This 17-Year-Old Photographer Is Probably More Dedicated to Photography Than You Are

This 17-Year-Old Photographer Is Probably More Dedicated to Photography Than You Are

In order to evolve as photographers, we need to keep making pictures and push our personal and professional boundaries. Stagnation can be one of the most demotivating situations to experience, as a photographer and as a human being. On a day off, AKA the freelancer's life, with nothing more to do than reading, watching tv shows or browsing the web, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to get up and do something productive. (Of course, slow times are important, but I'm sure you know what kind of days I am talking about.)

What we need to realize is that our photographic evolution is always on the line and that we need to stick to our profession in order to improve. But sometimes this is easier said than done.

Who Does it Better?

Somebody who is apparently drizzling with self-motivation is young photographer Ethan Chin. After graduating high school he realized that his photography portfolio could use some additions. While many of us are still debating if the light is good enough or if the weather will hold up, Chin was already on his way.

Given that we managed to motivate ourselves to go out to photograph, we would probably hop in the car and drive somewhere nice. Chin did not have a car, nor did he have a drivers license at the time. Being just 17 years old, his only real option was his bicycle. 

Copyright 2017 | Image by Ethan Chin |

Chin is no novice when it comes to extensive adventures. During the wintertime he ventured out together with his sister, embarking on a 230 km hiking trip through Northern Ontario. The sibling's accommodations consisted strictly of their sleeping bags and tents, which, to the knowledge of everyone who has been going camping during rain or snowfall, are not the best friends to your camera gear. This was no obstacle to Chin. He knew what he wanted and he went for it.

"The reasoning for this trip was simple — clouds. As readily apparent, my style of photography lies in making a scene appear dramatic, in a sense of organized chaos, if I may. Winter gives me that," said Chin

For his bicycle trip, Chin did not only hop on his bike and leave. Some serious, photo unrelated, preparation was involved.

"For the few months leading up to my trip I started training myself relentlessly. I cycled a lot more than I normally did, and even went on a few weekend century cycling trips around Ontario," said Chin.

His trip would lead him through the national parks Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper, over an impressive 300 kilometers in distance.

Copyright 2017 | Image by Ethan Chin |

The Takeaway

Self-motivation might develop and improve over a lifetime but it never becomes an easy task. People like Chin are an inspiration and a welcome reminder of how the life of a truly dedicated photographer might look like.

Fellow Fstoppers writer Ryan Cooper wrote an article that might be an interesting addition.

Disclaimer: It is self-evident that many do not have the time nor live under the circumstances that would allow for endeavors comparable to Chin's. However, dedication is scalable and relative. Somebody with a busy schedule who is only able to spend an hour a week with their photographic hobby could still be considered dedicated. With this article I am talking about the times where we could put in the work but choose not to. Chin is the perfect example for somebody who got time on his hands and uses it to work on what he is passionate about.

Images used with permission of Ethan Chin.

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Robert Nurse's picture

The title for this article annoyed me at first. But, as I breathed a little, I realized some things in my dilemma: time or the lack thereof. To be dedicated to something, one has to make choices with that "something" receiving precedence. Right now, my photography doesn't. Other things do. Though, one day it will have much more! But, for now, I can enjoy Chin's work (which is fabulous by the way) and dream of the day when I have more time to devote to it.

Ethan Chin's picture

I'm fairly certain the title is more tongue-in-cheek than bent on putting down others' work. That said, it means a lot to me that you like my work!

Paulo Macedo's picture

Legal working age is what? 18 in Canada? I've started working when i was 18, since then (30 yo right now) i've never stopped working 9 to 18, it's way easier when you have youth, time and somehow mommy and daddy as patrons. Some of us wish we had the time, the lack of bills to pay by the end of the month.
So i find it kind offensive when an article states that a 17yo lad is putting more effort into something that me, when like me most of the people here have to work their asses off, to pay up bills and care for their children.
As a worker, i believe a made most of what i could to become a somewhat good photographer, because i don't consider myself to be a bad one or pretencious.
But hey, good for him, to have his youth, time and money to do such, more than that, for living in a country where you can be what you wish to be if you put the effort into it.

Ethan Chin's picture

Students are allowed to work in Canada, starting from the age of 14, but only outside of school hours.

That said, my "mommy and daddy" were far from patrons of my trips. I suggest not making assumptions before knowing the full story. My dad passed away from cancer when I was 8 years old, and I had to grow up without a father for the past decade. While far from destitute, it would not have been wise for my mother to sponsor my travels. Everything I've done, experienced and accomplished so far is the result of my own blood, sweat and tears, and I think I have a pretty good idea of what "work ethic" and "stringent budgeting" means, so I find it offensive when some people automatically assume others get a free pass from their parents.

I consider myself lucky that I have yet to have bills or debt to pay, and am able to fully devote my time to my passion. It's just my way of making use of my time before going out into the "real world", I guess.

