Motivation, Purpose, and Reason – 2017 Solar Eclipse

The Dead Ox Solar Eclipse Crew

2017 Solar Eclipse

Motivation, purpose, and reason. Why do we do what we do, especially when it’s doing something that we love? To me photography is more than taking photos. It took me a while to understand this as it applies to my own work and how it affects my life but the realization was life changing.

I just returned from an event in Eastern Oregon where 25 photographers gathered at a ranch just east of Baker City to photograph the total solar eclipse. I organized and conducted a solar eclipse workshop and campout. During the organization phase of the event I had no idea how it would all turn out. There’s always so much to worry about it seems. Will the clouds show up and blot out the eclipse? Will there be enough water? Will there be enough porta-potties? Will there be something that I’ve forgotten? Will everyone be happy? When it comes to worry I seem to be a pro.

The day of the event comes and the photographers start arriving. There were young, old, men, women, children, varied races, nationalities and ethnicities. People who, if they were in their own element, may not even meet let alone sit and share a campfire, food, drink, dance and conversation. Our lives were diverse. Our common catalyst is photography. Our reason for gathering is the eclipse. A perfect formula.

The event could have formed into smaller social groups defined by our differences but instead everyone came together into a hive of gracious sharing. We created our own village there of people who concentrated on their one common goal, in this case something as simple and as innocuous as getting a photograph, albeit a very special photograph. Everyone helped those who were less skilled or prepared. We all shared our experience, expertise, equipment, food and drink, anything freely and selflessly. Even the children ran and played completely disconnected from their electronic devices as if it was 1965. I saw no conflict that the children weren’t able to resolve themselves. It was an amazing convergence of love, happiness and cooperation.

I describe this event only to make a simple point that has taken me some time to realize. The secret to happiness and mutual cooperation, I think, is not finding our differences but, rather, to find our common interests. It doesn’t have to be photography. It can be a myriad of other things but if we stop for a moment and realize how much we help ourselves when we help others the world would be a better place.

I don’t mean to preach, nor do I mean to act as if I’ve discovered the secret to world peace, but I would like to express how much I have realized that photography for me is the tool that opens doors to the things that make me happy. It’s the tool that allows me to affect others in a positive way and the more that I receive the recognition and gratitude of others the more that I realize it’s more than the photography or vanity that could come with notoriety. It’s about affecting people's lives in a positive way with what I love to do.

I have a lot of people ask me what is the most important element or method of my photography that allows it to stand out so that they too can learn how to do it themselves. I’m convinced that what will make anyone’s photography stand out can’t be taught but must be discovered through a journey of practice, mistakes, realization and discovery. It’s a process that allows you to be able to see the world through your heart and soul and not your eyes and practical mind. A realization that will bring a feeling of relief and relaxation that will allow you to do what you do in a much more creative way.

My personal realization of these principles has completely changed my approach to everything that I do that involves how I approach my work. It has brought me happiness where there once was frustration. It has brought a new inner peace that translates through my photos. It has even brought a certain amount of success that i wouldn’t have had otherwise. I feel that it all comes from sharing what I love.

I may not have discovered the secret to world peace, but what I’ve discovered is helping me with my own.


Solar Eclipse Composite
Solar Eclipse Composite

Ruined It For The Rest Of Us

Keep Out

I remember central Oregon back in the innocent days. My family has lived in central Oregon for five generations. I once drove a delivery truck route that included Wasco, Jefferson, Sherman, Gilliam, Wheeler and Crook counties. I got to know a lot of ranchers and farmers during that time. Those were the days of trust and respect. There were few fences and even fewer Keep Out signs. Back then if you wanted to go hunting or hiking on private land you would go up to the house, knock on the door, introduce yourself and ask permission to do what it was that you wanted to do on the owner's property. Nine times out of ten the owner would be glad to oblige. Unfortunately those days are over.

Lately a cause for closure seems to be photographers that just can't resist crossing a fence or ignoring a sign to get their photo. The more that this happens the more that the property owners will fight back. Many locations that are being blocked are locations where a photograph from the edge of the fenceline could be just as beautiful.

I have gone up to homes and asked permission. I introduce myself, hand them a business card and then ask if they would allow me to access the place that I want to access. Many times they've said no, but there have been other times when they respect that you asked, gave me warnings or restrictions on where I can't go for my safety and then said OK. I've even had property owners take me to places on their land where they thought I may be able to get a beautiful photo.

This problem is not exclusive to private land. The last few years have exposed many acts of carelessness or vandalism to our public lands. Everything from removing rocks and driving through the Racetrack playa at Death Valley to blasting a motorhome through the standing water at the Bonneville Salt flats to people walking out off of a boardwalk in Yellowstone to the edge of a geyser for a photo to graffiti painted on rocks throughout several National Parks - The list goes on and on.

This is an appeal to my fellow photographers to keep this in mind if they are tempted to cross boundaries. Take a hike in the national forests to less photographed and accesed areas instead of crossing fences. When we're out in the field we're representatives of every photographer and ambassadors of the craft. Become a member of a local photography club as they will organize meetups and photoshoots at locations that aren't normally accessible to the public. Volunteer to clean up or remediate areas that have been affected by the higher traffic that the popularity of photography has caused such as county, state or federal parks and hiking trails.

Become an instrument for change through positive effort and practices that shed a positive light on the photography community. Lead by example and teach others to do the same. Together we can reduce the efforts to close off the areas that we enjoy photographing. The only rules that we should break are the rules of composition.

Madras Oregon Homestead
Madras Oregon Homestead