Being a parent of two small kids with a full-time job and more hobbies than I have time for, life feels like a constant blur. I always have a backlog of projects and goals I strive to work towards, but honestly my list seems to grow faster than I can check things off.
On a trip this summer, my in-laws offered to babysit and my wife and I headed to a national park to go canoeing. I packed my fishing rod and camera, and my wife brought her book. We had no particular agenda, just the pursuit of fresh air and a brief respite from the stresses of life.
After an hour on the lake, I looked up from my fishing and noticed a remarkable scene in front of us. The wind had completely died and puffy clouds were forming overhead. The surface of water was a perfect mirror–it felt as if we were floating in the sky.
I promptly put away my fishing rod and pulled out my camera, hoping desperately that the wind would hold off for at least a few minutes. We pointed the canoe toward the middle of the lake, and I started capturing images of my wife paddling—trying to find that perfect balance of water, sky, and paddle position.
A few quick checks for exposure and composition on the back of my camera confirmed that I got the shot I wanted.
Not too much later the wind returned, and, by afternoon, the small puffy clouds had grown into a summer thunderstorm. The dull grey light made for great fishing, but boring photography, so the camera stayed in the bag the remainder of the day.
The shot I came home with will provide a fond memory on our wall, but it should also be a strong seller as stock. Over the past decade, I’ve made a decent side-income filling my portfolio with images like this—moments in real life where complex elements come together briefly in ways that can’t be staged or faked.
This approach has served me well because it allows photography to fit into my life how I want it to. When the situation isn’t right, I take pictures for memories and enjoy the activities I’m participating in. But when I see moments with stock potential, I focus hard to take saleable images that convey big ideas.
The hourly rate of money earned vs. time spent working ends up being incredible, and better yet, I get to maximize my time doing the things I love. Sometimes I won’t submit anything from an outing, and other times I’m surprised by fabulous stock shots that came out of a situation I wasn’t expecting to be good. I always try to be ready to take marketable images, but my primary goal on trips is always just to have fun.
As daylight waned on our canoe trip, we reluctantly felt the urge of responsibility calling us back home. On the paddle back to the launch, we enjoyed a chorus of loon calls and reveled in the solitude of a beautiful place. A stop for drinks and pizza on the drive back capped off a perfect day—even if it did have a few minutes of work squeezed in!
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