Rediscovering the act of taking pictures 

By Matt Lit, photographer and photography educator

We’d only paddled another mile or since our last little exploration. I was accustomed to paddling miles before heading to the riverbank for lunch or to set camp. It was a new experience for me to go ashore, sometimes after just a few minutes, to explore on foot. It proved to be a major change for my photography and my approach to it – even after all these years shooting professionally.

Keeping up with river author and historian, Tom Martin was a real struggle. I was accompanying him through Labyrinth Canyon on the Green River in Utah as he finished this section for a guidebook map. Tom has one seriously long set of legs so starting off at the same pace he was instantly off ahead of me. It was one such hike – again seeing his backside – that opened me up to this image.

Struck by his stance and the composition I knew immediately this was meant to be a black and white image: The man and his love of the river. This image helped me understand that my vision photographing rivers and wild places is capturing the human element.

What brings this up for me today and inspires me to write comes from one of my photography students. In a discussion post regarding ‘personal style’ she commented:

“Each time I set out to capture some shots I feel as though I’m rediscovering the act of taking pictures.”

I truly feel this each time I’m in the viewfinder and know inspiring students to discover this is the goal of my teaching. We all respond differently to a subject – our emotional response. It is key to developing a photography style.

For me, it means not trying to be a nature photographer. Don’t get me wrong! Nature is my church, my sanctuary, my solace. As much as I love the aloneness of nature, I’m drawn to capturing people experiencing this same love. It is my vision and my emotional response.

My goal with you is to open up to discover what moves you visually and provide the technical skills to help you succeed. Looking toward this summer’s workshop in Labyrinth Canyon, I’ll be focusing on how best to accomplish this. Whether your love is nature photography, wildlife, people or the experience of canoeing my excitement comes in helping them capture it.

Sign up for the trip here:

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Matt is a professional photographer and photography educator with 40 years of experience. He teaches for Colorado Mountain College, Community College of Denver and numerous private workshops. Learn more at: