The Value of Self-Evaluation Regardless of the Trade

The entire purpose of my Enterprise Rent-a-Car road trip to Drumheller was to show people what it takes to pursue a passion. Yes, it takes effort, time, overcoming some obstacles, and it involves help from people that want to see you succeed.  But, I think one of the most little talked about aspects of pursuing your passion is self-evaluation.  No matter what it is you do, evaluating where you’re at, what your strengths are, and where you can improve, is so valuable to growth.  If you sit around telling yourself that you’re amazing, and that the reason you get no respect is because you haven’t been lucky enough, then you’ll only stagnate.

In photography terms, it’s easy to shoot images and then sit back and watch the praise from friends, family, social media junkies and colleagues.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in how good you are rather than how good you can be.  It’s something that I have to force myself to do, and really make a point of self-evaluating my skills on a regular basis.  One of the spots where I spend a lot of time self-evaluating is in the digital darkroom when I edit my images.

In the video, I explaing what goes through my head when I’m looking at my images or out in the field.  Below, is a little bit more information about this images in Drumheller and how I shot them.

Three Images and Where I Went Wrong

The images I’m posting below are three photos where I did something wrong.  Now, obviously, as a professional photographer I’m far more picky about what “wrong” means.  Moreover, the interesting aspect of this all is that 5 years ago I would have been stoked with these images.  But, that’s where self-evaluation will get you.  It constantly has you pushing your limits.

Drumheller

This is the image I most mad about. When I look at this photo now I think it had real potential to be a wall mounted print. However, it’s not sharp. And, the worst part is that it’s not sharp because of shake or too slow a shutter speed, it’s sharp because I used the wrong aperture. I wanted to create a nice blurred foreground so I shot at f/2.8 which was totally unnecessary. At f/2.8 with a landscape you can really easily miss the focus. Had I simply shot this at f/4 or f/5 it would have been sharp and likely a popular image to sell. Moreover, I am a victim of laziness with this photo. I should have busted up my tripod to ensure it was sharp. You live and learn, I guess.

Drumheller

There is nothing wrong with this image, on the surface. The light is great, the colour is cool, and the scene is really interesting. But, it’s a snap shot. It’s an image 4,000 other people who have passed through town have likely taken. I literally walked right up to the midland coal building, set my tripod down, got my focus, and fired. Luckily, I was smart enough to explored the scene a bit more and got a couple images that I think were fairly unique. That said, this is an average image I took on purpose. When you show up to a location, take the obvious or classic image first to get it out of the way. Once you’ve done that, move on to more interesting compositions and angles.

Drumheller

Of the three images I’m going to be sharing, this is the one that had the worst composition. It’s sharp, it’s a good exposure, but the composition just doesn’t lend to the fact that this is an amazing landscape. I shot this as my first image and, luckily, a noticed the problem right away on my LCD and adjusted. The issue with this image is that with the hoodoos being backdropped by the canyon wall, it doesn’t give any dimension to them, they just look flat. The solution to this is to stop trying to get everything into one shot, focus on the details, and get lower to put the hoodoos up into the sky rather than down below.

Am I a Terrible Travel Photographer?

No, I’m not, and that’s the point.  Professionals of any trade make minor errors out in the field that diminish the quality of their work a little bit.  And as long as the errors aren’t damaging they can actually be seen as positives, as long as you’re willing to learn from them.  I like to liken the idea to that of muscle building.  In order to get bigger and stronger, you need to first tear the muscles a bit for them to grow.

Photography can be cruel.  You can have the best light, great subject, and all the right gear only to go home and find out that you ruined a couple images.  And, it’s easy to look at those images you messed up and get down on yourself.  However, that doesn’t make you a bad photographer, it makes you a photographer that holds their images to a high standard.

A Little about Enterprise

I mentioned Enterprise Rent-a-Car in the last article, but I think they deserve mention again, because without them this trip wouldn’t have happened.

If you’re a traveller, like me, and you need wheels to get around they are a great option.  I think we paid about $26 a day with unlimited kms.  I think it’s a really fair price.  Moreover, if you do use Enterprise, you should consider joining their Plus Program which gets you unexpiring points which you can use later for things like a free upgrade or free rental days.  Right now, they’ve also got their “plus the points” program going on which gives you double points in lots of different scenarios.

Up and Coming on the Travel Photography Blog

Lots of fun stuff coming up on the travel photography blog in the next couple months.  This weekend, we are heading to Whistler where we’ll be skiing, ziplining, and fine dining in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Then, right after Christmas we’re starting a massive US road trip which will have us cover some 15 states in 3 months!  Of course, when that’s all over it’s off to South America for my travel photography workshop in Peru!

**This article was sponsored in part by Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Thank you very much for supporting me in the pursuit of my passion! **



Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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