Lastly, I'm fairly certain the title is more tongue-in-cheek than intending to put down others efforts.

- Ethan Chin

Paulo Macedo's picture

Hey Ethan.

As you can see on my comment, i've used the word "somehow" prior to mommy and daddy, did not anywhere said it was your case. The assumption was taken on a general idea that lads on their teens somehow do not work, because they are either in college or living with their parents due to the lack of age to work.
Ok, Canada is 16, European Union is 18.
Sorry if somehow i was harsh towards you, not the intent, specially sorry for your loss.

Having this in mind, latelly we've been bombarded with so many stories about kids who have it great, and have it all that it's hard to guess what's what. Maybe if the article had your background checked and mentioned it would make you an even bigger person for not quitting, and i admire that.

Also, I envy your youth, as i go into the 30's myself I feel that it is getting later and later to pursue my dreams. Also I envy the country where you live in. And I don't mind admiting it. We "old" folks get grumpy.

Anyhow, extremely sorry for your loss and for making you believe that it would be your case.

Julien-Pier Belanger's picture

30s is young to be old.
I am almost 30 and I decided to live in the back of my truck to pursue my photography.
Never say you are old.
Stop envying and start shooting

Paulo Macedo's picture

:O i admire that!

Julien-Pier Belanger's picture


Andrew Ashley's picture

Very excited (and a little jealous) for your journey to come Ethan! You are off to an amazing start! As others have mentioned as you get older life happens and starts picking at your passions like a hungry seagull and unless you kick the seagull (ok, this analogy has taken a dark turn) it can consume your life, time and ARGH! Anyhoo, just make sure to always give your passions, whatever they may be in the future, room to breath. And keep having fun and amazing adventures! (Oh right, and capture amazing images!)

michael buehrle's picture

and then LIFE set's in……………….

Julien-Pier Belanger's picture

Why do you hope he fails?
LIFE is nothing. LIFE is what you make if it.

Jay Jay's picture

The title is pretty condescending, but i guess nowadays, you need some sort of title to get people to read your articles

Maximilian Benner's picture

Hi Jay Jay,
I actually am reluctant to using headlines like this one. However, I am new to the team and therefore am still experimenting with different styles of titles. At this point in time I am not quite sure what works best to provide as many people as possible with an incentive to read the article. Fingers crossed that I will be able to resort to less lurid titles in the future.

Daniel Sanchez's picture

It's just a double edged sword. Marketing gimmicks do work, clicks and views counts matter.

The title did pull me into the article, but with a set mindset. I did a lot of copy writing for advertisements in the past and while using gimmicky copy did get clicks, it also lowered the satisfaction of those users. So you get grumpy comments.

Some suggestions:
"This 17-Year-Old Photographer's dedication will astound you!"
or some variation thereof.

Great advertising(copy writing in this case) delivers on a promise to fulfill a need. The need here being to be astounded by the dedication of the subject of the story.

In your title, fulfillment on the statement that a 17 yr old photographer is more dedicated. If that is the case, the viewer is put down. Yay, you win, viewer feels bad. But it is also a bait and switch since the story isn't written like that. So it is incongruent.

Maximilian Benner's picture

Thank you Daniel! This is a very logical explanation, I appreciate your effort.

Jay Jay's picture

Not insulting photographers who are every bit as dedicated to their craft would be a good start. 7 days later, i see you still think think your article title is ok to use. I'm glad other authors on here who are more dedicated to writing articles don't need to resort to this.

Keith Swindell's picture

It is nice to see someone who knows what they want at 17, and has the guts to pursue it. So many of us either didn't really know what we wanted or didn't do it.

Robert Nurse's picture

LOL! At 17 I surely did not!

Dan Ostergren's picture

Good for you Ethan. A lot of 17 year olds sit on their butts after graduating high school and leech off of others, or do the bare minimum with a part time food service job and have no goal or aspirations in mind. Those who squandered their opportunities and are jealous of what you're doing with your life are going to say anything they can to diminish what you are doing. Your hard work and dedication has nothing to do with your age. I'm 30 and am quite dedicated to photography, but even I can see and admit that you are putting much more into this than most photographers, and still that has nothing to do with age. Keep up the good work, and don't let the grumpy haters discourage you or make you believe that your age explains why you can do what you're doing.

Ethan Chin's picture

Thanks Dan!

August Norman's picture

Sadly I didn't have a DSLR when I did Ragbrai (bike across Iowa in a week)... Either way I'm 19 and go hiking 2-5 times a week on top of work in school, this usally means getting up at 2am to drive 2 hours to catch the sunrise somewhere or hiking down several miles in the dark. Even at 17 I was too busy since I was already in college to do what he has, but I'm glad he's had the experience, it'll be with him forever. Cheers from another young tog!

Julien-Pier Belanger's picture

This kid rocks!
If I could teach him one lesson it would be to stray away from luxury.
Once you start being comfortable, you get lazy, you compromise your work.
To many more years of creation)