Photographing Colorado: He saw. She saw

Mesa Verde’s Cliff Palace

One of the great joys of our photography partnership is I get to see Mary’s beautiful photos.  I still find it incredible that we will be in the same place, often times, standing right next to each other tripod-to-tripod, and we end up with completely different photographs.  Here are some good examples.

Peter’s Cliff Palace

There are so many decisions to make in the field when creating a photo.  Some of these are even made beforehand in visualizing what you will do.  Someone might even say that pre-visualizing is constraining.  I almost always come back with what I expect.  This is both a testament to my preparation, but also shows my lack of flexibility in the moment.

Mary’s tree path
Peter’s tree path

On the other hand, I am always surprised and amazed by what Mary brings back.  She tries more interesting things in the field than I do and she also will try many different processing options on the computer when we return.  I believe I make more good photos than she does, but she makes many more great photos than I do because she takes risks and is more creative.

Peter’s Aspens
Mary’s Aspens

In the field, there is really only one irrevocable decision – composition.  This is the most important decision and is hard to change.  Yes, you can always crop “in,” but you can never crop “out.”  You also have to decide on aperture and exposure.  This can always be reviewed and changed in the field quickly.  You might also want to “pre-decide” on processing choices you will make later – like converting to black and white or making a panoramic.

Canyonlands Green River Overlook
Mary’ used a short telephoto lens

Finally, you might want to decide who you are and what you stand for as a photographer.  I am a traditionalist and love big landscapes and classic compositions.  I am trying to find the one best photo from a scene and will happily leave with “the shot.”  Mary is much more creative and is always trying to find the “natural abstract.”  She will get the “scene,” but will also dissect it piece by piece to uncover something else.  We always joke that I “see” or have a point of view that is through a wide angle 24 mm lens and she sees the world through a 70-200 mm telephoto lens.  These are “choices” in a sense, but also just who we are in our sensibilities, likes, and preferences.

Mesa Verde’s Square Tower House
Mary’s Square Tower House

So, I try not to make value judgments about our photos being “right or wrong.”  I do believe that some photos are better than others and some photos are just terrible.  I also believe that very few photos are great, but when they are great, many people will agree.  Mary and I made about 2,000 images in the field on our ten day trip through Colorado and Southern Utah.  Each of us processed about 100 photos each and last night we finally picked our best – it came to 72.  We probably could have gone a bit higher or lower, but this seems about right.  Our experience has been that our very best is under 5% of what we drag out of the field.  So, what do YOU think?

Peter’s Stronghold House from Hovenweep National Monument
Mary’s Shot

To see more of our different photo sensibilities, please go to


  1. Jesus Sousa

    Hi Peter and Mary, looked over this post and was really impressed by the final outcome of the finished images. I believe you complement one another in different ways. Nevertheless the images are striking when finished with the other programs you both use.

  2. Mark McDermott

    I think this would be a great subject for a self published coffee table book, Each page a side by side with comments from both of you on the aesthetics and the practical of each scene. Also could include location info so it could also be used as a field reference. I’d buy one.

    You both have a few extra hundred hours, right?

    1. pamphotography

      Mark, great idea. I really enjoy asking Mary about here choices because they are so different from mine. It would be great to document how we think about the photo in the field and then the choices made at the PC. We could even use our Look – See – Imagine – Create process. Thanks. Hope you are well.

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