A Print Photographer I Will Be

April 13, 2024  |  Zion National Park, Utah
The main subject is Angels Landing with a collection of cottonwood trees with fall-colored leaves all of which are yellow.

Fall in Zion was difficult to predict and plan in 2023. Due to high summer temperatures sticking around in the lower canyon and what seemed to be cooler temperatures hitting the high country, there was a lot of difference between times of when colors showed up during this year. As the season began wrapping up, I decided to head out one more time with the family and wander along the river so the kids could get a chance to wiggle and see something interesting. Along the way they found bones, birds, deer and cactus. I found myself with a view I had never photographed before. Though I had seen this perspective dozens of time, this was the first time when conditions finally aligned for some great conditions. Image taken in Zion National Park near Big Bend.

Yesterday I sat in Zion National Park feeling introspective (just to the left of the above image). I was with a class of photography students from Utah Tech University, leading them and teaching them the ways of nature and landscape photography here in Southern Utah. As I sat, a California Condor soared overhead and landed on the cliffs above me. The new electric busses quietly whirred on by just barely breaking the silence of nature. The Virgin River rumbled over some riffles and the quiet stream inlet babbled below me. In the silence of nature I contemplated my photographic career.

The Towers of the Virgin in Zion National Park with dappled light across the cliff faces.

In all my years of photographing Zion, I have never photographed dappled light across these mountains. I have seen it in passing but nothing like this. The sun sent beams across the cliffs making shifting patterns of light and dark, I just had to be ready to photograph it. Towers of the Vigin

It seems the natural progress of photographer these days goes as followed. First- become a proficient photographer. Second, begin teaching workshops. Third, start a Youtube Channel of your adventures and your photography. Fourth, possibly sell your soul to Instagram and become a Reels photographer who actually does not present final images, just Reels. Sometimes the order of these are different, and surprisingly becoming proficient might be last, but if you dig around enough online you see this pattern a lot.

I too have done some of these steps. I did become proficient (It probably took me longer than some of you). I ran a workshop and have a few that you can sign up for. I even tried to do a Youtube Channel thing. I share reels on occasion, but if you look at my Instagram it is still very much is a platform for sharing images. But in general I am really not good at following the "photographers journey" that so many of my peers have successfully followed, or appeared to have found success.

There are a couple reasons for why I have failed. Some deal with the fact I have a family and traveling non-stop to create content is very difficult for me. Another aspects for why I have not followed that path is that I don't have the full set of skills necessary to do advanced video editing (see first comment about having kids, then add I don't have a tone of time to learn Premier). But the biggest reason for why I am have not followed the "photographers journey" is because I don't love it.

Yup, you heard me, I don't love the path to become the full time photographer that so many people follow. I love photographing. I love travel (to an extent). I love editing. And frankly I don't mind teaching if the people are really genuine and have a desire to learn. But outside of that, I don't like the business model the industry has gone down.

I hate tips and tricks.

I hate many of the articles these days written about photography (don't get me wrong, some are good, but some are really bad including mine).

I hate the selling of photographers as cage dancers, aka Reels influencers, trapped into system that they may or may not be benefiting them.

And I kind of suck at being a solo videographer.

I tried to join these systems, wrote some articles I look back on and am not particularly proud of. Made some videos that were the best of my ability. And now have taught a class for a few months aka a long term work shop runner. After all is said and done I have come to some conclusions about who I am as a photographer.

In the end I guess I am a print photographer at heart.

A print photographer is someone who sells their images as prints. I love it. I love seeing my images come to life leaving the digital world and existing within the physical world. I love small prints and big prints. I love paper prints, metal prints and acrylic prints. I love delivering a print to a customer.

Probably the reason why I love this as a way of doing my photography is that I love the fact that my images live in reality. I see which images worked with an audience and which ones didn't land quite right. I see some of my favorite images die in print stands. Images where I nearly died for them sit idly by, never living on someone's wall. Some images where I had profound experiences while photographing them but don't seem to connect with audiences the way I want them too.

Glimmering lights in my consciousness that fizzled in the real world.

A petrified log as the foreground leads viewers to a large dome of earth in the distance.
An image that I love that just has not caught on at all with customers.

