Randy’s Journey – Motivation to Get Out of Bed

Being an academic that has never followed a blog, I have a problem: I keep thinking I should have something “academic” to say, or teach, in every blog. For those of you who read/write blogs, I’m sorry to come across as such a stuffed shirt. Feel free to guide me in a more informal direction with a comment or two … please.

So here is my non-academic blog post that we can both learn from (or should that be “from which we can both learn”?) The homework from my last blog asked you to explore what motivates you to improve your photography. Since that blog post was about practice and the homework was about motivation, let me share my journey the last week and how it was impacted by practice and motivation.

Those of you who live near the Grand Teton National Park remember that early last week we had four days of pretty much all-day rain.   Since we had clear skies for a couple weeks, most of my landscape photos were fairly bland blue-bird-skies. I was looking for something more dramatic so the first day we were supposed to get clouds and afternoon rain, I set my alarm for 4:30 am and drove the 90 minutes to the park for some exciting sky. Nope, it wasn’t dramatic at all. I didn’t get any photos that were even slightly interesting. Killer for motivation !

Luckily my wife, dog, and I had reservations in Stanley Idaho for later that week – right as the rain was supposed to stop. I was excited to have a beautiful new environment in which to shoot (not that the Tetons aren’t beautiful) and when we arrived in Stanley the clouds were lifting, although it was pretty humid. I bumped into a fellow Teton Photography Group colleague (Aaron) and he told me there had been a lot of fog over Redfish Lake that morning. No worry, it will all be gone tomorrow morning and I’ll get great shots of a new environment. I set the alarm for 5:00 am since I was only a few minutes from Redfish Lake.

I got up the next morning, put on my clothes, and hurried out to the car. Whoa, I couldn’t see a thing! The fog was so thick I had
Fog at Redfish (1 of 1)to drive at 20 mph on the highway and when I got to the Redfish Lake I couldn’t even see the shoreline. I setup my tripod and camera (and didn’t fall in) and figured I could wait-it-out. I took a few photos but I couldn’t see the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains at all. After an hour I left.

As I was driving back to the motel I saw a group of cars parked at Little Redfish Lake so I stopped to see what they were doing. It turned ouLifting Fog at Redfish (1 of 1)t to be a photo workshop that had driven from Oregon the day before (a 12 hour trip) only to be socked-in with serious fog. I waited with them for more than an hour, but it was a bit easier to wait since I now had people to talk with about the lake, the fog, and photography in general. But by 9:15 they got hungry and left for breakfast. I was by myself and left a few minutes later. I had taken some photos but they fell far short of my goal; two very early rises with nothing to show for it. Bummer.

At dinner I bumped into a photographer from the area who asked me about my photography. I told him I was disappointed with all the fog at Little Redfish Lake that morning and he asked me what time I was there. I said I finally left at 9:15 after wandering at the lake for over two hours. “Too bad you left so early. I got there at 9:30 and the fog was lifting. I got some great shots of the mist over the lake with the mountains catching the light just perfectly.” Bummer! That’s what you get for leaving early.

How many times have you been discouraged when you got up really early, or drove really far, or made some other sacrifice only to get nothing in return? Not getting a “reward” after making a sacrifice can really undermine your motivation. So what should we do after such motivational discouragement?

Sunset at Stanley Lake (1 of 1)

That night I drove a few miles and set-up for the sunset over Stanley Lake. I was hoping for some clouds and they showed-up. I was hoping for some sun on the mountains and a nice sunset and it worked … and I felt better and maybe even a little more motivated.

And the next morning I had a little more bounce in my step when I got up at 5:00 am to go back to Little Redfish Lake for sunrise. There was a little fog/mist on the lake and watching the Sawtooth Mountain Range come alive as the sunlight came down the Sawtooths was rewarding enough even if I didn’t get any good shots – but I got some.

Sunrise at Little Redfish (1 of 1)

So what did I learn? It was something I already knew but getting the lessons once again boosted my motivation. Are you experiencing these lessons?

