“Making Time for Ambient Noise” Companion

If you’re looking for something challenging to shoot, there are a handful of regular balloon festivals around the United States. The Great Reno Balloon Race (GRBR) is among the top. If you’re not planning a visit to the Truckee Meadows in September though, find one near where you will be, at least once. Your memories and your portfolio will thank you.


Sacrifice is a part of any game. Whether you’re looking at sports or life, some of the best things you receive are at the hands of effort, loss, and deprivation of some other element. Sleep is most often the victim for photographers given the nature of light (and the nature of the lack of light). The fear of sacrifice holds many back from achieving their potential. It’s not easy getting up at 2:30am for a pre-dawn balloon festival event or even 5am to go out into the cold to capture the first rays of light over a mountain crest but it’s the sort of thing that has to happen (at least occasionally) to push your craft and your results forward. You must make the time (cf “say no to something else”) and get it done.

On the topic of ambient noise, I use a broad definition in the podcast. You may have audio noise, visual noise, psychological noise,… all these additions to the experience have the opportunity to be either good or bad, depending on your definitions, on your interpretations of good and bad. Take this photo from my scanned film archives, for example:

See the effect the film grain offers? How it adds nostalgia and a softness to the image simply by being there? That is an example of visual noise. Compare it to the crispness of the Dawn Patrol image above. In these cases, each is benefitted by the presence or absence of that noise. There is no “film grain is always good” or “digital clarity is the best”, it depends on the image and what the photographer’s eye sees

The same is true for other kinds of noise, too. Audio noise is used to great effect in cinema, often to direct the viewer toward or away from important elements in a scene. The noise of your children interrupting you when you’re trying to take a nap can be annoying as all get out, yet there is a comfort in the routine that chaos represents. How often, in your photos or in your life, do you stop to consider the perspective from which you assess interference and how often do you give yourself a chance to discover a different angle or benefit that may arise?

It may be time to add a little noise into your workflow.

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Photos: © Brad Brighton

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