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Author Topic: The more I learn, the less I .....  (Read 15823 times)
Stuarte
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« on: December 16, 2007, 06:25:01 PM »
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The more I learn, the less I find myself taking new photos or even working with my existing ones.

First off, let me be clear that I find LL and the LL forum to be outstanding resources full of helpful people.  I am a hobby photographer of 30+ years.  Here I have learned about more technical matters, aesthetic matters and issues than I ever suspected might exist.  And yet the net effect of all this is that I have barely taken or worked with a photo for months.  

Yet the more I read and see, the more I doubt my kit and myself and the less pleasure I have found in taking pictures.  I find this a strange contrast with two other hobbies of mine.  

I started learning piano a couple of years ago and have weekly lessons.  I listen to a lot of great pianists, and my own fumbling efforts will be far surpassed by my 11-year-old son within a year or two.  Yet I would rather spend an hour a day engrossed in practicing and fumbling through Bach than listening to great pianists.

Having played tennis very sporadically since my teens, I've been taking weekly lessons for almost a year now - until recently with a racket I bought seven years ago. My game is pretty inconsistent and here too my 11-year-old will be wupping me before too much longer.  Yet I get huge pleasure from playing and learning.  
 
Maybe I just need to stick to happy snapping.
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2007, 06:49:27 PM »
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The more I learn, the less I find myself taking new photos or even working with my existing ones.

First off, let me be clear that I find LL and the LL forum to be outstanding resources full of helpful people.  I am a hobby photographer of 30+ years.  Here I have learned about more technical matters, aesthetic matters and issues than I ever suspected might exist.  And yet the net effect of all this is that I have barely taken or worked with a photo for months. 

Yet the more I read and see, the more I doubt my kit and myself and the less pleasure I have found in taking pictures.  I find this a strange contrast with two other hobbies of mine. 

I started learning piano a couple of years ago and have weekly lessons.  I listen to a lot of great pianists, and my own fumbling efforts will be far surpassed by my 11-year-old son within a year or two.  Yet I would rather spend an hour a day engrossed in practicing and fumbling through Bach than listening to great pianists.

Having played tennis very sporadically since my teens, I've been taking weekly lessons for almost a year now - until recently with a racket I bought seven years ago. My game is pretty inconsistent and here too my 11-year-old will be wupping me before too much longer.  Yet I get huge pleasure from playing and learning. 
 
Maybe I just need to stick to happy snapping.
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So we have weekly lessons (and presumably a fair amount of practice time) from a professional in two other areas, and you're deriving some satisfaction, so it seems.  As for photography  no lessons, no professional help and a lack of satisfaction.  I wonder if there's a connection?
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2007, 07:59:04 PM »
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Yet the more I read and see, the more I doubt my kit and myself and the less pleasure I have found in taking pictures.  I find this a strange contrast with two other hobbies of mine.

There's not a lot we can do to help you. The motivation to make use of your new-found knowledge must come from within.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2007, 08:24:42 PM »
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Don't worry about your kit. Just go take pictures of something you find interesting (a piano? tennis players? whatever!)
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GerardK
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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2007, 01:45:19 AM »
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This should be the last post you read on this or any other forum for, let's say, three months. Shut down your computer, pick up your camera and go take some pictures! Then come back and share your experiences.


Gerard Kingma
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Ray
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« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2007, 02:57:43 AM »
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Yet the more I read and see, the more I doubt my kit and myself and the less pleasure I have found in taking pictures.  I find this a strange contrast with two other hobbies of mine. 
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Hobbies can be like mistresses competing for one's attention. Before my interest in photography was renewed with the advent of the digital darkroom and the exciting developments in affordable DSLR cameras, I used to practice the piano a lot.

I used to get great satisfaction in mastering (after a fashion) a Beethoven piano sonata or a Bach two part invention. I would practice scales and arpeggios endlessly till eventually I began to suffer from repetitive strain injury and would have to rub warm comfrey ointment on the elbow of my left arm, then dip my elbow in ice. (If one is right handed, then the left hand is the weak link when playing the piano. It needs special strengthening exercises.)

I found that the more I got interested in Photography, and computers which are essentially a photographic tool for me, the less time I had available to devote to practicising the piano. Something has to give. If you want to achieve anything significant, you have to devote your full attention to it.

As a general guide, do what is most meaningful to you.
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Rob C
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« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2007, 05:51:25 AM »
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Stuhar

I donīt find your quandry strange at all; on the contrary, I can understand it only too well!

I believe that the root problem is down to something which I have stated here to the point of boring any reader: were photography in the 50s and 60s when I was falling in love with the medium digital-based, then I doubt that I would have ever fallen for it to the extent of choosing it as my lifework, sticking with it through thick and thin.

