With my most humble sincerity, I would like to thank Scott and Brad for their friendship and for allowing me to share a brief window into my life as of late. I would also like to thank my friend Robby Klein for the photo of me above. He is a fantastic photographer in Nashville that you should totally check out.
If you’re anything like me, long blog posts just end up getting skimmed through for the highlights (or just to look at the photos) so I’ll try to keep this as A.D.D. friendly as possible.
For those of you not familiar with me and my work, allow me to introduce myself. Two and a half years ago I wrote my first guest blog post here and was able to share my life and photographic journey up until that point. A lot has changed since then, and I have grown a lot personally and photographically. Not the least of these changes was a move from Louisiana to Tennessee. I am now the staff photographer for the University of Tennessee Volunteers, a job that is held in high regard (being one of very few staff sports photography jobs in the world). It’s also a job that I never felt like I could actually could get when I heard about it. I applied regardless, and it is with that in mind that leads me to what I want to talk about.
One of the things that has been rattling around my brain lately is the Idea of Fear, and the Fear of an Idea.
It’s not the fear of things like my fear of heights, although when I walk out on the 110′ catwalk, I’m not exactly comfortable.
It’s the fear of putting your name on an idea and having the courage to execute. It is because of fear that we have committees and meetings. So if it doesn’t work out, you can’t be blamed for it. It’s skipping out on the guaranteed safe image, and trying something with your camera that, even if you’ve done it before, is not guaranteed to be successful every time.
It’s saying, “this is a good idea, and I believe in it,” when others might scratch their head because they don’t share your vision.
It is my belief that there are millions of ideas out there that go unsaid out of fear that they will flop, and people will see you fall on your face.
I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, and am certainly guilty of holding back because of fear, but when I look around at industry leaders, you see people taking chances. Sometimes they flop, but those failures fade off into the darkness of the interwebz and are eventually covered up by a brilliant, more successful idea. And why? Because they were not afraid to let one (or two or three or twenty-six) failures stop them from trying to find the ONE idea that worked.
I look at my own life as a Staff sports photographer, and sometimes I have to decide to leave the field and shoot from the roof. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it’s a flop.
I’ve left entire portrait sessions not happy with many, if any, images. It doesn’t mean that my idea was bad or that I shouldn’t keep trying, it just means I need to learn and grow and keep going.
Just the other night, while I was shooting a basketball game, there was a monster dunk that was the highlight of Tennessee’s win over LSU. I didn’t get a single shot of it because I decided to shoot the whole second half with a 400mm and get tight details and faces. That decision cost me that shot. You live to shoot another day. As a sports photographer, I could make plants grow in the Sahara with my tears if I cried over missed shots.
I’m inspired by people who take ideas and are successful with them. I am also inspired people who chase after an idea and fail. Because they tried. There are no participation trophies in life, so trying isn’t enough. But there is no chance of success without risk, and that is the only way to know how great our idea can become.
Move your lights around. Face the other way. Get low. Get high. Shoot tight. Shoot Wide. Set up a remote. Make a Tintype. Use Gels. Go Underwater. DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. The 24-70 is the blah of life.
If you have an idea, don’t be afraid of it; let it breathe. Let it grow. Let it evolve. Let it be successful. Let it fail. But put your name on it and don’t be afraid.
As an added bonus for making it to the end, I’ve also included this short video feature created about my work at Tennessee and my approach to photography in general done by the talented video folks at Tennessee.
You can see more of Donald’s work at DonaldPage.com, and follow him on Twitter at @donaldppage and @Vol_Photos
Donald, I sure would love to go back to my college years in the early 70’s at Clemson as a Taps yearbook photographer, shooting digital would have been awesome. There is so much to shoot on a campus like the Vols, I envy u dude! Look forward to that update in a couple more years!
Wow. Well said Sir. Thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts and letting them out there. You are so right in everything that you have said. Fear shouldn’t stop us from doing.
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Great blog post. Short, but very sweet, just the way I like them.
I just tweeted “It is because of fear that we have committees and meetings.” Then I saw “The 27-70 is the blah of life” -This guys great :)
I have always enjoyed Margaret Thatcher’s quote that, “A committee is the abdication of leadership”.
Donald you are one B.A. hot momma!
Awesome post. I still can’t take Donald seriously though in that video lol. ;-).
Great post Donald! Thanks for sharing!
Really nice post. The fear component just reminds me of one of the tenets in the Last Lecture by Randy Pauch. His son wanted to ride in the front of the monorail (apparently a big deal) and Randy told him he knew the secret for that. The secret was just ask and do not fear rejection.
Yay! Go Vols! :)
The video shows at least ONE reason why Donald is an excellent photographer – he aims his camera like one should aim a rifle: both eyes open and steady as a rock! Well done.
Great post Donald!
“Staff sports photographer” – I didn’t know this position existed, but it’s actually my dream job. Shooting sports and shooting athlete portraits are what I love, and I wish I could make a full time living doing it. If there’s anyone reading this from a college, high school, or pro team, that has such a position available (or would consider creating one), contact me please! I’d love to apply. My online portfolios are horribly out of date, but I’ll get that corrected ASAP if anyone that would like to hire a staff sports photographer wants to see my current work. :)
The position doesnt exist at very many schools. Even in the SEC there are only about half the schools that have the position and only about half of those get the freedom to be creative it seems. A lot of schools contract the work out though, so get your portfolio up to date (regardless thats just a good thing) and contact local Dir. of Media Relations in the athletic depts near you. you never know! Its not what youre selling but how you sell it!
Donald, thanks for the reply! I’ll follow through on that advice.
Donald – Love your stuff; it’s great to see a sports photographer shoot/show more than just game action photos. I really liked the shot of the football players in motion coming out on to the field. Would you be willing to share your camera settings for that image? Thanks and great work.
Sure thing… It was f/22 shutter: 1/2 with a 7 stop ND filter. It was a noon game on a cloudless day.