Hi! So it’s been, like, a month since I last blogged and I thought it was high time I say hello again:) I’m trying to walk that fine line between overblogging and underblogging. I hope I’ve landed nicely in the middle there.
Just one thing before I get started; you can now find me on Twitter , I’ll be posting quick updates on upcoming shows, trips, exhibits, and sometimes random observations about life in general. I’d love to see you there:)
So, the topic at hand. The Learning Curve. It’s a steep one.
After my first blog post here (and I heartily thank the seven or eight of you that may have actually read the post in it’s entirety), I casually mentioned to a friend that perhaps I had oversimplified the process? From taking a keen interest in photography to actually having my work accepted into gallery exhibits? Made it sound too easy, maybe?
He responded that people don’t care about that. The in-between bits. The struggles and frustrations you encounter along the way.
I do believe he was correct, but I’m still going to give it a shot. Explaining it, that is. And I’ll even try and make it interesting reading! I hope.
So, where I began on my last post was with a huge disappointment in the quality of images I returned home with after a lengthy hiatus in SE Asia, and a strong desire to learn as much as I could, as quickly as I could, about photography.
Easier said than done. With my Mom’s borrowed SLR Canon in hand, I enrolled in a beginner’s photography course, with high hopes of impressing my instructor with my instinctual eye and natural gift for capturing amazing images on film.
Not so much.
When I showed him my “Monk and Tiger” print (featured in my last blog post), which, at the time, I was convinced, could have easily graced the pages of Nat Geo, he gave literally no response. At all. In fact, I think he may have even changed the subject. Possibly to avoid presenting me with the blunt truth about my “work”. It was novice at best, and there were glaring flaws which were so beyond my realm of knowledge at the time that it would have been pointless to explain them to me.
Hmmm. So much for my “gift”. But I am nothing if not persistent. Especially when it’s something I really give a shit about (sorry, did I not warn you there might be adult language in this blog? There might be adult language in this blog), so I slogged on, producing passable slide films, learning shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and of course, the rule of thirds. (Which I consistently break and am completely okay with.)
I finished off the course, handed the Canon back to my Mom, and carried on with my life. (Who can afford to develop a gazillion slide films of crapola anyways?)
But I bought myself a smart little Olympus digital. Whoa. Mind = blown. Welcome to the digital world (a little behind the times, but still.)
Now I could shoot the shit out of EVERYTHING and just delete all the crap! Which is exactly what I did. And die hard film photographers will knock this method. I’ve heard it referred to as “spray and pray”, but you can’t beat it for a learning tool. If, that is, you’re actually trying to improve and not just capture every single second of every single day. Which hey, if that’s what you’re into, then cool.
And then Facebook came along. So all my poor, tolerant friends and family got their newsfeeds consistently flooded with holiday pics, family pics, ridiculous booze-fueled nightclub selfies with friends….well there’s no need to go on, we all know a few “overposters” on fb. Yep. I’m one of em.
Then, scrolling through my newsfeed in a moment of boredom one day, I saw a link pop up from a friend. A post from her 365 project. I clicked on it, viewed her photo and read her little write up that accompanied it. I messaged her immediately. “What is this 365 project? I love it! Tell me about it!”
She explained what now seems painfully obvious and easily googleable to me; it was an online photo project where you take a photo a day for 365 days, and kind of document a year in your life.
Well, this sounded like just my cup of tea! I immediately signed myself right up. When I look back at my first post now (and I have kindly included that very photo in this post for your comedic enjoyment), I don’t know whether to cringe or laugh. I should mention that, by this point, I had purchased an entry level DSLR (Canon, of course), and I thought EVERYTHING that came out of that baby was automatically gallery quality. Ha. I just totally lol’d.
But my write up that accompanied the photo was kind, and heartfelt (it was just a little note of gratitude to the resident who maintains the gardens at our building), so there’s that…
I shared my posts daily on Facebook as well, and my friends kept commenting “I love your captions and write-ups!”, to which I finally had to admit, good, great, now I just have to work on the photography aspect.
I think my friend that originally got me hooked on the project lasted about 3 weeks into her project before moving on and pursuing other interests, but me?
After seeing some of the amazing talent on that site, I was BLOWN AWAY. And deeply embarrassed by what I had thought was talent on my part. I immediately made it my business to follow some of my biggest inspirations on the site and bombard them with non-stop questions.
“How did you do that? What settings did you use? What are you using for post processing? How, if you could please explain step by step, did you achieve that particular effect?”
And, for the most part, they were very obliging. Amazingly so, in fact. I was learning more in a week than I had in years of shooting.
Of course, there were always the “knowledge hoarders”, who refused to give up their tricks of the trade. (I vow to never be one of those. Ask away if you ever have any questions.)
Never mind, that didn’t stop me. It just steered me toward hours and hours of online YouTube tutorials. Hours of me spent peering at the screen, brows furrowed, trying to understand how in the blue fuck they thought this was even remotely understandable anyways. And swearing and sighing. And walking away. And then trying again. Until I would finally GET something that had been eluding me for AGES. Euphoria, right there.
I was also lucky enough to have a close friend who was a bona-fide, art school grad, photographer. She taught me how to night shoot. I remember standing in the middle of the road outside of our cabin, sipping some wine and waiting for the right time to close the shutter as she showed me some light painting techniques. She remarked that “night shooting is like opening a Christmas present. You have no idea what you’re going to get when you open the shutter. And it’s always this great surprise at the end.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Eventually I felt confident enough to open myself up to critique. Bam. Confidence reduced to a sniveling toddler in a corner. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t ready for critique after all. But after sifting through the multitude of critiques (some people just want to criticize for the sake of it, it seems), I was able to discern more than a few valuable points that I had apparently developed complete blind spots to. I still hear some of those critiques in my head to this day when I’m shooting a particular scene. “No, try this. This scene would be perfect for it.” And I comply. Because they are right. (You know who you are.)
And then I got to a point where I could ask for critique, throw away the obvious grasping at straws critiques, listen to the intelligent ones, and disregard them anyways. “No, this works for me. I think I’m going to leave it as is.”
Because at some point you have to take on your own artistic vision and realize WHY you shot a particular image the way you did, and forget everyone that disagrees.
This is all not to say that I’m at a point where everything I shoot is utter perfection (and I’m sure there’s more than a few people that would agree with that statement). I’m positive that, in a few months time, I’ll be cringing and 86’ing shots that today I think are amazing.
But I love what I do, and beyond that, nothing else matters.
Still, the biggest thing I love about photography – like, really, really love – is that it’s an ongoing learning process. It’s a constantly evolving medium. There will never come a day when you or I can say “well, that’s that then. I know everything there is to possibly know about photography now.” That day will never come. Not only that, you have generations of photographic history to fall back on should you ever become disenchanted with the digital age.
So, I’d say to those just starting out, KEEP learning. And don’t expect it to come easy. Nothing worth having ever does, does it?
Happy shooting, my friend:)