Don’t Stop.

In Creativity and Inspiration, Pep Talks, Photographically Speaking, Rants and Sermons, Thoughts & Theory, Vision Is Better by David40 Comments

Agra Fort. Agra, India. 2008.

I rediscovered this sequence of photographs while putting together Photographically Speaking. In the book I discuss one of these images and explore the elements and decisions that make the photograph what it is. But looking at the 3 together I think there’s a lesson along the lines of the stuff I’ve been talking about lately, specifically the idea of inspiration coming from work, and my more recent post, Do The Work.

It’s easy to see something, to photograph it, and to move on. But you can photograph even the most amazing scene – the one where you’re sure you “got the shot” from an almost limitless number of angles. Add that to a variety of focal lengths, and you’ve got your work cut out for you. This is the photographer’s equivalent of the writer sitting down at her laptop to write the next chapter. This is the process of experimentation, muttering to yourself, then trying something else. It’s creating 100 sketch images to get to the next one. It’s why we need to understand the elements of the visual language; so we recognize them when we see them and put them to good use. Because, frankly, there is no “got the shot.” There are thousands of potential photographs in these scenes, not one, and how long you’re willing to explore, how receptive you are to what is in front of you, determines how many of them you create. I thought I had the shot when I took the top photograph. I was giddy. I nearly ran off to show someone how amazing I was. My (misguided) ego nearly ruined this series. Sure, you could stop at one. But sometimes the good gets in the way of the great, and I think this series together is more powerful than the first photograph alone, but even on their own, these three – and making them – brought me more joy than I’d have had to simply stop at one and call it a day.

The writer doesn’t stop and pat herself on the back when she’s written a really great sentence. She keeps writing. She does the work. Because she knows there’s a better sentence around the corner, and they’ll fit together brilliantly and the combination of the two will be even better than both alone and no amount of patting herself on the back will create that next line. Just work. The work. YOUR work. Being open, receptive, and observant, comes with practice, not as a stroke of luck. Keep at it. I shot this, still struggling (I know, my angst is exhausting) to get comfortable with my craft, after 20 years as a photographer. I’m getting there. So are you.

All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice. ~ Elliott Erwitt

Share this Post, Tell the World!


  1. Hi David
    Great writing, reminder, or lesson!
    I watched the three pictures and thought, “what is the best one” and relized that once I had seen all three It would be nearly impossible to pick one favourite. As I saw the first first, the second picture will be seen in context to the first and so on. Would the second strike me differently had I only seen that?. Hard to tell. Anyway, I really love the depth and framing of the second one.

    Hope your health are steadily improving.

  2. David,
    Great post as usual. I found out the virtue of “not stopping” the hard way 🙂 – coming home and viewing the photos I realized that what I thought was “the shot” wasn’t quite what I expected, and if I’d only try a little bit more … 🙂 after that happened a few times, I try to never make this mistake again!

    I hope this next part won’t be considered as advertising – recently I created a photographic album with artistic BW photos from the 1960s taken from old photo magazine, which was considered one of the best in the world at the time. I would like to share this album with everyone. It can be downloaded for free here:

  3. outstanding post, David. That’s a fine Elliott Erwitt quote.
    On a personal note, following your injuries and recoveries here has made me pay a lot more attention to the fundamental in photography.

    It is not “should I get the 2.8 lens, should I join 500 PX or Google Plus” Not at all.

    It is really, about noticing, and attention. While HCB compared it to tennis, I like Stephen Shore’s metaphor: it’s like fishing with a pole and line, and keeping pressure on the line, so the fish knows there is a real insect there. relax the attention, the line slackens, and it gets away.

    So what? Well, you said it similarly with “keep at it”
    Keep paying attention, keep noticing, and the steps become one of the most alive journeys we can make.

    We are all , in life, at the edge of a cliff. I can fall, and pass away, at any moment. So photography is really about staying in, and with, each and every moment.

    Deep Bow

  4. Great inspiration, as allways. Last week, I had the luck of getting away for a few hours while on holiday in France to simply shoot. I was hooked to a plant falling into ruins. I had passed it numerous times when in the area but only now did I get the time to take pictures there. It was great fun playing around with a single subject and working it from many different angles.

  5. “But sometimes the good gets in the way of the great…” love this line David. Work hard, don’t settle, and when you later sit in front of those shots at the ‘puter, the best one will stand out… it may be the first one, it may be the very last one… the real joy is how you were inspired to work for it! Great post as usual! Thanks!

  6. Great take on photography – very refreshing perspective. Just like each of your photographs. I do agree, its difficult to put together a series. Wonder if and when can a photographer take a shot and say – yes this is the one.

  7. One of Galen Rowell’s most famous images, is the
    ‘Rainbow Over the Potala Palace.‘

    He say’s he was leading a tour and it was suppertime and all the participants saw the rainbow, snapped a quick shot and went to supper while he stayed and circled around until he got the image, with the rainbow placed over the palace.

    David is right, we must “Do the Work.”

    Here is a link to the image for those who haven’t seen it:

  8. Totally agree… Good words as usual. For me the best is the third. Thank you and I hope that every day your recovery is getting better. Greetings from Barcelona.

  9. David-
    Personally, reading about your angst helps me to understand my own better.
    Hope the rehab is going well.

