Many of you are familiar with the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Lots of people watch it during the holidays each year. If you remember in the final scene, George Bailey reads this note left for him by Clarence the angel:
I have never really sought to grow my business by seeking popularity or fame or slick marketing or any of the other ways that are mostly considered “best practices” for success as a professional photographer.
Instead, I have simply strived toward excellence in my photography and in teaching others, but really more than anything else, my business is about the people I serve: you.
I so totally relate to this quote by Annie Liebovitz: “A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”
I think that really sums up how I feel. I was not afraid to fall in love with all of you. I guess, in many ways, I measure my success in terms of all of you, my friends.
During these holidays, I have been thinking about that a lot. I am just so grateful for the past 18 years with all of you who have gone on my workshops or hikes or other adventures, or activities at my studio. And I am grateful for all of the opportunities to involve many of you in activities to help make this community a better place.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!
Thank you for supporting local small businesses like mine. I hope to see you soon in my studio or in one of my workshops, or let’s just get together for a cup of coffee or a beer. 🙂
I have years of experience in photography and teaching. Falling in love with photography a LONG time ago (48 years ago), you might say it was my “first love.” As an avid photographer, I started out in the days of film photography, first using a Pentax KX SLR. I shot so many rolls of Kodachrome 64, Kodacolor II, Panatomic-X, Plus-X, and Tri-X, and spent countless hours doing black & white and color processing and printing.
Even back then, with all of my work with film, I was fortunate enough to also gain a lot of experience with digital imaging in college, as I was working on a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering (1980-1982). While most of the world had yet to even hear about digital imaging, I was having nerdy fun doing things like writing software to raster scan a laser over chrome-plate glass substrates to digitally generate negatives!
When the rest of the world eventually transitioned over to digital photography, I was already well versed in understanding the technology, so it was an easy transition for me.
Teaching photography was also a part of my life for years. My first photography class I ever taught was in 1977. These days, teaching photography consumes a lot of my time, in addition to doing photography professionally out of my studio in NW Austin.
I have found that my years of experience in both doing photography and teaching photography have complemented each other very well. The more I have taught, the better a photographer I have become and I have gained a lot of experience with a vast array of camera makes and models over the years. The more I have worked as a full-time pro photographer has helped me as an instructor, especially when teaching other pro photographers.
I enjoy working with photographers at all skill levels from first-time beginners to full time professionals and everywhere in between.
My main point in writing this is just to say what I have to offer to you all: experience. I have learned a lot of lessons along the way, and I am happy to share all I know with my students, and I have loved my years as a full time photographer.
Because of the pandemic, the last couple of years were pretty challenging for many of us.
I will be forever grateful for all of the generous individuals who helped our little studio survive the financial challenges imposed by the pandemic. Your response of love and help was totally amazing and humbling. During the brunt of the pandemic, our studio was completely shut down for a year, and I redesigned all of my classes to be presented over Zoom sessions. I thank all of you who took those classes during our most-challenging time.
To reciprocate for all of your kind support during that time, I also did something to help others who wanted to take my classes but similarly were experiencing financial hardships. I took a leap of faith and made my classes be priced to whatever you could afford. My pandemic pricing scheme was quite simple: “name your own price.” That worked out beautifully.
Ultimately, we got through the worst of the pandemic by helping each other. We got through this together.
I just wanted to celebrate that. I am so very grateful to all of you, my clients, students, and friends.
I have known far too many photographers who have gotten caught up into comparing their work with others, feeling discouraged that their work is just not good enough. While it is true that this can serve as a great motivator to learn more, improve technique, and grow in technical skills, discouragement also can sometimes stifle creativity and inspiration. If you make mistakes (and we all do) don’t let that discourage you. Learn from your mistakes and move on! That is a good strategy for life in general.
I am a big believer in all artists pursuing their art simply because they enjoy it. Experiment, explore, and find your unique path in artistic creation. You don’t have to “be like everyone else.” You don’t have to enter photo contests to prove your worth to the world. Art does not have to be a competition. Yes, it IS sufficient if you are happy with the art you are creating. That is enough. Find what YOU enjoy and DO THAT.
Doing what YOU enjoy, expressing your art in YOUR way, celebrates your uniqueness and is the gift you bring to the world.
Happy Picture-Creating, my friends!
I thought I’d share a few quotes from various wise people, some thoughts to consider:
“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” – Piet Mondrian
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
“When you can do a common thing in an uncommon way; you will command the attention of the world.” – George Washington Carver
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath
“We all get so afraid of vulnerability that we actually stop trying to do things that we are not already good at doing. When we give up being new and awkward, we stop growing and we stop living.” – Brene Brown
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Suess
“The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be.” – Leo Buscaglia
“It’s better to fail in originality, than succeed in imitation.” – Herman Melville
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso
“You may not be a Picasso or Mozart but you don’t have to be. Just create to create. Create to remind yourself you’re still alive. Make stuff to inspire others to make something too. Create to learn a bit more about yourself.” – Frederick Terral
“Find something only you can say” – James Dickey
“I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.” – Brene Brown
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso
“No person has the right to dictate what other people should perceive, create or produce. Everyone should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” – Ansel Adams
“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” – Tom Peters
“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.” – Neil Gaiman
I have a class that might help you if you are feeling stuck, not sure what you might do to find new inspiration or creativity:
Photography: Finding Your Way – Creativity and Inspiration Workshop Whether you are just starting out in photography or you have years of experience, this class will meet you where you are and help you find new directions to head to discover your unique artistic expression in photography! Fall in love with photography, all over again!
With my having a Master of Science Degree and a love of art, photography is a perfect combination of science and art for me.
I also love teaching. The first photography class I ever taught was back in college, which was decades ago. I have since organized numerous photography groups in the Austin area, and have taught countless numbers of photographers from beginner to very advanced.
To be honest, I’ve never been one who is too motivated to “market myself” to impress others about how great I am. In fact, in many cases, ego gets in the way of true artistic expression. I believe we all just need to pursue the art that excites and inspires us without worrying about comparing ourselves to others.
I love this insight from Ansel Adams:
“No person has the right to dictate what other people should perceive, create or produce. Everyone should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” – Ansel Adams
When I look back on my career, what I remember most fondly are the experiences I have had and the wonderful people I have met along the way. In fact, I can honestly say I have really loved the people and the experiences even more than the photography itself.
I feel so blessed to have had this experience as a photographer and educator and friend to so many people who have come through the door of studio or joined me on our many destination workshops.
What I find particularly touching are all the kind and humbling words I have heard from former clients/students. Thank you for that.
I am in a perpetual journey of gratitude for my experiences with all of you. Thank you all for being a part of my life, either because you gave me the honor of allowing me to photograph you or teach you about the art and science of photography.
It is often so tempting to think the most important aspect of our photography is the camera we own. Ansel Adam’s insight is critical for all of us photographers to acknowledge. “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!” (YOU).
If you want to improve your photography, instead of upgrading your camera, upgrade the photographer! Photography is all about YOU and how you see the world around you, AND it is about operating that little machine called the camera. Remember the camera is just a machine. You are the artist.
If you are wondering what steps you can take to advance your photography, this class will help you discover the way forward. It is about photography. It is about you. It is about your art. It is about creative expression. It is what I wholeheartedly believe all photographers will benefit from exploring.
Journey with us as we help you find your way to better photography, greater artistic inspiration, and if you feel like you’ve been in a rut, we’ll get you out of that rut and back on the road to creativity!
“I really didn’t think I needed this class, but I signed up anyway. Wow, I am SO glad I did. This class totally renewed my passion for photography and how I see the world around me! I fell in love with photography all over again! Thank you!!!”
“It’s so easy as an amateur photographer to become overwhelmed with all the technical aspects of photography. And as a photographer at any level, there is often an expectation of working to get the best technical picture. Kevin does a wonderful job of teaching the technical aspects of photography, for sure, but his Finding Your Way class focuses instead on the joy of photography, on photography as an experience and way to express ourselves. We are all creative beings, an image of the great Creator, and it is healing to the soul to pursue that. In addition to revealing the depth of Kevin as an amazing person, this class gives permission and encouragement to explore our individual path of creativity using photography. We laughed, we cried, we learned, and we found the spark that drew us to photography in the first place. Thanks, Kevin.”
“I just finished taking Kevin’s “Finding Your Way” Workshop. Wow. I have been a passionate photographer for most of my life but over the last 18 months I have struggled due to my health. As a nature, wildlife and landscape photographer it became very difficult to photograph the things that spoke to me for so long. So, having taken many classes from Kevin before, I decided to see if I could re-ignite my flame for photography. I did some soul searching and was able to focus my attention using a different approach. Now I have several projects lined up as well as a strategy of combining three of these projects together to reach a goal. Kevin, as always, you never disappoint. You are not only a great photographer and teacher but even more importantly a great person. I can recommend Kevin’s workshops without reservation. Thanks so much.” – Don Simpson
“Thank you for providing an avenue for me to begin to recapture my love of photography!”
“When I was preparing my homework for the Finding Your Way class, I found that I actually enjoyed it; whereas, in the past the thought of sharing my work with others absolutely terrified me. This is huge.“
“If you are in a rut and don’t know what to shoot or don’t even know if you still like to shoot, you MUST take this class. It is a virtual buffet of ideas that builds on itself each day of the class. There are dozens of ideas, videos, music, poems that are guaranteed to stimulate your imagination and make you want to get out and start taking pictures. This is one of the best photography classes I have taken in a long time and I now have a long list of project ideas to work with. Even if you have great technical skills or know everything you need to know about Photoshop and Lightroom, this class is for you. It is not about skills, it is about tapping into your creative mind which so often gets pushed to the side. This is one of the best investments you can make as a photographer.”
“This class has been an inspiration, and an opportunity to once again learn how photographers see so differently from one another. I have learned much from your sharing of your photo projects, and from the other participants as well. It’s been a great use of my time and effort!“
“Thank you for a wonderful workshop. I always believed you could not teach someone to be creative. You did it. I came home with many ideas that I could tackle that would bring my unique self to my photographs.”
“This class is different than any other photography course I’ve ever taken in that it lends one to truly thinking about photography in a way that deepens the connection and benefit one gets from not only taking images, but how they interpret and share them. The material and content was diverse and thorough and ultimately Kevin assembled and presented a large collection of information that everyone can put in their personal creative toolbox and use it every time they use their camera. As usual, Kevin also provides nice outlines and a notebook to memorialize the experience and collective analysis of a topic that any photographer who is wanting to up their personal approach will take aways in a very meaningful manner.”
“I took this class last year and it was so good and inspiring and so broad in its scope. I could not imagine how I could learn creativity by taking a class, and I was so shocked to discover how well you did it.”
“I want to tell you that the class yesterday was EXCELLENT. It is different than any other and better than most any. I have played it over in my mind many times even in the short time since it ended.”
“Great inspiration and offerings to stretch my thinking when considering a photograph. Made me THINK! And finally a photography project to implement those thoughts.”
“Once in awhile, as constant learner, you take a class that shifts your way of thinking and approach to a subject. I found Kevin’s course to have that affect. As an amateur and hobbyist photographer, I really appreciated Kevins approach to looking inside your self and how you view it vs. getting new equipment or going to an exotic place for inspiration. As the saying goes the change comes within yourself. I like this new approach to getting out of a rut. Kevin also demonstrated that you can take your photography to other venues of providing service . I think this helped me look at possibilities of going into a different venue for photography. That in itself was worth the class. I highly recommend this class if you want to start carrying your camera again and just start shooting. Great course.”
“Kevin presented a rousing, creative program that really enabled me to visualize a host of new directions for me move that will give me more joy in my photography. He helped me ‘take my blinders off.’ Now it’s apparent that there is a universe of new ways to help make my photos more meaningful TO ME!”
“I felt the thoughtful, caring attitude that was projected not only by the teacher but students was the strong point. I very much liked the huge number of thought provoking suggestions and the videos were delightful but more than that they got the points across.”
“I like the stimulation to get out of my photographic rut(s). Showing me innumerable examples of different photographic approaches was very helpful. But mostly, I liked your non-critical, non-directive encouragement for me to find more satisfying ways to enjoy photography.”
“I have been on a number of workshops with Kevin, which were all amazing, but this was exceptionally different.”
“a chance to consider new ideas and approaches, a chance to try new things”
“I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for new sparks or wanting to push yourself in new ways creatively and technically.”
“really helped me to look at my photography in a more emotional way rather than being so concerned about technical aspects”
“I loved the projects and homework we were given to apply the information after leaving the workshop”
“It was a fantastic experience.”
“Kevin’s creative ideas for sparking photographic enthusiasm and the opportunity to think about project ideas, and go out and photograph with that new philosophy, made holding a camera in my hand new and exciting again.”
My wife (Gail) and I went out for a walk this morning on a trail very near our home. It was such a nice cool morning, we just had to escape from our daily routine to enjoy the outdoors for a little while. I call these walks my “sanity walks.”
I have been SO busy lately, leading a variety of destination photography workshops and local classes. I totally enjoy these experiences and the wonderful photographers I have met along the way, but this was our personal venture into the nearby forest to simply walk, with no agenda other than to enjoy the journey.
I didn’t bring any sort of “fancy” camera. I just had my iPhone 12 (which arguably IS a “fancy” camera in its own way). I used my iPhone just to capture images of a few things that caught my eye along the trail.
Sometimes if you go hiking for exercise, the objective is to get the exercise done. It’s about pace and time and heart rate. Pushing those objectives aside, there are times where the venture might be a richer experience if we focus on the journey rather than the destination.
