Photography Inspiration from a "Friend"

Photography Inspiration comes from all kinds of places. Even from people you may not know. Sometime in early April 2016 I received a letter in the mail. I checked the address, it was from a person I did not know. What makes that worth a blog post?  This was a handwritten letter from a "friend" I'd never met.

Joe's thank handwritten thank you note.

Joe's thank handwritten thank you note.

The envelope contained several postcard photos. On the back of one was a handwritten note. It read,

Thank you for being such an inspiration!
Seeing your work has inspired me to use my voice & platform as an artist, to be an advocate for Hunting and Conservation.
Thank You!
Joe Mannino"

There was also an invitation to attend Joe's, Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition in Greenville, North Carolina.

Joe's postcard invitation
Joe's postcard invitation

I'm often asked about what I did to "make-it" in the photography world. Most of the time I reference something very simple, like, "I just do what motivates me."

Thank you Joe Mannino,



Glacier National Park, Wild Goose Island Time Lapse

On Saturday, June 9th, I finally made good on a conservation donation I made almost a year ago. Back in September I donated a day with me photographing nature to the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance. The purpose of the donation was to help raise money for the organization and help it reach it's ultimate vision, "A child of future generations will recognize and can experience the same cultural and ecological richness that we find in the wild-lands of the Badger-Two Medicine today." Fitting! Based on the request of the person who purchased the auction item - me for a day - we headed into Glacier National Park. Our first stop on that mostly cloudy and rainy day, as it turned out, was Saint Mary's Lake, and Wild Goose Island. That location is best photographed in the morning. As I was learning to photograph Glacier National Park, I once drove back and forth from Browning, MT where I was living at the time, to Saint Mary Lake 25 times over the course of 25 days just to photograph it. However, on this outing we have only one day to get it right!

As luck, or fate, since we've been good would have it, we got great light and great clouds. As I was working with my new friend, I set up another camera to capture the scene over the course of about an hour. This is a time lapse of the clouds blowing over Saint Mary Lake, and Wild Goose Island in Glacier National Park.

I like the look of time lapse, particularly when there's some motion. Notice the trees, the lake and the sky. If you want to change it up a bit, try some time lapse, it's really fun!


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How I learned Photography - Part 2 - Photographic Inspiration

Where my inspiration comes from. This is part two of a two part question. I answered the first part in a previous blog post, how did you learn photography. In this post I'll answer the question, "where do you get your inspiration."  The answer might surprise you. I don't get my inspiration from Ansel Adams or the great works of other master artists and so on. My inspiration comes from my core. It's organic, and from the heart. Inspiration is what gives us the energy, or the spirit to create. Fortunately, I seldom lack the energy to create, just put a camera in my hand and I'm off to the races. I really enjoy the process of creating.  Lets dig a little deeper into inspiration. By inspiration you may really be asking what's behind my creativity. Being inspired is the energy to do. Creativity is part of the act of crafting, or making the photographs. Seeing light and feeling the energy from the sun for example inspires me. I get inspired when I'm just being. I have found, over the years, that my inspiration happens when I'm paying very little attention, or more specifically, when I'm more or less ignoring what's going in the world, and only narrowly paying attention to what's right in front of my face. This means that whether I'm creating for myself, or for a client, I'm engaged in the subject matter, whether It's a human with a backpack on or a land form, I focus on the subject and my desire to capture it in my own way.

For example, watch a child sometime. They are good examples of how I think I find inspiration. Most children are naturally inspired because everything is new. They dont know enough to know that people are watching them. They don't pay much attention to the bigger world - in fact they don't even know it exists yet, they pay attention to what's right in front of their face. Over the years, as my interest in photography has grown, I've found myself focusing more on what makes me feel, good or bad, and in turn focus that energy into creating images.

Interestingly enough, for inspiration, I almost never look at what other people create - sounds strange right? In fact, I stay away from it as much as possible (I do not recommend this approach, it's exactly opposite what most art educators will tell you to do) but it works for me. I find that my freedom, and knowing who I really am helps inspire me to create unique, authentic, one of a kind photographs. It's all about the moment for me. It's about being able to let go of the rules of life, the hassles and the speed, and let my creativity take over. We live in a world with so many rules that often we have to work hard to allow ourselves - our minds really -  to be free . . .  My freedom comes from being outside and letting go of whatever is causing me to conform. I don't what to know what other people photograph, I don't really care, as selfish as that sounds, it's really true. Photography is personal for me, it's not about creating things for other people - even though some pay me to do just that, I have to be allowed to put my own creativity into the project. My inspiration is what lives in me. I care about adventure, nature, wildlife, real people, hunting, fishing, birds, and freedom. I use my camera as a tool to capture those things that make me feel. . .  The feelings are sometimes good, and sometimes not so good, but the key is to use that energy in a positive way to create and be inspired. It's therapy really, it's just my own organic therapy I guess. I always try to let myself feel, then I turn those feelings into the inspiration.

 Inspiration comes from the heart, and from paying attention to what's right in front of your face. Who would not be inspired by huge clouds, giant bright rainbows, and green fields of flowers all in the same place? Tony Bynum, self portrait. D700, 17-35 2.8 afs, f18, 1/160th, with polarizer. © Tony Bynum, All rights reserved.

In a typical day of photography, I seldom ask myself questions. I almost always just gravitate. I gravitate to the location whether by walking, driving, flying, or boating, and I move into position to take the photograph. Inside my head is a heads-up display, just like what you image from watching Maverick trying to get a lock-on Goose in the movie Top Gun, except without the noise and extra data flashing by. When I step into the "right" location the composition just "locks-on."  I don't look at the foreground much, and I don't measure, or make a funny box with my fingers and hold it up to the scene or anything like that, I just move around until the scene, "locks-on," then I make the exposure. I don't think I've ever had "shooters-block," similar to writers block. I'm inspired by what's in front of me, by the sun, by pain, sorrow, joy and laughter. I'm inspired by my own energy and by life itself. What could be more inspiring than being alive? I'm grateful for that.

If you have a follow up question or comment, please feel free to post again - that goes for anyone that's made it this far! And don't forget to find Tony Bynum Photography on facebook where I often post current photos. Thank you, and good luck!

Tony Bynum