  1. Don’t Pack Up to Leave Quite Yet – This is a very tough lesson to learn since you can never be sure when things will change. I always try to stay “a little longer” and find something else to see or think about in the fog or smoke or rain or …
  2. Don’t Ask Yourself if You Should Get Up – Make up your mind the day before. Put your gear near the door or in the car. NEVER ask yourself if you should go out on a shoot when you are in a nice warm bed; the answer will always be “Sleep a few more minutes” and you won’t get out of bed.
  3. Have a Shoot-Partner to Meet – It is easy to go back to sleep but not if someone is counting on you to meet them. Photo workshops can be very helpful for many reasons and one of them is that others are counting on you.
  4. Reflect on Your Own Motivation – One of the key “strategies” to improve your motivation is to think about your own motivation. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What brings you back for another shoot after an uneventful day? How have your photos improved over the last month or year? What have you learned that has improved your photos?

And tomorrow I have an early morning shoot. I’ll leave home at 4:45 am and pick up an old college friend in Jackson at 5:45 to drive up to Oxbow Bend. It won’t be tough to get up and take a 90 minute travel because: I had some success last weekend; I have a friend to meet; and I’m confident the color of the vegetation in the park will give me a great opportunity to take some great photographs. And even if none of my photographs were great, the beauty of a sunrise at Oxbow Bend with an old friend will make it worthwhile.

A Little Help for Randy to Reach OUR Goal

I received eight comments to my last post, (and quite a few have been added to the first post.) If you are one of those folks who took the time to add a comment, thank you very much. Since I am such a raw rookie on blogs I need your help to achieve our goal of helping amateur photographers. I was looking for comments to include in my posts but that is going slowly. So rather than wait, I am going to try to put up a post every two weeks with a bit more about my journey. I also received some suggestions about including photographs; that is why I have added a few of my photos and I will probably ask for yours sometime in the future.

The next post will be about how to improve your motivation. Please respond with comments to the last post so I can include how YOU improve your motivation. Don’t worry. If you feel like you have no motivation, put that in a comment and I promise I won’t mention your name. 😉

8 thoughts on “Randy’s Journey – Motivation to Get Out of Bed

  1. Nancy Peters

    As I mentioned when I met you, I find the photo challenge.org weekly challenges helpful. Many of the participants feel honor bound to come up with something every week, and even if you don’t, the various challenges help you to expand your horizons. As we get to know the regulars, we look forward to seeing what each other comes up with , and the comments/critique/encouragement from the group help as well.


    1. Nancy, this is a very good suggestion. I have not been involved in an on-line group but your comments and the stories I have heard from others indicate that it can be very helpful AND motivating. I’ll be looking into this and see if my website-guru (Mario, that would be you) can help me create an on-line group so we can all benefit from this. Thanks for the suggestion Nancy.


  2. Tom Lehrer

    One thing that you didn’t mention, I don’t think, is the extrinsic factor — competition. Your motivational keys have all been based on the intrinsic, and those are probably more noteworthy.
    When reading your post, I could have assumed you might have been talking about going to the gym, going fishing, preparing for a 5K — all of those things that hopefully will yield a positive end result but may yield nothing if not pursued on a systematic basis. So, I like to keep your ideas in mind as the basis for the intrinsic stimulation, then look toward competition as the extrinsic.

    Another way to look at this is the importance of practice and the necessity to have the internal mechanisms and passion for the hobby in place so that practice and learning how to use equipment becomes second nature. I was at a huge wedding this weekend and watched the wedding photographer in action. He is recognized as one of the top wedding photographers in the Raleigh, NC area, and it was a joy to see him in work (and it is work). HIs equipment was almost incidental to everything else. HIs workflow was so smooth and his actions so fluid that after awhile, I did not even notice his “instruments.” He was concerned for lighting, composition, expression, action, and relationship building with his subjects. Buttons, dials and lens adjustments were not of primary concern. Those aspects had been long since mastered.