Take more time to just pause and look around. Take in your surroundings with all of your senses. Feel the cool air. Pick up a fallen leaf. Smell the scent of the cedar trees still damp from this week’s rains. Listen to the birds and the rushing water at a nearby waterfall.
Look in all directions, not just where you’re going, but also where you’ve been. A trail can look totally different if you simply turn around. You might even see something beautiful you missed along the way.
Sometimes just stop for the sake of stopping. Rest. Give thanks for this miracle of life on this amazing planet floating through space. Give thanks for your ability to walk and see and hear and feel and enjoy the trail. Give thanks to be alive. Never take ANY of this for granted, or you’ll miss the beauty of it ALL.
Walking with a deeper sense of gratitude, you might just see things you would have otherwise passed on by without giving it a second thought.
We only have so many days on this Earth. Enjoy the journey.
One aspect I have loved the most about photography really goes beyond the picture-taking. I have loved the experience… An excuse to get up at 4am to head up to the side of a mountain to wait for the sun to rise on a new day… To encounter wildlife splashing in a lake… To explore and wander and discover some of the beauty of this amazing world. Equally meaningful to me has been the experience of meeting so many wonderful people who also have a love of photography.
I have loved the adventure of it all. If you have lost your inspiration in your photography, I encourage to focus your attention to those things that excite you and you find rewarding. We aren’t all nature photographers. We aren’t all portrait photographers. What we bring to the art of photography is our own unique perspective on life. Reflect on the things you love the most and do more of that, whatever that is! That’s part of the secret to staying motivated to continue to learn and grow and strive to be better at your art form, whatever it is.
For me, what keeps me going is the adventure in it all, and I love teaching and helping other photographers grow in their skills, so that is where I focus a lot of my energy these days.
Reflecting back on what I have loved most about my life and photography, I find it’s not really just about the photographs. Rather, it has been the experiences that went along with those moments with my camera, family activities, the wonderful people I have met, new friendships made, the sights I have seen and the places I have experienced, and the memories that were made along the way. The value of the photographs, for me, really is to serve as a reminder of the blessings I have experienced in my life.
Every photograph is a two-dimensional snapshot of a moment in time, but there is a rich and deep story behind each image. What was happening at that moment? Who is in the photograph? What were we saying to each other? What compelled me to take that photo? Where was I? What was I doing there? Why was I sitting on the side of that mountain waiting for the sun to rise? Who was with me? How did I feel at the moment when I clicked the shutter? All that remains from that moment is this image I created and the memories I carry with me.
Then, over time, the memories fade, the deeper stories are lost, and we hand over this set of photographs to our next generation. And yet, the photographs still matter. They become like a keyhole in a door we can peer through, into another world, a world in the past. We can’t step through that door to go into the past, but we can at least peer through the keyhole.
Several years ago, I scanned some old black & white photos of my family, from way back, before I was born. My brother, Ken, said they were photos from a family reunion in Grand Lake, Colorado. I couldn’t ask my mom or dad since they passed away years ago. We weren’t quite sure of the specific location of those photos, and I certainly had no memory of the time since I was not born yet.
After a lot of detective work, I found a clue in one of the photos that had a blurry out-of-focus sign in the background. That led me to some Google searches that ultimately led me to some answers. I then went to Google “street view” and was able to explore further. I found with absolute certainty where the cabins were located! I was so excited to piece together these parts of the puzzle that were long lost.
When I was in Grand Lake recently, I was able to visit those very cabins! Although I’ve been to Grand Lake many times, I had no clue that my family stayed there around 65(ish) years ago. It was so exciting to find the cabins! I now had established a connection to a specific place where my family had enjoyed the mountains of Colorado and swam in the beautiful lake. Knowing a precise spot where my mom and dad and brother had been so many years ago changed how I saw the area. I almost felt like I was stepping into another dimension when I stood in the very spot where my dad stood over six decades ago. It was like a sacred moment for me. I am deeply grateful for this gift the photographs gave me.
You just never know how much someone in your family, many years later, may cherish a photograph you create today. The person who might appreciate it the most might not even be born yet… perhaps a son, or daughter, or grandchild, or brother, or nephew…
OR, it might not be a family member who is grateful for the photographs you take. When I was photographing the cabin there in Grand Lake, I spoke with someone there who knew the owner. He asked me to text him the old black & white photo of the cabin, to share with the owner. The owner was so excited to see the photo!
Ah the gift of photography.
Then and Now
Kevin Gourley Photography Workshops, Austin, TX – Austin Photography Classes