THE BIGGER THE WHY, the smaller the HOW. If you want to be a better photographer, build confidence at any level, and capture images of excellence, then take time to shoot the things you love and are passionate about. Shoot what excites you and use that energy to break through your own limitations, reach new levels of creativity within, and ultimately electrify your images.
This secret ingredient - the intent or reason for shooting coupled with your own emotion towards the subject - is often overlooked amidst all of the technical considerations.
Keep in mind that those technical aspects can always be learned but creation flows from within. Ask yourself what drives your image. Photographing a sport at the peak of the moment can be exhilarating, especially when you nail it, and it's one of my favorite subjects to capture on camera.
As such, I'm always trying to enhance my skills to improve the quality of my images. After shooting professional sports for many years, I eventually realized that I could up my own photography game and get better images by simply changing my mindset.
Left: Kristian captures an ice climber, top photo, on a shoot for Nikon called One Camera, Two Perspectives and used a 14mm lens to capture the unique pic. Right: Focusing on the intensity of the eyes, Kristian captured this Canadian Olympic speed skating moment at the Vancouver Olympics. For this shot Kristian.
For example, when I was shooting an event like World Cup skiing or the Winter Olympics, I noticed that I always captured better shots of Canadian athletes versus those from any other country. My technical ability was the same, but the key factor was that it was more important to me to capture the Canadians. This reason was my WHY. I have since been able to apply this knowledge to allow more meaning in every shoot I do.
I find that most photographers love to travel. Our senses are heightened because everything we experience is new and exciting. This is a great opportunity to practice our skills, learn our camera and lenses inside and out, and expand our toolbox by trying settings and photographic techniques we might not usually use.
I love shooting faces and portraits of people I meet in different countries. It's amazing the bridges we can build and the captivating images we can achieve just by asking a stranger if they would mind being photographed. Shooting landscapes is also one of my passions. I love being in nature, slowing down life and taking the time to appreciate the beauty around me from the perspective of my Nikon D800E (my favourite landscape camera) and lens. If you have a macro lens, put it on next time you're experiencing nature and see how your world changes instantly. Adjust your picture control settings, increase your in-camera saturation and sharpness to enhance the richness of your environment, and adjust your white balance to add warmth or cool down your masterpiece.
Above: ristian shot this amazing Peace Stupa and vivid star backdrop on a clear full moon night in Leh, Ladakh. He used a bright lamplight.
Architecture or exquisite objects like high-end homes, sports cars or jets are also one of my favourite things to shoot. They are made with excellence and deserve to be captured in kind. I find these subjects can be some of the most technical to shoot, but also the most fun.
Challenging situations always push us outside of our comfort zone, allowing us to expand our horizons and learn more tools in the process. I am constantly pushing my Nikon gear and ideas to the limit and try never to shoot the subject the same way twice. Experiment with in-camera HDR, flash, different light shapers, painting with light with Speedlights or even flashlights, high ISO, multiple exposures, long exposures or whatever technique your imagination can conjure.
Shooting a portrait can be a transformative experience, for both the photographer and the subject. As a photographer, we see the subject through our own perspective and filters, and then often create a story about them in our mind. Then we choose an appropriate lens, exposure, etc., and shape light to the subject to best tell that story. Sometimes we even capture the essence of someone, or frame them in such a beautiful way that when we reflect that image back to them, we remind them of how amazing they are. Photographing someone is a wonderful gift and just having the positive intent that you want to make them feel beautiful can give your images huge meaning and make the HOW seem like a walk in the park.
Above: After coming back from a hike in Maui on night, Kristian set up his tripod and exposed this Tree of Life image, above, in near darkness for 15 seconds.
Find your passion. Capture it with excellence and let that energy flow into all areas of your photography and to every subject you shoot.
Make every shot count with intention and purpose and your images will inspire!