Then again I see images that I love do exceptionally well. Children who grew up after much planning and preparation, fine tune editing and some blood and sweat. I see this in images like my stary night overlooking the Watchman Mountain in Zion. My Mesa Arch shot from Canyonlands. Recently, an image out of Escalante has joined the ranks of images that has stolen the hearts of customers. Seeing an image take off is a wonderful experience. Don't get me wrong, its cool to get 500 or 1000 likes on an image, but when someone drops over $10,000 dollars on a 10 foot print that will be seen for decades by thousands of people, I will gladly trade my Instagram account for that.

Jacob Hamblin Arch in southern Utah in the escalante river
An image that has taken off lately

Other moments I love as a print photographer, is when a customer comes through my booth after purchasing my images and tell me that they love my image in their home. I have a gentlemen who comes through my booth every few months just to say hi because he loves my images in his home. I have ladies who come by my booth and compliment me and the image they purchased and how every friend who passes through their house love the image. These customers get a measure of joy from my work and then they share that with those around them.

The physical world holds so much more joy for me and I think I will live there more as a photographer. I will trade your 10,000 likes for a chance to see my Coyote Gulch Image hanging in a hotel in all its glory. I'll trade my 1000+ followers on Instagram for my followers who have come back to me for the past 3 years and purchased images for every room of their home supporting me and my work.

A true follower at the end of the day is someone who has supported your work. I have followers around the world these days and that means a lot to me. I enjoy my digital followers, and I hope you stick around, I have things to still share with you. In reality though I really enjoy those who support me through my prints and I hope one day those who follow me digitally will convert to a physical owner of my work. I promise you it will be worth your time, and if not, come talk to me, I'll make it right.

If you are struggling to find self worth as a photographer, maybe try to move from the digital world into the physical. At least your work becomes real here.

Interludes:

To Jory- Thanks for reaching out at the recent art show. It was a surprise to think that I helped change your life as a photographer. I gave you advice a year or two back and you changed the way you did your photography career and now do art shows and said you find more joy in your work then you ever had. That meant a lot to me.Kid from Washington- You stopped by my booth one day and stopped, looked at my name, then back at me and exclaimed that you followed me on Instagram and was surprised to see me in person. I believe you purchased a small print after that. Thanks!Two DWR employee's- You guys stumbled upon my work on some website and saw me wearing a DWR hat. After that you came to my booth in person to say hi to a fellow DWR employee. It means a lot when people like you say hi.

Lady who purchased my one and only framed print of Coyote Gulch- For four years you have come by my booth to say that you love my image. You tell me that that image gets more compliments then any other image she has ever purchased. Event Organizer in Cedar City- You purchased my only prints from my first art show. You gave me the the courage to keep going. Thanks.

The Cedar City Couple- You became my first collectors after you purchased not one not two, but six metal prints for your home. It was the biggest sale of my life up to that point. Thanks.

The Man with the white hair- I don't remember your name. Sorry, but I know your face. Thank you for sharing my images with your friends. I am not sure any of them have bought, but the fact you are cheering for me makes my day.

To Jim and Jan- Thank you for being returning customers for multiple years now. Your purchases have on occasion been make or brake moments for art shows for me. I love seeing your names come through my inbox these days.

My favorite tattooed couple in southern Utah- I love how you come back to my booth looking for new and exciting images for your home even after all these years. Seeing you literally brings a smile to my face.

To Michael- You have become one of my best collectors these days. You have come by my booth at nearly every art show I have attended in St. George region for 2 years now. Thanks for supporting me and my work these days.

To my former co-worker living back east- to this day you are the main person who purchases my calendars in the Midwest. You are part of the reason why I make a calendar every year, so you will have something on your wall. I won't forget you.

There are many other I have forgotten who still say hi and make my day. I am surprised by all the people who knew me before I went to graduate school, remember that I did that for two years and then came back to southern Utah. To the people who come by my booth and look around and say, yup I have one from you. To the young people who stop and ask question about how to be a successful photographer. Thanks. Knowing you has been a light in my life

I shot of the night sky in Zion National Park.
Night Watchman

I shot of the night sky in Zion National Park.

A concert of color of fall leaves, cold branches and the balance of nature.
Riparian Fall

Take a moment to appreciate this image as it is a bit more complicated than my other images. Amongst the riparian floral resides one rabbit brush providing a contrast to the rest of the environment. In generally rabbit brush is a disturbance species and takes over when a landscape has been altered. Here the willows hold these plants back preventing them from taking over a landscape though they still reside within the community.