Keeping It Fun
I don't care what anyone says, as a military photographer I have one of the coolest jobs on the planet. I don't just get paid to travel the world with unparalleled access and the best gear, I also somehow earn a pension and get great benefits from it. It's crazy. Yet, it's not all Gucci, from time to time I find myself a little worn thin. Don't get me wrong, it's never lost on me how cool this gig is, but at points it very much feels less like fun and more like, well... work.
People sometimes forget that as a military photographer we're often jogging around in the pitch black through uneven terrain at 02h00, with 60 lbs. of gear on our back keeping up with fit 20-something alpha males on zero sleep to get a single shot. It wears on you. So what do I do to keep photography fun?
1. Go the extra mile for creativity's sake
Sometimes when I'm really feeling like my fun tank is running on empty I'll indulge my creative sweet tooth and develop a concept-driven shot. One such example is this shot I took of my two sons, one wearing my old infantry dress uniform on the left, and the other wearing my Imagery Technician (Military photographer) uniform on the right. Staging a creative shot exactly how you envisioned it and pulling it off feels very rewarding, and even more rewarding is having a priceless photo like this of my sons for the rest of my life.
2. Forcing Creative Challenges into your Work Shots
One time one of my bosses told me that there was no place for prime lenses in the Canadian Forces. Challenge accepted. Not only did I prove their value, but I took home a few prizes for it.
3. Commit to a Public Project
The very best thing I've ever done to develop as a photographer was a Project 365 I did a number of years back. Because I did it on www.365project.org I was constantly submitting to a public forum where I received feedback from a number of other more experienced shooters. They motivated me, inspired me, and most importantly acted as someone for me to be accountable to, forcing me to keep pushing and growing. In the end it was a really fun project that I'm very proud of. Here are a few low-res copies of the images I took:
4. Photoshop Ridiculousness
Every now and then I like to challenge myself to make something funny. The more ridiculous the better. In my field it's easy to get swept up in serious shot after serious shot. Making something absolutely dumb is a good way to both challenge yourself to apply and develop skillsets while also grounding you (not to mention make your friends laugh). Take a look at one such project from a number of years back where I Photoshopped my face and the faces of two buddies onto the movie poster of one of my favourite films, O Brother Where Art Thou: