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"Why I Do What I Do"
by Tommy Dykes

     There are many ways to make money in photography, landscape and travel photography, Weddings, events and of course portraits to name a few.


     But what does it truly mean to be a photographer? Are you into it for the money (then good luck) or is it something that makes you want to see and do more? Do you want to tell a story and since all photographs should tell a story…. Does it make you feel like Zorba the Greek, where you, “just want to touch and see as much of the earth and sky as possible”?


     For me, I am of the Zorba the Greek circle. One thing that photography has done for me is that it taught me to stop looking and start seeing.


     I remember the first time that felt like I could see more than I could look at. Every summer I used to travel out the Azores Islands. One of my favorite places to stop in at is the Igreja Matriz de Santa Crus, in Praia da Vitoria on Terceira Island. I would stand in front of the gilded altar and look up on to the painted ceiling. But it was not until I discovered photography that I looked down at my feet to discover that I was standing on a 500-year-old tomb.


     Viewing the mosaics at Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice Italy, I could see how each piece of glass was not quite a perfect square, and through seeing this I discovered that beauty almost always lies in the fact that most things are not perfect. I read somewhere that if you, “visit Venice once you will dream of it the rest of your life”. You will dream of it because the destination is emotional. After two trips, I promise you that it is true, I think of Venice every day.


     There is an emotional attachment for me to my photography and it is the same no matter what I am shooting. It is the same whether I am photographing the Basilica di San Marco, Vik i Myrdal Church in Iceland, or the Ruins of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Photography that becomes emotional creates memories that you never forget and continue to relive.


     Drive off the Utah blacktop back across 10 miles of rough rock road and stop at the canyon edge. On the far side see the ancient home of a peoples with no written language, not even a wheel. Climb down the canyon wall all the way then halfway up the other side. At the ruins I found the small opening through the front wall and, without my backpack, I slid into the interior of a place long abandoned. Behind the front wall, the overhang was lined with small rooms that stretched to the back of the alcove. Above the rooms is the calendar that I do not understand, but some way these people were able to track the moon. Hence the name, The Moon House Ruins. Emotional photography.


     Once driving across the north side of Iceland, we stopped where a heard of reindeer that had just crossed the road. They continued for several hundred yards before settling down, well out of the reach of my 400mm lens. The wind was right when my nephew and I decide that we could follow the dry wash up wind and stay out of the animal’s sight and wind. When we came to the point where we thought that we were parallel to the reindeer, we eased up to the edge and peeped over to discover the animals not 20 yards away standing there looking at us. The photographs were excellent.

     These destinations are all great, anyone one of them I would visit again. But there is one place on all the earth that for me is the most emotional – right here in these United States. Its natural beauty is not surpassed or even equaled anywhere on Earth.


     You are not always going to come back with something great, but you are almost always going to come back with something fun (just make sure you always come back). It is the fun part of a photographic trip that makes the stories in our photography come alive. Without them it is just drive in the country.


     I know of nothing more exciting than striking out in the American West with a loaded camper and your camera. Sometimes I have a destination that I want to photograph in mind, but never do I have the final image in mind. It is the unplanned images that are the best that you bring home!

Emotional Photography. Anything else is just a “snap shot”.

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