed, or more specifically, WHOSE boundary is being pushed? By activating our conscious mind, we are able to step away from our natural style. Take the time to interpret what the scene is telling us, and convert that through the viewfinder. Those who do this well are those who are considered artists in the field of wildlife photography and can create a very diverse portfolio with inspiring images. Again, this is my personal opinion. I say this, because I often get caught in the moment and lose sight of the photographic technicals and end up feeding the recycle bin, knowing that a minor adjustment could have enhanced the photograph tenfold.

    Here is a great example. Izak Pretorius entered an image into the competition, either today or yesterday, entitled “Into The Storm” if I remember correctly. I would not have even put a camera at that scene, but what he produced is captivating. It is art, unquestionably, and it comes from experience I suspect. Many people will see it as a “dusty photo with a Wildebeest” this is because there are many more viewers of the photo than there are appreciative photographic craftsman out there.

    What I am trying to say, is that everyone instinctively has their own way of portraying wildlife through a lens, but it is so easy to repeat that style and become boring. This is something that you, Morkel, are by no means guilty of. Having an interest in Landscapes, Avian and wildlife photography, the opportunities are endless and your work is by no means that of “99%” of the field and you need to give yourself a bit more credit, much like Chad.

    So in reference to the initial post by Gerry, one has to appreciate that very few people will be drawn to “art” but those who are, will value it highly. The first person we need to please is ourselves. We need to enjoy the privilege of getting out there amongst incredible subjects, crimson sunsets reflected off mighty rivers, the milky way in full splendor, a Leopard perched high in a Marula and all the other astounding things there are to see. Once that is accomplished, we trip the shutter and one only has to feel down when we have disappointed ourselves. Nobody else’s opinion should matter really, although professional wildlife photographers will, and are justified to, disagree.

    There is a very fine line between being self critical for development reasons, and being self destroying. I truly believe that having a desire to please the masses is a sure means of self destruction.

    Take photos, keep clicking, cherish the experience, for those moments captured in time will ALWAYS be more valuable to you, than anyone else.

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