2017 is Over!
To wrap up 2017 I, like the rest of the world, created a "best nine" collage on Instagram. I then immediately started debating whether I agreed with the Instagram audience, regarding my best images of the year. Since the end of 2017 marked the end of my third year doing photography, it also got me thinking about these years: How much have I improved? Is it what I expected or wanted it to be? What the heck am I trying to do with this photography habit?
Most Liked Images vs. Best Images?
First, these 9 images. I usually have a backlog of images to edit, so it means some cool 2017 shots weren't in the running - including some of the photos I'm most excited to share from our recent trip to New Zealand! That said, I love my image collage. It has five Minnesota images, one of Saint Paul, one in central Minnesota and three up north (including one in the BWCA). Minnesota seems well represented. Then there are four Iceland images, which is great since capturing wonderful images was one of my biggest motivations to visit there (twice now!). Are these the best nine images I posted this year though? I guess it depends on who's judging.
Me? Several of them would have made my top nine, but I would have made room or a few other shots. Don't get me wrong, the Saint Paul lightning shot is both one of the hardest earned and luckiest shots I've taken (which is why I have a whole blog post about it here), and the cave shot on the top right may actually be my favorite shot of the year (there's my favorite travel companion, on vacation in Iceland doing what we love; the depth, the layering and the lighting on the ferns really does it for me).
Below, however, are three images that would probably make my favorite 9 images of the year. I love this particular Icelandic landscape because it is just so bizarre and something you truly don't see every day. For me, the subtle color reflection on the water really brings it together and adds to the surreal atmosphere. The State Fair image was a very tough shot to get and I love the how all the tones worked together in the end, from the wheel to the tarps to the sky. I love the sunflower field shot because of the mood and the layering (I personally prefer that shot over the sunflower shot that made the collage, although the one in the collage has also been bought more times). In the end, I'd say: Close enough! It seems my estimation wasn't too far off from what my followers appreciated most. I gave up a while ago trying to really predict which images resonate most with people - whether at a show or on social media.
"I've realized that I don't actually want to prioritize success too much, if it requires turning photography into a full-blown second job"
Personal Favorites 3 Years Doing Photography
Three years have gone by since I bought my first full-frame DSLR and decided to give photography a try as a semi-serious hobby. It has turned into a lot more than what I intended in the first place. I imagined capturing higher quality photos for my own memories, maybe having a Facebook page, and generally sharing my images with friends and family. I'd figured I'd be lucky and happy if I ever sold a print or two. But things snowballed quickly: website, art shows, more equipment, images published, custom orders, etc. I'm somewhat blown away by it all! I would be silly and ungrateful to complain about having more success than I anticipated, but with it also came self-inflicted pressure to publish more images, to never miss a great sunset, to prioritize shooting over other activities, and to only post work that is to a certain standard. The thing is, creating the kind of image that I aim for takes a lot of patience and a lot of work. At some point, I may have gone a bit too far and forgot that I do this for fun!
I think I've turned a corner recently though; I've realized that I don't actually want to prioritize success too much, if it requires turning photography into a full-blown second job. I'd prefer to shoot when I want to, edit images when I feel like it, and hopefully still generate enough images to make the whole thing worth it. A few nights ago the Grain Belt sign was re-lit in Minneapolis and a couple of nights ago the first full moon of the year happened, but you know what? I couldn't make it out to shoot them. Luckily though, another moon is coming soon, and unless they don't maintain it properly (it IS Minneapolis, and the track record with the 35W lights is not great), that Grain Belt sign will still be there one of these days when I do feel like shooting it. Now THIS is Fun
I love capturing beauty and doing my best to bring it to others. In particular, I enjoy traveling and the challenge of framing something in a particular way, revealing something with an image. I love photography and above all else hope to truly keep enjoying it. So I will continue doing my best at keeping up with the social media, advertising, publishing, shows, etc - but only to the extent that they don't drain the fun altogether!
Enjoy My Images? Help Me Spread the Word!
Since I hardly spend money or efforts on marketing, I appreciate any help I can get sharing my photos with new audiences! Selling pictures is great, but sharing my images with anyone who might appreciate them is really the most rewarding part of this. Currently I am trying to build my portfolio on Instagram, so please share my page with any Instagrammers you think might enjoy it. Below is also my Facebook photography page:
Instagram Page (@ernesto_ruiz_photography)