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We Can All Be Great Photographers

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

In watching an interview with Tanmay Sapkal, the International Landscape Photo of the Year winner for 2021, I learned that achievement is within reach of any of us, hobbyists included.


Disclaimer: This article references an interview from YouTube and an image from ILPOTY 2021. I, in no way, wish to imply that I had anything to do with the creation of these works. Full credit is owed to:


  1. Tanmay Sapkal for the image itself.

  2. The International Landscape Photographer of the Year. Designed by Shape5.com Joomla Templates for the book and hosting of the competition. https://internationallandscapephotographer.com/


Further disclaimer: I promise I had NO IDEA that the image title had part of my name in it until I went to find the image after having watched the interview! Pure coincidence 😅

Tanmay's winning image 'Comet NeoWise Setting'. Credit: Tanmay Sapkal & ILPOTY 2021 https://internationallandscapephotographer.com/


A Welcomed Surprise


Finding this interview came just at the right time. It was the morning after I had received the September 2023 issue of Getaway Magazine. One of my images, 'Milky Way over Champagne Valley' had been selected as a monthly winner in the Getaway Gallery 2023/2024 competition. This was my first attempt at entering, and my photo was one of five selected as a monthly winner. We will all be in the run to be crowned winner of the grand prize, at the end of the competition year, which will be around July 2024. Regardless, I am so excited and proud of my achievement. A photo of mine was selected, that I had shot roughly a year after taking up a camera (that wasn't attached to a smartphone) for the first time. Of course, my immediate reaction when I found out was that it was a fluke. My second reaction was not to talk about it for two months until the actual magazine was on the shelf, just in case something went wrong. That's my defence mechanism for insecurity taking over.

Me, with my finalist image, 'Milky Way over Champagne Valley.' In yet another coincidence, I was wearing the exact same PJ's in the freezing cold of the Drakensberg when I captured the image. 😂 Check out the image properly in my portfolio or on Instagram (preferably the former).


The interview was eye-opening and so inspiring. The events of the night before had me believing a bit more, that you don't need to be a 'professional photographer' to achieve these accolades or produce great images. Despite the technical rules of photography, it is a subjective medium. Perhaps my image can be good, even if not for everyone, and even without decades of experience behind it? Someone at Getaway Magazine liked it, and that's pretty cool. I think that is the great thing about art. Besides the fact that it is what you feel about your art that matters most, there is more than likely someone, somewhere on this planet, who likes it too, regardless of how 'good' it is. After all, how does one quantify 'good' for such a subjective medium? Good is in the eye of the beholder. There may be far 'better' images in the world, but there always will be. This is a fact of life that I have learned to live by. We were taught to be 'the best' to succeed, or that you need to be 'special' to stand out. It is all a pile of trash really, but believing that for a long time held me back. There is always going to be someone better, faster, more...more. The sooner we accept that it does not matter, the happier we will be, and the more we will enjoy what we do.


Look, I accept, too, that life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Social media and human nature in general has conditioned us to base our worth, or that of our work, on the opinion of others. How many people 'like' or comment on it etc. I am guilty of falling into this trap. Just yesterday, I took down an image that I loved and re-edited it because I thought it would not appeal to others. In all honesty, I'm actually somewhere in between the two edits at the moment. I like aspects of both to certain degrees. However, the point is that having what happened to me in the Getaway Gallery competition and seeing the interview with Tanmay re-ignited some hope. A little belief, that in the world of subjectivity that is art, we can all be great photographers and great artists.


You must understand, that for most of my life, I was very left-brain dominant. Very analytical. A typical engineer. So I reverted to rules and metrics to justify how good I, or my work was. Thankfully that all changed with the bipolar diagnosis last year. That creative side was always there, just restrained. Imagine a chihuahua on one of those retractable leashes. Every time my creative side would run away, my analytical nature would snap me backwards.



The Interview


I was floored to learn that Tanmay, the winner of International Landscape Photo of the Year 2021 was a part-time photographer. A more enthusiastic than average hobbyist, like me. An engineer, like me, albeit in tech hardware, not mechanical as I am. He and his wife go hiking, much like Leeanne and I do. They spend a lot of time enjoying nature and the outdoors, and on Monday, it's back to the grind of a normal full-time job. So much so that they factor it into their trips so that they are not fatigued at work on Monday.


This is a very real scenario for most of us. We don't have the luxury of full-time photography. Yet, he has proven what can be achieved by any one of us. His equipment and post-processing software are not any different than that of a lot of part-time photographers.


"I currently shoot with Sony mirrorless cameras (A7riii and A7iii)...My hiking kit includes one camera body with Tamron’s 17-28mm and 28-200mm lenses.” Tanmay Sapkal, ILPOTY 2021.


He spoke of something very important, at length. The support that he has from his wife, in his passion for photography. I found I could identify with this a lot. It is ironic that he explained how they have a dedicated room in the house where he has his editing station and the TV is in front, between which she (his wife) sits on the couch reading or watching TV as he edits. The likeness to what happens in our own home is uncanny, except we have a four-year-old zooming up and down around us as well. The commonalities are so ridiculous that when building our house almost three years ago, we purpose-built a room for my music production station (which has since doubled as my photo editing station), a couch and a projector so Leeanne and I are able to do exactly what Tanmay and his wife do. Share a space, enjoying individual interests, but still sharing time together.


Leeanne is not a self-professed photographer, but the adventure and hiking appeal to her as much as they do to me. However, she accommodates my time consumption at photo locations despite it not being her primary cup of tea.


There are times that I go out on adventures alone, but typically when one goes on a reasonably distant trip or holiday, they don't go alone. I don't know how I would sustain my hunger for capturing images if she was not as supportive as she is.


The only difference I would say, is that he showed some unease toward the sustainability of his photography if they had a child. We on the other hand do (have a child) and so far it has been perfectly fine. In fact she is picking up on things so quickly. Most days at around sunset, she will call to me, "Daddy, did you see how beautiful the sky is?"The child is golden-hour chasing already! I forsee trouble and expenses in our future.


Having so much in common with Tanmay really resonated with me. It inspired me. It renewed my belief in myself and my photography. I hope that you are able to find similar inspiration in this article.


Until next time, I will leave you with a shot that is not mine, but has the promise of a photographer in the making, even though she does not care for the title.


PS. I just realised that none of the images, aside from the cover image, were shot by me😅 Maybe I should retire while on the up? 🤔


Your Bipolaroid photographer...


'The World's Most Handsome Photographer' 😅, captured by Leeanne Pillay on an iPhone 11.

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