  10. This is a great reminder. Lately I have been photographing differently: pressing the shutter less and moving and framing more. In essence taking more shots in my mind and savoring the countdown to where I think I have the better shot. Don’t know if it’s helping the final result, but it’s fun and creative. And besides, it means less time (oh, that precious time!) deleting in Lightroom. Keep the inspiration flowing…

  11. You clearly should have stopped at the first one :D!
    I am always of the mindset that my best shot is the next one…Totally agree that you’ve got to work a scene til you can see no more and then some.

  12. I remember in the movie “the last Samurai” the Japanese warrior say to Tom Cruise went he was training himself, he said “to much thinking, no more thinking and you will find the way”…. if we train ourself to go with the flow and work instinctively in certain situations, when the moments, the time, the instant coming we will be there! ready to shoot the same action, the moment, the scene in various ways without calculations….even for that, this is not easy to work with instinct and not thinking because we have to actually think about it at the beginning …:) , there is just one way i think…. work, work, work, and it will come naturally!

    Don’t Stop shooting, sincerely, Michael.

  13. (oops, big fingers on an iPad) … Continued from above…

    …sometimes the spontaneity delivers the best results. Depends on the situation.

  14. Don’t stop. Yes. Slow down. Yes. But sometimes a photographic moment is what it is. A bird flying, a woman crossing a street, a surfer launching out of a shore break just in time… Sometimes there’s very little time to think a shot through, and sometimes the sponteneity

  15. i sure am enjoying getting to know both your imagery and your Self.

  16. Thank you David. Your words are truly inspiring. The final paragraph is brilliance. I am writing that paragraph down and putting it in my camera bag, so it can be a reminder every time I open my bag.

    I hope you continue to recover in a speedy fashion.

    All the best,


  17. Brilliant post David. I just had a very similar experience. Noticed the lifeguard chairs in our beach town had been painted a great red/white color. Went out to get the shot I envisioned – sunstar as the sun descended behind one. Kept exploring angles as the sun set and the sky turned pink and got my favorite shot. Posted the best as a 5-day series on my blog and got an incredible response.
    Not sure how you feel about links but this turned out to be my favorite of the series and I had to ‘work’ to get it (though no bread was involved in getting the seagull placed just right)

  18. David – you are right…the 3 together do tell a ,more complete story. 2nd one really seems to frame it up though. Thanks for posting.

  19. Super advice, David. Your photos in this post really brought home the point.

    I’m thinking back to all those great (single) shots that I took where I ran away all giddy. Had I stuck around like you said in this post, who knows what could have been captured. I want a time machine now… to go back!

    Thanks for being a big inspiration. Hope you are doing well!


  20. You are such a philosopher David, I love reading your posts, they are like poetry with heart and gumption. Please don’t stop writing. Ever! You’re words are truly inspiritional.

    Hope your recovery is getting better day by day.


  21. One the most insightful plus directly usable posts.

    I think the third one has an added dimension of teamwork and togetherness. While the first one is maybe more visually appealing design-wise, it lacks the emotion of the third.

  22. “The writer doesn’t stop and pat herself on the back when she’s written a really great sentence.” Great way of seeing it. There is always more to see. Thanks for the insight and inspiration.

  23. I’m relatively new to your blog but have certainly garnered a lot to think about, both photographically and lifewise. I’m not a believer in things happen for a reason but I do think your accident has seemed to be a good thing for your life and your feelings and contemplations, and thus future photography.

    All good wishes for good speedy recovery and an ability to move on with your probably better balanced life.


  24. Thanks David! Was out last night practicing with a new lens. Did all sorts of brilliant stuff: direct, surreptitious, and everything in between. Sat down to edit about 0100 this morning and wouldn’t you know? The brilliant that I had put into the camera each and every time I hit the shutter button just didn’t seem to want to reveal itself to my monitor. Tonight will find me back out there on the street. I know I must have dropped brilliant on some corner. Gotta go find it. Can’t quit.

  25. The best instructor I’ve had insisted that we bring a contact sheet with every frame we took (no chimping) and we needed to shoot everyday. At first it seemed odd to have to show it all until we understood what she was looking for.

    How long did we stick with the subject (people seem to be remarkably consistent in how many shots they will take).

    How many different angles or ways did we try and approach the subject.

    Best lessons ever.

  26. As a painter, I SO appreciated these thoughts today…trying some new things lately, and really needed to hear the “don’t stop”! Thanks for the beautiful images & message.

  27. (Hit enter by mistake) Then comes the decisions of which ones should hit the trash bin, which ones need a little work and which ones did exactly what had been envisaged. Continuing the work gives better results, taking only one or two shots keeps companions happy and creates way less work. ….. Difficult choices!:-)

  28. Brilliant, David, and just the inspiration that I needed today. Also when you don’t stop, you get the chance to ‘lose’ yourself in the flow of the moment, and everything else disappears but the love affair with the imagery. Beautiful post. Thank you.

  29. This was a good reminder for me today.

    If you think your angst is exhausting – then I have no idea what to label mine 😉

  30. I have no worries in taking image sftrr image of something that inspires me. Anyone with me has a problem though and rapidly want to move on! Photography can be very lonel if friends and family don’t understand the need to wait for the light or only move a few feet to take yet another series of shots. then

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.