When you make photos for a living you almost always know whether or not you will like a photo the moment you press the shutter button on the camera. After the photo has been taken and you walk away from the subject or scene and you almost always have a sense in your head if it is a shot you will like or not. What you won't know, however, is whether or not the public will appreciate the photo as much as you do. Such is the life of the professional commercial photographer.
The year was 2005 and I was relatively new to photography. Once I was bitten by the photography bug I purchased a a bunch of new lenses, including a fisheye lens. A fisheye lens is considered a boutique lens. And although it can be very useful in certain specific circumstances, more often than not it just takes up space in the camera bag and collects dust. On the morning I made the photograph above, however, it was the perfect lens.
On a cool autumn day in Wisconsin I found myself traipsing through the trees outside of Blue Mounds State Park. It was very dark inside the hardwood forest, but when you looked up the sky was full of bright orange and yellow leaves illuminated by the afternoon sun. Always a suck for photos of trees, I dusted off my fisheye lens, affixed it to my camera, put the camera on the forest floor, aimed it straight up, and set the camera to shoot a series of photos while I hid behind the big tree in the lower left-hand corner. The result was a colorful, yet eerily dark, photo of the hardwood forest and the colorful autumn canopy above.
As much as I liked that photo, I had no idea how much others would like it too. Since I first shared that photo on Flickr back in October 2005, that photograph has been viewed more than half million times. And more than 600 people have taken the time to comment on it. I'm gobsmacked.
Now more than ten years later (yes...effing TEN years) I still visit that photo on Flickr and analyze it. I wonder why people like it so much. Art, after all, is subjective. But in the grand scheme of things the reasons matter very little. Because soon after I made that photo I came to the realization that if I simply made photos I liked, the results were almost always better than if I made photos strictly for what I thought other people liked. Why? Because if you have any hope of ever succeeding as a photographer in what is a hyper competitive environment, YOU better be the most difficult customer to please.