Making Photographs vs. Taking Pictures

While on a trip to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming last year, I watched a group of photographers “taking pictures” of the Mormon Row Barns on a bright sunny cloudless afternoon. While the weather conditions were just perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities they were lousy for photography.

I thought back to times past when I was a novice photographer. Twenty years ago, I would have been doing the same thing. Over the years, I learned taking a picture is not the same thing as making a photograph. The contrast between the two are as different as night and day.

As I ate my lunch and watched the other photographers at work, I planned my strategy for the next day. It was obvious to me the best photo of the barn would be at first light since they are an East facing subject. I decided to stay in Jackson Hole for the evening and return the first thing in the morning. For the rest of that afternoon, I continued to do some scouting until early evening when the light would be ideal for photography.

Returning the next day in the dark, I waited for sunrise with my Nikon F4 and 60mm lens locked down on a Gitzo 320 tripod. In this part of the country, the light becomes harsh and bright very quickly. Knowing I didn’t have much time, I started to shoot as soon as the sunlight hit the barn and while there were shadows on the grass in the foreground. The shadows make this photograph work. They provide depth and make this image multi-dimensional. Without the quality of the early morning light and the shadows on the foreground grass and on the barn, this photograph would have been flat, boring and lifeless.

As a result of some thought and planning, I made a successful photograph that goes far beyond the typical vacation snapshot or picture.


One Response to “Making Photographs vs. Taking Pictures”

  1. Dawn Del Guercio Says:

    I hope you’ll forgive me if I make many comments and ask questions along the way?

    Beautiful shot. It’s amazing how the light has a golden/green tinge to it…

    As a novice myself, I’m still often “duped” into taking photos in less than ideal conditions, but often it’s because I am on a schedule and can’t get back to the same spot later on- especially if I am traveling with my husband. I guess it’s something I should plan more for in the future.

    Do you do a great deal of post-processing?

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