Michael Clark: New Year's Resolutions


At the end of each year, usually between Christmas and the New Year, I take some time to consider the previous year and plan for the next. During this time, I consider not just the business side of my photography career—but also the creative side and where I would like to steer my career and my work for the next year. To that end, I usually look at my five-year plan and then craft the next year’s goals in light of those long-range ambitions. Hence, this list is a gathering of on-going thoughts I have had looking toward the New Year.

1. Shoot more motion projects

I have been learning and working with motion and video on projects over the last four years or more; shooting these projects with both DSLRs and larger digital cinema cameras. These days, quite a few of my assignments include a motion or video aspect. I am not always the one shooting the footage, but motion is often a component of larger projects. As such, I need to carve out some time for personal motion projects to flex some creative muscle, further improve my skills in this area, and galvanize my go-to team for video and motion projects.

2. Shoot more personal projects

The past few years have shown me that the images I produce when shooting for my portfolio are quite marketable and often end up being licensed to a wide range of clients. In light of this fact, and because shooting personal projects and portfolio images allows me to push the envelope creatively, I need to free up some time to shoot for myself. Over the course of my career, I have created a number of images that had never been done before, like using powerful strobes to light up paragliders in flight. For 2015, I need to plan some photo shoots that continue this tradition and push me on a technical and creative level to create something new and noteworthy.

3. Expand my skill set


As a professional photographer, I am always working to learn new skills and improve in those areas where I feel I am weakest. One area where I want to spend more time is in the studio. As an adventure-sports photographer, most of my work is created outdoors on location. I have shot in a studio setting quite a number of times (see the image above), but I want to take my lighting skills to the next level[h1] . Working in the studio is a good way to move my skills up a notch, and to come up with new lighting techniques that I can take out to location shoots.

4. Meet with clients in person

Some things never change. In the end, working as a pro photographer comes down to relationships with clients, athletes (for a lot of my work), models, and everyone else that I work with. I have found that meeting with people face to face and showing them my print portfolio in person is not only a fun exercise, but it is also still the best form of marketing. In 2015, one of my first trips will be to New York City to meet with several of my existing clients, sponsors I work with, and a few new potential clients.

5. Make prints of my images more often


I have found that if I print my images, viewing and analyzing the prints helps me take my images to a higher level. In light of that, I hope to make more prints this year on the two state-of-the-art Epson printers in my office.

6. Get less stressed-out on major assignments

This past year I produced, directed, and shot both stills and motion footage for two clients simultaneously, on the same assignment, for Red Bull and Nokia (you can check out that assignment on the Red Bull Photography website). It was exhausting and exhilarating—and I ended up producing some of my best work in 2014 on this assignment. Having to shoot stills and video with four different camera systems made this assignment one of the most stressful I have done in a long time, but our crew and I took on the challenge and came through with flying colors. I look forward to more projects like this in 2015, though hopefully with less stress.

Side note: I impose quite a bit of stress on myself to insure that I come back with images that surpass the client’s expectations. If an assignment were completely stress free, then I would be very worried about the resulting images. The frenzy created in me while on an assignment comes from my own artistic need to create a certain quality of work.

7. Take more pictures, in general

As a working photographer, there are often long stretches, typically a few weeks, where I don’t pick up the camera at all because I am working in the office, marketing myself and my work, and generally trying to get the next gig or set it up. As a result, I don’t take that many snapshots. I find myself thinking that if I don’t have something planned and set up, then it isn’t worth pulling out the camera. I also don’t want to create a bunch of “worthless” images. This year, I want to change that and always have a camera on me so that I can create a collection of images from my everyday life. I consider this both an experiment and way to keep photography fresh and fun. My iPhone 6 Plus will probably end up being my everyday camera for a lot of this experiment, but I hope to find another more serious, small camera to work with at some point.

8. Read more books


I find that inspiration, ideas, and new creativity often come to me through books. I just finished Dan Winter’s glorious book The Road to Seeing, and it has inspired me to go after those personal projects that I haven’t gotten around to doing. By the way, if you haven’t read The Road to Seeing, I highly recommend it. The book is beautifully laid out and put together, and the text is quite compelling.

Michael Clark's Gear:

Nikon D4S

Nikon 14-24mmf/2.8

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 1000/1000

Lowepro Toploader Pro 75 AW II

Hoodman HoodloupeOptical Viewfinder 

Lastolite EZYBalance Greycard

9. Create images for a good cause

This past year, I also spent a few weeks deep in the Amazon shooting stills of indigenous tribes for a forthcoming CauseCentric Productions documentary film, which details the issues with which these remote tribes are dealing. It was one of the most intense adventures of my entire career—and one of the hardest, physically. This assignment was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is difficult to fully describe. For 2015, I hope to be able to go back and continue working with CauseCentric on the Tribes on the Edge documentary.

10. Continue having a grand adventure

One of the reasons I photograph adventure sports is that I love being adventurous. Having an adventure is inspiring and makes me feel alive. On my trip to the Amazon this past year, we had a discussion about what constitutes an “adventure.” Some of us talked about risk, some of us talked about things not going as planned, but I think the best summation was that an adventure begins when the outcome is unknown and you step out of your comfort zone. I hope to be out of my comfort zone quite a bit in 2015.

That’s it for my list of New Year’s resolutions, at least in terms of my work with photography and video. I hope that your holiday season is filled with family, joy, and inspiration—and you can have a few adventures in 2015.

About Michael Clark: An internationally published outdoor photographer specializing in adventure sports, travel, and landscape photography, Michael Clark produces intense, raw images of athletes pushing their sports to the limit, and has risked life and limb on a variety of assignments to bring back stunning images from remote locations around the world. He uses unique angles, bold colors, strong graphics, and dramatic lighting to capture fleeting moments of passion, gusto, flair, and bravado in the outdoors. A sampling of his clients include: Apple, Nike, Nikon, Nokia, Adobe, Red Bull, Microsoft, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Outside, Men's Journal and The New York Times.