The basic fault that I find, and which the fact that you have already had long exposure to the medium might indicate that you share, is that where it was once something that was simple to do well, the entire focus and skill of the thing being in the eye and mind, this has changed to the extent that you need a host of other character attributes to hack it today.

In essence, you need a technical mind more than you need an artistic one.

Before the alarm bells ring, Iīm NOT saying that digital has stopped creativity; Iīm saying that it has attracted an entirely different breed of practitioner.

It is nothing to do with getting outside coaching; it is everything to do with feeling motivated and interested in the medium. Advice? For what itīs worth, shoot film and use a dedicated film scanner. If that doesnīt bring back the buzz, then forget it as somewhere youīve been but donīt really want to visit again.

Ciao- Rob C
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Chris_T
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« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2007, 12:21:15 PM »
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The more I learn, the less I find myself taking new photos or even working with my existing ones.

[snip]

Yet the more I read and see, the more I doubt my kit and myself and the less pleasure I have found in taking pictures.

[snip]

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=161097\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Perhaps you can elaborate on *why* you feel this way. If you don't know why, do some soul searching first and let us know. Some possibilities:

- From your other posts, it seems like you stopped photography for a while in the past and then returned to it. What led you through that loop? Are you feeling the same way?

- You also seem to be just getting into digital. Is the transition getting to you?

- Are you feeling insecure about your kit and/or your work because others seem to have better?
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Stuarte
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« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2007, 05:19:25 PM »
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Thanks to all for taking the trouble to respond to a rather callow, navel-gazing OP.  

I'll be reflecting further on some very useful comments and questions here, but in the meantime....

Regarding tuition, I did a PhotoShop how-to course over 10 weeks (about 30 hours tuition) earlier this year.  Interesting, but technically overwhelming and yet more computer time needed. I write for a living and spend 8-9 hours a day tethered to the machine as it is.  So I'm sticking to Lightroom.

Much as I'm moved and excited by things I see - the visual side of life - it's probably my weakest and least developed sense.  My wife agonizes over exactly which shade of blue-grey-green to paint the wall; I see the difference between shades but I don't feel strongly one way or another.  I'm a lot more tuned into auditory (speech and music) and into kinesthetic (movement and sensations), which would explain why piano and tennis are sufficient unto themselves for me.

So I guess what I'm dealing with, among other things, is a desire to respond to what I see that touches me, but I lack a coherent "vision" or "point of view" in how I respond.
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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2007, 11:30:02 AM »
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Thanks to all for taking the trouble to respond to a rather callow, navel-gazing OP. 

I'll be reflecting further on some very useful comments and questions here, but in the meantime....

Regarding tuition, I did a PhotoShop how-to course over 10 weeks (about 30 hours tuition) earlier this year.  Interesting, but technically overwhelming and yet more computer time needed. I write for a living and spend 8-9 hours a day tethered to the machine as it is.  So I'm sticking to Lightroom.

Much as I'm moved and excited by things I see - the visual side of life - it's probably my weakest and least developed sense.  My wife agonizes over exactly which shade of blue-grey-green to paint the wall; I see the difference between shades but I don't feel strongly one way or another.  I'm a lot more tuned into auditory (speech and music) and into kinesthetic (movement and sensations), which would explain why piano and tennis are sufficient unto themselves for me.

So I guess what I'm dealing with, among other things, is a desire to respond to what I see that touches me, but I lack a coherent "vision" or "point of view" in how I respond.
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Stuhar

If confronted with choosing shades of blue-grey-green for a wall, then I applaud you reluctance to take any active part in the debate: the blame could last for years, whatever the choice.

The speech and music thing is very interesting. I love reading AA Gill, amongst others, and also take much pleasure in singing along with KLRZFM which I usually have on the computer when sitting before the damn thing, as much in wonder as in sorrow. But, I am incapable of singing a single note, any note, which might at first glance seem impossible, but I am assured that without a shadow of a doubt, that is indeed the case. So, my auditory joys are conducted in the main via headphones and within a closed room. On my own, of course.

As you will have noted, that gives me a fairly basic but totally coherent manner of dealing with audio! Also, it might go some way to illustrating that something you canīt do well - at all, in this case - seems ever so much more a thing of desire than it might be for another person not so musically short-changed.

So, in order to attain the same state of enlightenment with your photography, do as Nike says, regardless of how prepared or otherwise you might think yourself to be. Itīs the doing that counts: donīt philosophize, photograph.

Ciao - Rob C
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James Godman
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« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2007, 05:36:27 PM »
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Technical overload is something that can very easily occur these days.  I try to learn as little new software as possible and generally try to be as low tech as possible (but that doesn't mean that I'm low tech, just as low tech as possible).  I don't know of any software that can help you, but this book is worth a try:  Perception and Imaging / Photographs - A Way of Seeing (3rd Edition), by Dr. Richard Zakia.

