Never Stop Chasing the White Whale in Your Photography

Never Stop Chasing the White Whale in Your Photography

I've got a simple question for you: is there a photo that you're chasing right now? An image that you're dying to get right? Your white whale (hooray “Moby Dick” references); something that you can see in your mind, you can picture it, almost feel how you want it to look. Whatever the genre, you know exactly what you're looking for in the mood, the vibe, and the scene. The chase and that drive can be something very useful to a photographer. It can inspire and motivate us to keep going, to keep improving, and keep working towards whatever image that we're chasing after.

Though I am a portrait photographer, the image I'm chasing is a landscape. A natural scene straight out of a fantasy world. For me, though the image may be simple, it's one that I have yet to perfect and the chase drives me onward. It's a mood and an emotion in a scene that I want to capture. My white whale is a foggy scene, a thick mist in the air, weaving its way through the pine trees. Gloomy, moody feelings abound. Maybe a bit cliché, but it's the shot that I want more than any other.

Don't get me wrong, I want to take amazing portraits too. I want to continue to improve, learn, and grow as a portrait photographer. I want to cultivate a body of work that I'm proud to stand behind and that carries my vision into the world. While that may all be true, my chase is for my foggy fantasy scene. It's an image I want for myself more than for anyone else. It's one I want to print for my own wall. All I know is that I haven't captured it yet and that when I do (if I ever do), I'll know it right away.

What are you chasing? What can you see in your mind that no one else can see? This is meant to be an exercise in inspiration and motivation. Try to identify within yourself what image, idea, or feeling can you use to inspire you to keep going. If you don't have one, see if you can create one. Ask yourself some serious questions and create the chase for yourself. If there was one image that you could take and know that it was perfect, what would it be? Maybe a portrait of a son or daughter, mother or father? Maybe the sunrise or sunset over a location that you've always dreamed of visiting? How about the precise moment that a bird dives from the sky, beak piercing the surface of the water? Let me know in the comments what your perfect image is. Maybe you've even captured it already. If so, is there another image that takes its place so that the chase can continue?

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Ryan Mense's picture

A good photo of a pileated woodpecker. It's been my white whale for about 3 or 4 years now. I see them a few times a year and always when I'm ill-equipped to photograph them well. It's like a personal running joke for me, because after they fly away I can only laugh that it was yet another failed attempt. One day I think I'll just hunker down with a blind or something and finally get it.

Evan Kane's picture

Right on haha. When I think of getting any epic shot of a bird, I picture someone sitting out in the woods in a blind or a ghillie suit all day just waiting for that perfect moment.

A shot of the Golden Gate bridge with the full moon rising behind it, with no haze/glow around the moon, with no compositing, and with both objects properly exposed, in the same shot. It's impossible. No haze, when shot over water from Point Bonita? Where the Bridge is a long exposure and the Moon is a sun-lit object? And when I no longer live in the area? Totally impossible! I don't think it's a White Whale. I think it's a pipe dream.

Evan Kane's picture

Haha, keep the dream alive Howard :D

Musing Eye's picture

I don't know if this is quite what you mean, but I'm a hobbyist who has been slowly working on my craft. I have an idea in my mind for a series of images that together make a little fairytale story. I pretty much know what I want is beyond my skill, particularly for the composite work it will need, but I'm most of the way through getting the raw images and then it's going to be months probably putting it all together. I fear the end result won't match the image in my head but I also know that I have to try and that I'll learn alot from the effort.

Evan Kane's picture

Thanks for the comment John, that sounds really awesome. Having the image in your head is the most useful tool you can have. Even if you can't make it a reality yet, use that to drive you until you can make it real :)

Keith Davis's picture

My problem is I thought I had captured my white whale picture more than once... then I come here and look at the masterpieces posted on this site and realize I've really caught a sardine.


Evan Kane's picture

Time, experience, effort, and enough sardines and you can get the whale :D

YL Photographie's picture

I love the mysterious side of these foggy days. Nice article and picture

David Hynes's picture

Nice article!

I think my white whale would probably just be a constant improvement in my skillset. Sometimes I feel like I need to slow down my process because I miss a lot of details that I have to catch up on in post. So I guess I'm chasing drastic improvement if that makes sense!

Evan Kane's picture

Thanks David :)

If you could apply said drastic improvement to just one shot, what would it be?

David Hynes's picture

Hmm, its hard to say because there's a lot of variables but I will sum it up in one word - Storys.

A dark foreboding landscape that oddly creates a feel good emotion.

Also, a bird shot that clearly shows the eyes looking at me as if I'm lunch.

Evan Kane's picture

Eye contact with a bird. . .love it! :D

Wasting Time's picture

A raptor in flight/action. I've been able to get them perched, but never in flight. When I do see them, I have the wrong lens on my camera and not enough time to switch the lenses.