In doing the Pier Series I wasn't just hoping to "get noticed" or sell images, I wanted to become a better photographer.
Likely millions of photographs have been created of the Grand Haven lighthouse and pier. Many of them very good and memorable. So why would I want to be just one of millions? That was a question I asked myself a lot while deciding whether or not to move forward with the series. I decided that what I wanted to do was prove, mostly to myself, that I wasn't just one in a crowd of many, that I was and could be a better photographer and create images of the Grand Haven Pier that were unique and interesting. I didn't know if that was going to be possible but I also decided that that would be part of the fun and challenge of the whole thing. So there was the challenge, go to the pier every Sunday for 52 weeks and attempt to create a unique and interesting composition every week. Sounded easy enough. But by about week 7 I realized what a monumental challenge this was going to be. I can't tell you how many times I quietly said to myself, "I have to to this ___ more times?!?!". I know taking pictures of a lighthouse seems quite simple but try and do it 52 different ways! Holy crap! But that's what helped make me a better photographer, being forced to create a different image, of the same place, every week. Heck, just forcing myself to have the camera in front of me at least once per week made me a better photographer. Obviously some images were better than others and on many occasions I felt like I had failed to create something of interest. But again that helped me improve, realizing more and more that failure is what you learn from and if it you don't learn from it you need to move on to different ventures. So being able to learn from my mistakes and "forcing" myself to create something every week were definitely huge gains for me in doing this project.
Now I couldn't just go to the pier, set up my camera and press the shutter release button. That would simply be documenting and that's pretty boring. I had to create unique compositions and to do that I had to be able to "see" what was about to happen. Knowing, or at least having a good idea of what light is going to do(what I refer to as "seeing") is something that good photographers are capable of and I came to realize that somewhere along the way I had lost this ability(probably because I wasn't creating photographs as often as I once was). But as time went on and Sunday's passed it eventually came back and I was able to obtain a better understanding of what the light would be doing in x or y minutes and eventually knew where I wanted to be to best capture that light. The best example I have of this is from week 51. We had some incredible light when I arrived but I knew(or at least had a good idea) of what the light was going to do. So while other people were fumbling with there iPhones to get pictures(not that there's anything wrong with that), I sat quietly and waited for the light to change. As I waited, I saw waves coming over the edge of the pier and knew that the cloud cover would create an interesting reflection on this water and also knew that if I waited long enough the sun would move to a position that I could include it and the lighthouse and have good exposure throughout the image. The image I created(above) was one of my most popular of the series and one of my personal favorites as well. I'm also fairly certain that had there been similar conditions during let's say week 3 or 4 I would have created a much different and not very impressive image. Learning to "see"(again) is probably the biggest gain I took from the Pier Series and it's not something that can be achieved by reading a book or watching a YouTube video. It's something you learn by doing. And that's the other big takeaway for me, never stop doing. Once you stop, you're behind and you might not catch up. So even if the motivation isn't there and I'm feeling the "creative drain" I'm not going to stop because I still have a lot of catching up to do.
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