    This is part of what we have to remember. We need to increase our reps with the basics so that we don’t have to worry about dials and buttons as the primary challenges. Just like anything else, a skilled golfer no longer is preoccupied with swing thoughts; a tournament bridge player has long since mastered the complex bidding process and can spend time listening to his/her partner and to the opponents — focusing on their bidding and play so as to make the best playing decisions.


  3. Tom, your initial comment/paragraph raises an important topic that I will be exploring in a future post. Motivation was a major focus in my university research with a particular emphasis on the impact of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivational. For some folks competition is clearly an extrinsic motivation which improves their effort and achievement; sounds like that would be you, and that having a challenging opponent on the golf course will help your golf game. But for others competition can undermine their “good motivation” and might lead to disengagement.
    I completely agree with your second comment/paragraph. Unlike Allen Iverson 🙂 most of us depend on practice, practice, practice as the underlying support for our photography. Is it possible to have a one good, even great, photograph without a solid understanding of ISO, composition, depth of field … sure. I hate to admit it but sometimes luck does result in ONE great photograph. But there is nothing that will help us improve as photographers more than practice so that we don’t have to think about the buttons and menus. Once we have the skills we can focus on the light, or the composition, or the depth of field, etc.
    Thanks for your comments. See you next week. I’ll be sure to set my alarm to wake you up very early for a few sunrise shoots in some of the most beautiful landscapes you have ever seen. AND we’ll throw in some wildlife to keep you happy.


  4. Some good insights and information. Yes, it is amazing how perseverence pays off when waiting for the perfect scene to unfold…whether it is the lighting, the movement of wilfdlife or even waiting for your photography mentor to show up and pick you up to go to a photo shoot at Ox Bow Bend. (20 minutes late! I know you had to drive over the pass from Victor, but you should re-read your own article! HA!) We had a good shoot at Ox Bow despite the overcast
    sky. And I bow to the master….you had the superior capture that morning. Clearer, better composition and better color rendering. (Was it in the camera or in Lightroom that gave you the edge? My composition used the overlaying of 4 pictures in a HDR format. Lost some clarity that way…but was able to bring light to the foreground and the mountains as well.) MIKE


    1. There are times when sticking around leads to waiting and waiting and … disappointment. But more often photographic waiting will pay off, and in the long run there are often big payoffs. We had very different shots at Oxbow than we had anticipated but they were good. Thank for joining me and I guess I’m supposed to say “Thanks for waiting patiently for me on a morning when the alarm didn’t wake me up.” 🙂 See you again in the Tetons in another year or two.


  5. Randy, I love the addition of photos to the blog!

    Regarding motivation, for me photography is a hobby and a pleasure at this point. If I start to feel bored or unmotivated, it is time to try something new. The natural world and the “golden hours” soothe me, heal me, inspire me. Things i have learned in the past week are how to use “shutter priority” when photographing birds, that i can get great photos all day on a cloudy day and how to delete photos off the card in camera. i also am becoming more clear when i like to use “aperture priority”. So, you can see, i am a real beginner. Next, i have got to make myself use my tripod. Having goals seems related to motivation.


  6. Ruth, I’ll try to fit more photos into the blog. In fact, I am exploring putting the photos of others into the blog as a way for the readers to get some feedback. I’ll have to do some “teaching” about informational feedback to be sure we don’t get comments that alienate readers. I’m thick-skinned enough that it won’t bother me but a recent comment by a reader points out the potential harm of comments that are seen as cutting.
    Your comment on motivation clearly indicates that your motivation for photography is an internal motivation rather than an external motivation (more on the distinction later). The comments about “soothe me, heal me, inspire me” are the words used by intrinsically motivated folks whose motivation is often best described by a joy or love for what they are doing.
    And your comments about shutter priority and aperture priority are NOT the kind of words that “real beginners” use, but who defines real beginners? You’d be surprised how many folks use the buttons that are essentially point-and-shoot.
    Thanks for your engagement and comments. You may find that a tripod can be addictive 🙂 at least that is what I have discovered taking landscape photography.


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