Is photography a group or solo activity?

Four of us from the Photography Interest Group went to Viera Wetlands last Saturday.  On the way, we stopped by Riverfront Park on the Indian River at SR 520 in Cocoa for sunrise.

Old boat by a bridge
Old boat by a bridge

There weren’t many clouds, but with a longer lens than I normally use (120mm equivalent instead of an ultra wide-angle), I managed to place this boat in the frame against a background of clouds and the causeway bridge.  The colors on the water are nice and I was happy with the result.

As we left, I saw what looked like a sunken boat out of the corner of my eye to the south of where we’d been photographing. Since the good light was fading, and everyone else was ready to leave for Viera, I didn’t get a chance to check it out at the time.

For some reason, sunken / abandoned boats really appeal to me as photographic subjects. Maybe it’s because I spent time in the Navy. They seem sad and make me wonder what happened and why. This one nagged at me, and I really wanted to explore it so I decided to drive back over on Wednesday to see what I’d missed.  Many times the boat gets salvaged – so if you don’t photograph it when you find it, you may not get a second chance.

A dream, gone
A dream, gone – in the harbor at dawn.

Luckily the boat was still right where I’d seen it.  I found a spot where I could use the sailboat mast reflections to outline the sunken hull and place it between the blue and orange colors mirrored on the water.  I like the first photo, but I think this second one is stronger.

If we’d taken the time to explore this on our first visit, would I have gotten as strong a photo?  Did I get a better photo on my second trip because I was by myself?  Is photography essentially a solo activity?

Cue the standard photography answer:  “It depends.”   I believe you need to be “in the zone” to make great photos.  Distractions and / or fellow photographers can hinder concentration – or they can point you in the right direction.  When you’re with a group you also have to compromise and go along – you can’t do everything you want and force everyone else to do it too.  If you’re mainly a landscape photographer, going photographing with someone really into bird photography may not help your landscape images.  Or it might – birds hang out in some beautiful places.

If you go with people more experienced / knowledgable than you are,  you may learn a bit and make better images as a result.  Or you may find out about new places that they know but you don’t.  Or you might even open your eyes to a different way of seeing something.  If you’ve ever been out photographing with a group, you know there will be many similar images.  But there will also be some that look completely different even though two photographers stand right next to each other.

I looked through my most interesting images (according to Flickr, anyway).  Of the first 20, 10 were when I was by myself and 10 when I was with other photographers.  Conclusive numerical evidence, eh?

So to answer the question in the title of this post:  Is photography a solo or a group activity?  Yes.  You’ll be a better photographer if you go photographing both by yourself and in groups.  Mix it up and take advantage of both ways to enjoy and improve your photography.

By the way, we did make it to Viera Wetlands.  We saw many of the usual animals in the main area including Hawks, Ospreys, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets, Grebes, Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, Alligators, Turtles, etc.  We saw a few more species in the Click Ponds:  White Pelicans, Sandpipers, Roseate Spoonbills, and Woodstorks.  A nice visit.

Sandpiper flock and reflections
Sandpiper flock and reflections

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos – alone and in a group!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

7 thoughts on “Is photography a group or solo activity?

  1. Such a wonderfully thought-provoking blog! Personally I can’t imagine wanting to go out with a group, although I can see how stimulating/ stretching/ constructive it might be. But the blog also points to the subjectivity of the whole thing. I love your Old Boat by the Bridge, but in A Dream Gone I’d have cursed the sunken hull getting in the way of an idyllic panorama. For a sunken hull to be sad/ tell a story, I’d need it to be grainy, wooden, patently rotting, probably stranded on a mud bank… which probably signals that I’m still on the cliché stage and need to get out more in groups!

    1. Thank you Rhona.

      It is all subjective. If the sunken boat hadn’t been there, it would still have been a pretty scene. But it drew my eye because of the story it makes me think about. Any time an image makes me think, it holds my attention. And that’s a good thing.

      I do agree with you though – a grainy / wooden / rotting hull would have been great too!


      1. Your blog has been followed by this year’s Reith Lectures – from an eccentric but insightful potter called Grayson Perry – who is asking and answering questions such as ‘What is art?’ ‘Who judges quality?’ (Even ‘Is photography art?’!)

        A spin-off is that it’s making me think hard about whether the idyllic panorama is ‘enough’ and how a photograph that truly makes one stop and ponder (preferably with a message?) could be the thing to pursue?!

        1. Wow, Rhona – that’s a lot to consider. I hadn’t heard of the Reith Lectures. Thanks for pointing them out to me.

          Grayson Perry makes many good points and in general I think I understand and agree with them. But as a commercial artist, he’s playing a different game than I am.

          In my photography, the first question I ask is “Do I enjoy doing it?”. Followed by “Do I like the results?”. When I challenge myself and try and do something different and deeper, my answer is usually yes. Hopefully some other people will like the results too.


          1. I’m glad you enjoyed GP, and that’s a very good answer, Ed. I don’t think he has touched on the relationship of the artist to his or her audience. If one aspires, as you do, to continue to stretch your expertise and improve technique, in every aspect of photography, and in doing so you produce results that resonate with an ever-increasing audience, are you not an artist at work? Is it really a different game to an artist who needs to make money? It’s a rhetorical question, you don’t need to answer! Anyway, it’s clearly a fascinating journey you are on, as well as for those who follow your work.

  2. Ed – Both images are beautiful. I really appreciate your contemplation about photography being a solo or group activity. Very insightful and interesting.

    How does one join the Photography Interest Group in order to go on outings with you and others? Would you share what group this is?


    1. Thanks for commenting, Jeffri.

      The Photography Interest Group is an informal “club” of friends that are mostly local to Central Florida and enjoy going out photographing together. Like any group there are members that are more and less active, and the outings are somewhat irregular. We’ve set up a community on Flickr ( and if you have a Flickr account, you should be able to go to the group and ask to join. Some new members would be good!


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