You can tell a lot about a person by what they photograph

There are the ones who photograph their meals at a restaurant, positioning each element carefully. There are those who only photograph their kid’s laughter and smiles to keep them young forever. Some photograph for archival purposes, as a “note to self”. I choose all of the above. I choose to document every aspect of my life in photographs.

I have a fear of forgetting. Our memories are unreliable. We’re selective, recalling the bits and pieces we feel are most important. So whenever I see something too beautiful for words, something that makes me laugh out loud, or just something I want to share with someone later, I get out my iPhone and capture it. I want the moment to live on so I’ve developed a habit, an obsession some may even say, of digitally recording.

San Francisco cityscape from Bernal Heights park

San Francisco city view from Bernal Heights Park during the golden hour, just before sunset. Shot on iPhone 6, edited with VSCO.

I love themes, especially in photography. My reoccurring theme is San Francisco. If you look close enough you’ll find it hidden everywhere. My favorite subject to shoot is the Golden Gate. There’s something about the red/orange hues, the pillars of strength, the fog weaving in and out; it’s an indescribable feeling I have whenever we meet.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge from Vista Point in Sausalito by Monica Galvan

San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge from Vista Point, Sausalito. Shot on Canon 5D Mark III with 50mm f/1.4 lens.

San Francisco has always been a magical place for me. I can remember being excited as a kid to spend the day in the city with my dad and sister or brother. It was usually just to a “touristy” area like Pier 39 or Fisherman’s Wharf (my dad loves the clam chowder). I had no idea there was so much more to discover in this enchanted land and I wouldn’t for several years.

Fisherman's Wharf signage in San Francisco, California

Signage in Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco.

Maybe it was the cheesy souvenirs, the sweater weather, the food, the crowds the sea lions attracted, or the people who walked the streets with purpose and freedom. I honestly have no idea what happened to make me fall so hard for this city but it started way back then. I’ve grown up since but never out of love; my first love.

San Francisco skyline from the Larkspur Ferry by Monica Galvan

San Francisco skyline from the Larkspur Ferry.

I look back at pictures taken of me from disposable film cameras standing in front of random, insignificant things and I’m struck by one familiar theme, an uncontrollable smile.

Throughout our lives we go through many ups and downs though we tend to recall the negative more than the positive. I’ve lost myself too many times but I’ll always find myself again, in this city.

Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco, California

Mission Dolores park in San Francisco, November 2010.

I haven’t always been as passionate about photography as I am now. Though I’ve pursued photography for many years, over a decade of my life, there were a few chunks of time between when my camera and I were distant from one another. Each time might be for a different reason relating to that season of my life but looking back now, I know the underlying reason that connects them. I hadn’t found my muse yet.

I’m not advocating you sit and wait for inspiration to strike to pursue photography or any form of creativity for that matter. Instead I encourage you to go after it. Inspiration isn’t something you can search for, it has to find you working.

Walking the Burrard bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia

Walking across the Burrard bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia. Shot on Canon 5D Mark III with 50mm f/1.4 lens.

Learning to see the world in a new way

At first photography was something I did on a vacation or a mini road trip away from home. It was about capturing the moments to remember them later. But slowly I began to see the world in a new way. That’s what photography does to you. You see things differently, you notice what others don’t. And this is the exact reason you are meant to be a photographer, to share your vision with those who can’t see it for themselves.

Time | Shot on iPhone 6 with Lensbaby mobile lens

Shot on iPhone 6 with Lensbaby mobile lens, edited with VSCO.

A personal journey

I’ve always felt photography is a personal journey and perhaps that’s why it took me so long to share my work with others. Art stems from a private place inside. Sometimes the artist doesn’t understand the reason they’re drawn to create, they only feel the pull. Photography is no different. I couldn’t tell you why I felt such a strong connection to the medium, I only knew I needed to keep going.

Burrard bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia

Burrard bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia. Shot on Canon 5D Mark III with Lensbaby Composer Pro 50 lens.

Transforming your muse into photographs

You have a muse too. Maybe you already know what it is or maybe you have some more soul searching to do. Either way, when you find it you’ll know. I can tell you from experience it’s worth the wait. Sometimes it’s a person, a specific object, or in my case a place. It varies from one artist to another.

Seattle, Washington cityscape

Seattle cityscape from the Space Needle.

The only way to speed up the process of finding your muse is to keep photographing. It’s going to take a lot of bad photographs before you find the ones that light a spark in your heart and lead you down the path you’re meant to follow. Keep shooting, keep practicing and never stop experimenting. If you’re bored with one genre of photography, pick up another. There are no rules to finding your muse except you can’t give up.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands by Monica Galvan

San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge from the Marin Headlands. Shot with Canon 5D Mark III with 50mm f/1.4 lens.

Looking for a little inspiration to get you out there shooting and improving your photography skills?

Check out Fall in Love with Photography, a free 7 day photo challenge to kickstart your photography! Every day for one week you’ll receive a new photo challenge right to your inbox. Each challenge features a theme with plenty of tips and ideas to get your creativity flowing. Click through to join and get started!

Fall in Love with Photography: Join the 7 day photo challenge

To find out more about Monica you can find her on monicagalvan.co and Instagram @mlynngalvan

Monica Galvan is a photographer based in the Bay Area of California. She specializes in San Francisco cityscapes and urban environments with a vintage touch. She also teaches aspiring photographers how to find their visual voice with photography at monicagalvan.co 

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