Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

I just got home last night from Skip’s Summer School. I’ve been honored to be on the faculty at this event for all four years. It was amazing to present alongside some of the biggest and best names in the photo industry for a lovely, engaged and enthusiastic audience.

The energy in the packed room was amazing. I love these boutique conferences where you get to spend quality time with people that you admire, respect and even love in the industry. While every seat was full, there weren’t so many people there that you couldn’t connect.

One of the greatest honors was meeting many of you who were at the show. I love meeting folks from the Photofocus audience. It was a humbling and happy experience to be sure.

I spent time with old and new friends and of course my pal Skip Cohen did what he always does, and organized a tremendous show.

I gave a platform talk on passion and photography. While I can’t share the entire thing here I want to just give you a taste.

Passion is the desire and energy and drive that causes people to put as much of themselves as they possibly can into attaining a certain goal or result.

When you work harder at something than you really need to – you have passion.

When you have deep affection, enthusiasm, love, interest and feelings for something you have passion. When you are devoted to something you have passion. In my opinion, these things are much more important to the successful photographer (particularly the successful professional photographer) than gear, f/stops, tripods, lighting patterns, poses or backgrounds. If you don’t have passion for photography and/or your subjects then you’re unlikely to be successful.

Why?

Because after talking to literally tens of thousands of photographers over the years, I’ve come to believe that at the end of the day we all just want to matter. Doing something that counts is important and believe me when I tell you, this counts. Photography counts. Photography always matters.

Most of you only know me through this site, my podcasts or my social media interactions. But there’s much more to me than that just as there’s much more to you than that. I am a passionate guy. I am very involved in photography but just as involved in the exotic, collector and race car hobby. I like making memories with my camera but I also like making them on the race track.

Everything I do – I do to the fullest. There’s no half way where I’m concerned. This passion is what causes people to have very strong opinions about me, for or against. I’m fine with either. I’d rather do something that generates a response, even a negative one, than no response at all.

In my talk at Skip’s Summer School, I pointed to the last photo I made of Danny Wheldon. This two-time Indy 500 champion died right in front of me last year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I made his portrait 55 minutes before that moment and it’s the last image I will ever make of Dan. If you’re interested in the story of Dan Wheldon’s last photograph, it’s part of the Photofocus archive here.

When I look back on that day – and I do that every day – I do so with great sadness. But at least I have that photo. What we do matters folks. It really does. And if anyone ever says to you “Oh, you’re just a photographer…” PLEASE stand up for yourself and for our industry. Don’t let people put you or your passion down. Don’t let anyone push you around. Stand by what you believe. Be bold and brave. Be yourself. Share what matters to you. Ignore fads and trends. Stop worrying about new and just be you.

That’s where the passion comes from.

I wish all of you could have been at Summer School. It was a great time. I feel like the networking, the learning and the sharing was as good as it gets. I have no idea what Skip’s planning for next year. It’s getting harder and harder to do physical conferences. There’s so much online that people would sometimes rather stay home. But I promise you that no matter how many online videos you watch, there’s nothing like being in a room full of fired up, passionate photographers.

I am tired and glad to be home but at the same time I already miss the fun and the togetherness we all shared at Summer School. I hope that this little post somehow reaches at least some of you and inspires you to be as passionate as you can about your photography. You never know when it’s about to be the last frame.

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