Dr. Zakia was a direct influence on me when I had the chance to study under him in Paris in the 90's, and is an incredible guy, and most importantly for you, has written another stellar book.

But really the only way I know of to get out of a slump is to get out there and shoot and be open to accidents and discover new ways of doing things.

Good luck.
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Rob C
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« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2007, 02:01:02 PM »
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James - a unique vision and most interesting take on life.

 Iīm sure you canīt have a love for pigeonholes, but if that can be leaped over, then where do you consider yourself to fit? Iīm certainly not suggesting anyone HAS to fit, just curious about how/where you see your own direction headed. Is your commercial work similar or do you keep the personal separate, a pigeonhole of its own, in fact;-)

Ciao - Rob C
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James Godman
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« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2007, 01:52:41 AM »
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Hey Rob-  I'm not sure if that's my take on life or just a wacky way of doing things    I don't know where I fit, but I do enjoy doing many different things related to art.  I teach a little, I shoot stock (some of which I would never put in my portfolio), do commercial jobs, editorial jobs, make prints, and even paint.  I do these things because I love to do them (granted, sometimes I'd rather be painting than doing a certain type of commercial job).  Thankfully, others have decided I do an okay job with this stuff so I make some money.  I guess I don't consider myself to be pigeonholed to answer your question.  The commercial work informs the personal work and vice versa, the photography informs the painting and vice versa, and the teaching informs my heart.

I'm not sure if I posted this here before, but here's some work I've done for one particular design firm.  Seems like a fairly diverse array of work looking at it now, with some very simple corporate stuff, and some other work that was more fun with a lot of running around and being on boats etc.:  

http://www.godman.com/#mi=1&pt=2&pi=11000&...at=0&pw=samples

Here's some paintings:  http://www.godman.com/#mi=1&pt=2&pi=11000&...=0&pw=paintings

Getting back to Stuhar's original thought, I'd suggest that if you are working in front of a computer all day, try and take a break from it, and go outside, take pictures with a 4x5, process them in your bathtub, and then go make cyanotypes in the sun.  That ought to be fun.  Hell, I'd join you if I were in the UK!  Oh, wait a minute, its probably cold and dreary about now, kind of like it is around Chicago a lot.  But anyway, you get the point.  

I also believe that this is a really exciting time to be a photographer.  More tools than ever to do cool stuff.  It's 1:45 in the morning and I'm listening to a Radiohead album that I paid a few bucks for to download and listen to on some speakers I've got plugged in to this computer.  Its kinda loud to drown out the whir of this really big printer behind me that pops out these amazing prints, from these amazing scans that I did on my desk.  This stuff is cool.
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2007, 06:17:07 AM »
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I've definitely gone through "dry spells" when I couldn't seem to get motivated enough to take new photographs, in part because I was worried that I wouldn't be able to match my best stuff. It's too tempting to apply those improved printing skills to old favorite images, as your shooting skills get stale.

The best answer to this I have found was a column by Dewitt Jones in Outdoor Photographer a few years ago, when he related how as a child he and his friends would mope around the house bored stiff in July until his mother would kick them out of the house and insist they "go outside and play". Soon all was well. So that's what I do; I may be grumbling and unmotivated, but I'll gear-up and go for a hike in a promising location. Next thing I know, I'm all wrapped up in shooting new images, my ennui forgotten.
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klaud
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« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2007, 06:58:56 AM »
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Stuhar
Maybe abandon the digital stuff as was suggested and just go back to taking pictures the good old fashion way.  I'm surprised that you are having a hard time reconnecting.  You mentioned that you write for a living........there's a documented link between "seeing pictures" , images and writing.  Also the music and the photography are more closely related.   I find with the digital stuff you only need to learn as much as you're willing to use.  You mention that you've been shooting for years so I'm sure you take a pretty good shot technically.  So with the digital keep it simple, learn what you need to learn and slowly progress from there.  A good workshop goes a long way also!  Good Luck.
Klaud
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Rob C
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« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2007, 10:59:24 AM »
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I think these last few posts have all carried very sound opinion.

The point about PS reflects my own position, where I have managed to learn what I feel I need to know in order to do what I could formerly manage in wet printing. Having never been a fan of combining negatives etc. I seldom use many of the īoportunitiesī that PS offers in that direction, the most exciting thing I might do is mask a bit of something in order to make the rest of the pic a little different. Certainly not rocket science nor even PS wizardry, but it doesnīt matter that much to me just as long as my basic needs are met.

