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Amateur vs Profession part V

July 8, 2009

This post should be subtitled “Risk Taking”. I took a number of photographic risks last weekend. In a sense, I suppose one could argue that shooting in an unfamiliar style is a kind of risk. Especially when in a situation you can’t duplicate.

I took my wife to a music concert. It just so happened that the venue did not have the usual ban on “professional” cameras. (Most places routinely have such bans and professional is often arbitrarily defined as any camera with a removable lens.) With no such ban in place, I took my camera to the concert. Amazingly, even though Leann Rimes is a nationally known recording artist, I saw only one other DSLR there. Though I did see dozens of people with compact cameras and even cell phone cameras. I can only assume that some of those people owned nicer cameras but didn’t want to risk not being able to get into the concert so they left them at home.

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The most obvious risks I took this weekend were taken when I wanted to get some shots of rock climbers. Although I’m not a serious rock climber myself, I found that all the best shots could only be taken by doing some climbing. With my camera gear in hand! I’ll do almost anything to get the shot so climb I did.

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That leads me back to the whole amateur vs professional line of thought. No matter what brand or kind of camera you shoot with, no matter whether you do or even try to make money from your photos, the willingness to take risks is another of the key things that separates amateurs from professionals.

An amateur would not likely have climbed out onto a precarious rock outcrop 300 feet (~92 meters) above the forest floor. The fear of dropping the camera — or worse, falling and killing onesself — would have been too great. Even some of the less risky climbs such as the one up a fallen tree trunk perched 20 feet (~6 meters) off the ground or onto a narrow rock ledge with sloping falls on both sides, both of which would have been fatal to both camera and mortal.

I’m not saying that anyone who isn’t a daredevil is forever banished to the ranks of the unwashed amateurs. Far from it. Even simpler risks such as stepping into a mud puddle or laying down in the dirt to capture a small subject tend to be beyond the willingness of casual snapshooters.

A lot of people ask me to reveal some great secret about how to “get the shot”. My whole point is that a professional will do whatever it takes. Even when it’s sometimes a little scary.

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