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Which Shot of Yours Has the Best Story Behind It?

Which Shot of Yours Has the Best Story Behind It?

Some shots are great without a story, some are great and tell a story, but occasionally, the story couldn't be told in one image. Which shot in your portfolio has the best story behind it, and what's the story?

You start out with the express intention of creating pleasing photographs. images that people like — even you. Once you can do that consistently, photographers tend to branch off in other directions that use that original aim as a foundation, but from which they reach higher. A common example of this is storytelling.

Photojournalism is the first genre of photography you might think of when it comes to telling a story with your photography; however, it isn't exclusive to it. Many of the greatest portraits, wildlife images, or sports photography also tell a story. And sometimes, the story it implies isn't what happened at all. I've been working on an article recently about mis- and disinformation on social media using photographs to tell a story that the photograph doesn't tell without added (and false) context. The use of images to put forward a narrative that isn't accurate isn't new though. In fact, just this week I shared a video on how Richard Nixon used a photograph to do just that in one of his presidential campaigns.

But this isn't an issue we're concerning ourselves with here. Instead, we're looking at those times when a shot of yours, which could be good — or even great — doesn't necessarily paint the whole picture. I often find that shots I'm attached to that others seem indifferent about are exactly this situation: I have more information than the pixels can give to the viewer.

What I want to know, is which shot of yours has the best story behind it, and what is that story? Share the images and the stories in the comments below.

Trade Deals

While in Costa Rica on a trip for Olympus, a local told us about a house off the beaten track a little that has a large population of monkeys on the property. The lady who owns it was happy to take some cash in exchange for a chance to photograph the furry friends, but that wasn't the only trade we'd be partaking in. Once we arrived, it was explained to us that to have access to the monkeys, we would need to make an offering to the alpha. If he accepted what we offered, we'd be allowed to let the monkeys climb on us, feed them, take photographs of them, and so on. If we tried to do the latter without a deal in place, the alpha would attack us. We all laughed, but they were serious. Sure enough, we had to bring bananas to the alpha, and after some inspection, he left and we gained access to the rest of the troop.

Memory Lane

I realize this image isn't much, and the photographer in me wants much more from it. But the moment is precious to me. My grandad played for his local London football team when he was a young man, and they even won trophies. 70 years after he last played for them (or even saw them play), they got in contact to ask if he'd like to attend their final game of the season, which we took him to. As he stood on the touchline, rolling back the years in his mind no doubt, I became acutely aware of time. He'd have run back out on the pitch given half the chance, but those days were long gone. He passed just over a year ago, and while I wish I could have done more with this photograph, it's important to me for the story nonetheless.

Following the Rules

When I got my first camera, I'd already spent years appreciating and enjoying photography. A forum I was a member of had some great landscape photographers living in the Scottish Highlands and New Zealand, to name a few. I wanted to emulate the quality of their images, but unfortunately, I lived in one of the flattest, most geographically boring places in the U.K. I had traveled out at sunset with my camera, tripod, lenses, and hope, many evenings that first summer, and everything I brought back was dull and forgettable.

Then, in autumn, there was a storm I could see was breaking and I excitedly head out with some locations in mind. Yet again, nothing was going my way, and I was running out of time. Out of sheer frustration, I grabbed a cardboard box and a Sharpie out of my car, and the above was born, making light of my constant failure. The irony is that despite how much is wrong with it, technically, it's more or less the only shot from my early days with a camera that has stood the test of time for me!

The Abyss

My girlfriend and I went to Iceland a few years back for just under a week. We rented a 4x4, and using a map of things to see, I worked out where we would go each day, which would end up at over 3,000 km of driving. Due to the tight schedule, we were somewhat at the mercy of Iceland's climate, and to make matters more difficult still, it was January. One of the locations I was most excited to visit was Gullfoss, a titanic waterfall that looks like the earth has opened up and everything is being sucked into the crack like a black hole.

When we arrived, a heavy blizzard started, and while few people were braving the weather to see the natural wonder, my girlfriend and I weren't going to miss it. When we were high enough to look into it, I crawled to the edge of a cliff to take the shot of the waterfall. It was spectacularly stupid of me, and to make matters worse, you can't even tell it's shot from any terrifying position, but every time I stumble across the shot again, it takes me back to being less than a meter away from nonexistence at a natural phenomenon in a blizzard.

What's Your Best Story?

My images and their backstories are lackluster compared to many, so let's hear some. Which shot of yours has the best story behind it, and what is it? Is there something the camera couldn't capture? Did the image become significant at a later date? Did the shot capture a seminal moment for you? Share your image and its story in the comment section below.

