Ever produced a perfect image? Not me. By that measure I’ve failed miserably. But I’ve had a great time pursuing one knowing full well that I will never get there, that there is always something to reach for, something else to learn no matter how gratifying an image is at the time.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine and fellow photographer, Jack Lien, introduced me to the concept of “baseline photos” and it has deeply resonated with me ever since. It is the idea that no matter what one’s experience or skill level is, everyone is at a certain level of achievement given their background, interests, and opportunities and each time we shoot we are “competing” only against ourselves to up our game. In other words, I am not judging and comparing my results to those I see and admire in National Geographic, although they often give me inspiration and direction for how I can push myself further to advance my own baseline. Make sense?

Considering all of the components that go into the making of a great macro image (at least in the live bug world) – sharpness, detail, subject isolation, light, action, artistry, composition, storytelling, emotional impact (yep, even for insect images), human qualities conveyed, the “wow” factor, color, and having a subject that does not make the viewer’s skin crawl or stomach churn – nearly every image leaves something to be desired or enhanced the next time.

I am including some of my imperfect macro photos from the last month or so and no matter how innately satisfying they were to produce, no matter how much they upped my baseline for an angle or pose or action, etc., they drive me to go to the next level – my next level. They excite and encourage me as did my earliest first baseline shots years ago that at the time thrilled me just as much as these do now. This is why photography for me is the gift that just keeps on giving.


Steve Russell

Steve is a 2009 graduate of SI and several RMSP workshops. He resides in Tacoma, WA, where he avidly pursues the photography of people, events, NW landscapes, wildlife, an occasional dinosaur, and, of course, bugs. He was the featured artist for a gallery show at the Tacoma Nature Center in 2011. You can view his work at www.steverussellphotos.com. Headshot by Mick Klass.