Journal Three: Diary of the Open Road

Diary of the Open Road

Diary of the Open Road: Day Twenty-five



I Have Much to Learn


I've put quite a bit of thought and written about the ways this journey has been impacting me on a personal level, but I thought I would take a bit of time today to reflect on how it has been stretching and challenging me as a photographer. 

I just have to say, my appreciation for adventure photographers who embrace the road as a long-term lifestyle and do what I am doing as their full-time job, all year round, has grown significantly. It's not as glamorous as it seems. From waking up at way-too-early-o'clock to catch the best light to driving hours and hours every day to trying to keep up with a business with little and sometimes zero access to service or wifi to constantly having to push yourself to create content worth putting out there daily, it's not as easy as I thought it would be. It really isn't. 

Not to mention, finding the balance between the things that are worth documenting and the things that are better to simply experience. Some days, I don't feel like photographing anything, but I still hull out my camera. I feel like I don't have words, and I have to work really hard to try to find them. Sometimes, I don't feel inspired or passionate. Sometimes, it's more of a discipline than anything. A discipline I'm glad I am learning, but it takes work. Hard work. 

And in that discipline of pushing myself to create content daily (to the best of my ability), I have been discovering a whole list of things about the way I personally approach photography.

Here's what I've learned: 

1) Landscape and weather are much more significant to keeping me inspired than I realized. And there are quite specific kinds of landscapes that trigger inspiration for me, where others don't. Driving across the continent, I've woken up in a new type of scenery nearly everyday. For some, that alone, inspires them to no end, but I've come to find it doesn't quite work like that for me. I loved exploring the deserts (felt like a little girl scout adventurer), but I had very little motivation to actually photograph them. I wish I was moved by their beauty as I know some people are. I wish I held the same appreciation for cacti and the Joshua tree, but I just didn't. I thought it was cool and interesting and I liked learning about it all, but I didn't feel that familiar surge of inspiration stirring within me that often leads to me reaching into my bag and grabbing my camera as fast as I can. But the second I found myself at the ocean, I felt that returning. The wind, the waves, the colours and motion. I could be on the coast for days on end and not get tired of documenting it. I find myself most inspired by moody weather, simplicity, old architecture and ruins, light and shadow. And I think it's good to be aware of that because I want to saturate my work with the things that truly inspire me personally as a means of being more true to what I actually enjoy and love and want to create. 

2) Landscape photography, in general, is something I really enjoy exploring, but I don't think I would try to exclusively build a career on it. It's definitely a learned practice. There's certainly an art to it. I began to realize this when I was standing among about fifteen other photographers at the Grand Canyon, one in particular, who struck my attention as he patiently stood there for about twenty minutes leaning over his tripod, after each shutter, adjusting his settings, to precisely and thoughtfully get the best shot he could. 

Without even seeing his image, I was inspired by the effort and attention to detail he gave to his art. Go you, random photog. Air high giving you from afar! 

But as for me, I'm learning I photograph with my heart more than I do with my head. I want my images to carry some sort of weight and evoke emotion, and usually the presence of actual human beings is pretty key to making that happen. Spending most of my time the last few weeks photographing landscapes and plants and the earth in its simplicity (as beautiful as it is), I've missed the lifestyle shoots I filled my calendar with back home. I need people to give my photographs a story (so West Coast friends, if you're keen, I would love to capture you and your story while I'm here). 

3) Forcing myself to create and/or write every day, regardless if I feel inspired or not, has been SO. DANG. GOOD. I touched on this a few words ago, but seriously, it has been game-changing. I can definitely look back and compare my stronger and weaker posts and begin to understand more things about myself as an artist and a documenter which I am sure will affect how I approach my personal and client work in the future!


If you got to the end of this, you're a trooper. This is really a "self-check Sarah" post, but for my fellow artists, photographers, adventure pals, writers etc. I hope this inspires you to reflect on your own work, what you really do love, and also what you don't. I've been trying to stop basing my own work on what sells  well on Instagram, and actually asking myself what I really want to say through it. That has been so freeing. And stretching. And good. 

Here are a handful of photographs I really did enjoy taking (at the ridiculous hour of 6:15 am). Hope you dig 'em (but it's subjective, so no offence taken if you don't). ;) 

Lots of love, 



sarah kierstead