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10 Comments

T Van's picture

Probably Lucille. A really crappy snapshot. Totally uncontrolled environment and not allowed to do much or even shoot much. But it was a great story and BB did look pretty happy to get her back.

David Love's picture

Working with people and shooting cosplay, the people tell me all the stories during the shoot and the characters have built in stories. More of a story is in the compositions and me only using images I've taken and not already color graded stock pics or stolen images from the web. For instance here, the rocks are from the Berlin zoo, the background images are a combination of Costa Rica shots I took and the gator is from a wetlands park near my house. Lastly there is an awesome cosplayer, Alyson Tabbitha who is known for her makeup and transforming into any character she does. So there are lots of stories and adventures in what it took to get the shots from all the parts of this image.

James Jones's picture

This was the first image I took on my last road trip. Its not perfect and what was lining up to be a great sunset ended early when the fog bank on the horizon killed the light. With that said, I had seen a few shots of this place here and there but no good descriptions of how to get to it. I was able to piece together most of the details and figure out most of the way there. Im at the cliff above this caves ledge trying to figure out how to get down when I see this guy who's clearly drinking out of a brown bag go climbing down these cliffs on some severely weathered ropes. I climbed down after him and found the spot where I lined up this shot. As we were packing up to leave I didnt see this other alcove where where a bunch of nudists were sunbathing and got flashed by a bunch of them before climbing back up the cliff. Adventure was 8/10 and with the right sunset the images can be 10/10. I cant wait to go back and try again for a better sunset.

James Jones's picture

Insert the " Why Not Both?" meme.

Michel Higuet's picture

In all my photos there is a story I can tell you but you will never know you where not behind the camera, it's valid for every photographer ( except those suffering Alzheimer... :-) )

Nigel Voak's picture

I was hiking in the Tosco Emilian Apennines on a day when soon after starting out, a nice sunny day turned into a wet soggy hike in the clouds that had formed along the footpath.

I was about to turn back after a couple of hours in the fog, but all of a sudden a tale tale wind got up and cleared the clouds in a few minutes.

I took one of my favourite mountain shots with the blueberry bushes in their full autumn splendour.

jim hughes's picture

Some of you who shoot "street" might get a laugh from this blog post I wrote about a guy who showed up in a photo I took.

https://jimhphoto.com/index.php/2019/12/16/minneapolisrailcowboy/

Jesse Hildebrand's picture

So I was shooting a concert which also happened to be the going away party for a friend of mine... we were all outside after the show passing around some jazz-cabbage when this guy walked up to the group with a pair of pliers, and like it's the most common request in the world asked us if one of us could help him get the earplug that was stuck in his ear out. The effects of the devils lettuce was pretty intense at this point, so most of us couldn't really process what was going on, let alone be in the condition to perform parking lot surgery on some random dude.... he eventually convinced one of us to try... while the rest of us lost our collective shit watching on.

jim hughes's picture

Lucky for him you agreed. It was really a telemetry device put there by the aliens who'd just abducted him.

Trey Mortensen's picture

My best story definitely doesn't have an amazing shot behind it. I was just starting to learn photography. I hadn't even owned my camera for a year at that point.
t was one of those camping trips where anything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Ironically, as we planned the trip, we had jokingly titled it "Mayhem in Mona." Oh what mayhem followed. To keep the post short (skipping a bunch of things), the friend who planned most of the trip had our group of 25 go up a 4x4 only trail (despite only 2 of us owning actual 4x4s). On the way up, we. had to push 1 car, overheated another, and popped the tire of the truck with all of our food halfway up the trail. The night was far colder than planned so to keep warm, everyone slept in a giant spoon.
In the morning, we sent 2 cars down to rescue the beached truck. 1 car popped another tire, the other left everyone and peaced out (not cool). The tire shop had a rescue truck come... that then got stuck themselves. They sent another that got their own truck down, but left us and said good luck. We were able to get the truck and other car down but due to the lack of available vehicles, the 1 Jeep we had was put on people carrying duty.
This shot was the last group to come down from the top of the mountain. It's nothing special, but I didn't really get anything better during all of the chaos (oh and more happened after this shot too. We weren't able to leave until sunset due to all the crap that decided to fail on us, like a dead car battery). So this is my 1 memory of all the chaos of Mayhem in Mona. It became a running joke for all of the trips my friends would go on during that summer.

So meh photo, crazy memories