Competition That Matters

As photographers many of us continually strive to reach more of our potential and miss a key point of life… there is only one competition that matters. It isn’t comparing ourselves to others. Or subjecting our work to the scrutiny of judged events. Or waiting with baited breath hoping for accolades to be bestowed upon us. Or counting the number of ‘likes’ that our work generates.

The only competition that matters in life is competing with our own best self. And, not just with our photography, but with everything that we do.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Kaka Point, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-800

Each of us has been gifted with talents and abilities. It is our responsibility to grow and nurture those gifts… and have them blossom during our limited time here.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm @ 189mm, efov 510mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-450

Worrying about what other people think about us and what we create isn’t the path of growth. It is the path of mediocrity and fear.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 32mm f/1.2, efov 86.4mm, f/1.2, 1/4000, ISO-160

It is always a worthwhile exercise to go back and review some of our older photographs. I had that opportunity recently as I gathered up some images from several decades of holidays shared with terrific friends… to help them with a personal project.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 32mm f/1.2, efov 86.4mm, f/2.8, 1/200, ISO-800

As could be expected, many of those photographs were incredibly bad on a range of dimensions. I didn’t need the critiques of others to realize that fact. Reality was staring me in the face… as it has countless times before.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/8, 1/160, ISO-160

The camera gear that we own and use doesn’t matter at all when it comes to competing with our own best self. What matters is how we learn to use those tools to their best effect. And, discover how open we are to our own creative instincts and inspiration.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/8, 1/50, ISO-400

Personal growth stems from challenging ourselves to do better. To push ourselves to use more of our potential to help overcome whatever obstacles may lay in our path.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-3200

Character is built by pushing through adversity. Not floating through life on a soft innertube that is meandering down a calm stream.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-800

What purpose is there in comparing our work to others? We may occasionally learn some helpful techniques, or find some inner inspiration that we can use in our journey. And if we do… we can be thankful… then move on.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-400

Copying or emulating others does not help us reach our own potential. Trying to be like others does little except to distance ourselves from our core existence. And, pull us away from our inner purpose and authenticity.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/40, ISO-3200

Being brutally honest with ourselves when we evaluate what we do can be difficult at times. These moments of razor-edge clarity can put our delicate self-image to the test. Especially when we discover that we have fallen short of the illusions that we have created of ourselves. Harnessing that awareness can help us grow.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm @ 264 mm, efov 713 mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-800

When we really study the person in the mirror who is looking back at us we appreciate how quickly time passes. There are no ‘do overs’ in life. Nor will the promissory note of tomorrow be guaranteed. There are only the moments of now that we experience today, and our dedication to be the best that we can be for as long as we find ourselves here.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 72 mm, efov 194 mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-800

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.  Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,149 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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6 thoughts on “Competition That Matters”

    1. Hi Dirk,

      I use PhotoShop, DxO PhotoLab, the Nik Collection and two of the Topaz AI programs in post. I can retrieve specific camera/lens data from DxO PhotoLab and I use the ‘Properties” function in Windows Explorer for most of the EXIF data I publish with my images.


  1. Thanks for that. I sometimes lose sight of why I really love to take photos. For me it’s all about capturing the beauty of life and then sharing it. Your article was a great reminder to keep that motivation in the forefront.
    Well done.

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