The point about reworking old favourites gave me an instant ouch! moment; been there, suffered the knowing behind what I was doing, but still have to admit to finding the trip backwards often leads to unexpected leaps forward from the same original. But yes, one should not abandon the new searching nor ever question how good it might be or not be. Given the same circumstances, would age really lead to the production of an inferior picture? Possibly not, with the accumulated experience to help things along a bit. Or, would that slow it all down to inactivity, too  much procrastination while the moment slips past one?

Do writers agonise in public to this extent? Is Californication based on fact?

Ciao - Rob C
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Rob C
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« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2007, 11:17:19 AM »
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James

Thanks for the reply and the links to more of your photography and the paintings.

I refuse to believe that there was no such thing as a free lunch with at least ONE of the photography clients!

Regarding the paintings, I find that sort of approach very interesting and on the good side of īmodernī if you will forgive the generalisation (pigeonholes again!), with one exception: number four hits me right between the ears with memories of Peter Beard photographs where he employs blood along the margins and into parts of the images; not that you have anything like that, but its an example of how once an idea gets lodged in the mind, it affects visuals in other situations too, just a smear of colour being enough to kick it into play.

From a photographic point of view, I wonder why Beard ever felt the urge to do that, why it even occurred to him.

Rob C
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dilip
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« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2007, 12:30:47 PM »
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Stuhar,

I feel your pain.

Photography, as a hobby (not a profession), requires that you want to lug gear around and requires that you put yourself into the proper frame of mind to see photos (as a profession, you don't have the freedom to get bored and put it down I would assume).

Take a break.  I often find that I do just that.  Then something clicks and I go on another binge.  Travel often helps induce the binge.  Visiting my family who assume that I'll take all the photos seems to put me in the mood to not have the camera in my posession.

I just finished a trip to Australia, and haven't fully looked through the photos.  I know that I will when the rest of my life settles a bit.  But that does mean months.

So here's the only thing that I can offer you.  Feel free to wander away.  The only thing that I would say before you put down the gear for a bit is that you should force yourself to go out and shoot with a goal in mind on some weekend.  It may push you over the initial resistance.

As for your gear... insufficient gear trains you to do things differently.  If I don't have the wide angle lens I want, I either have to back up, or look for a different photo.  Don't think of it as a limitation, think of it as a challenge.  Remember, the photo taken by insufficient gear is infinitely better to work with than the result of not taking any photos.

--dilip

Quote
Thanks to all for taking the trouble to respond to a rather callow, navel-gazing OP. 

I'll be reflecting further on some very useful comments and questions here, but in the meantime....

Regarding tuition, I did a PhotoShop how-to course over 10 weeks (about 30 hours tuition) earlier this year.  Interesting, but technically overwhelming and yet more computer time needed. I write for a living and spend 8-9 hours a day tethered to the machine as it is.  So I'm sticking to Lightroom.

Much as I'm moved and excited by things I see - the visual side of life - it's probably my weakest and least developed sense.  My wife agonizes over exactly which shade of blue-grey-green to paint the wall; I see the difference between shades but I don't feel strongly one way or another.  I'm a lot more tuned into auditory (speech and music) and into kinesthetic (movement and sensations), which would explain why piano and tennis are sufficient unto themselves for me.

So I guess what I'm dealing with, among other things, is a desire to respond to what I see that touches me, but I lack a coherent "vision" or "point of view" in how I respond.
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James Godman
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« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2007, 06:51:03 PM »
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Rob-  Interesting thoughts, and we all bring our own experiences and history to the act of viewing images (and of course creating them).  The fact that you immediately referenced Peter Beard when you looked at my painting is great.  His work never crossed my mind when creating or looking at that one, even though I'm familiar with his work.  The fact that you had a reaction at all is what I care about.  Even if someone hates the work, at least they aren't indifferent about it.  Indifference is the enemy of feeling alive.

At any rate, I don't know why Peter Beard smeared blood on his prints.  Perhaps it was to apply some measure of nature to the work, to make it more organic on a few levels.  But I do know that I enjoy looking at his work.
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walter.sk
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« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2007, 07:59:24 AM »
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Several thoughts occurred to me as I read your opening post on this topic.

1)  You compare yourself to others and fear that you will never be "as good" as they are.  Perhaps this is a part of your getting older and taking stock of your life so far.  But don't forget that when you see others' work (or piano playing, tennis, etc) you see their successes and not their failures.  We all have our shoeboxes filled with stuff that just didn't do what we wanted.

2) You seem to be a very harsh judge of yourself.  Being self critical is, of course, necessary for growth, but it sounds as if you condemn yourself for not having progressed further.

3)  I agree with other responders here, who urge you to leave the computer and go out and shoot.  Some of us seek intellectually to learn how to be competent at something and instead of our anxiety becoming diminished it only increases to the point where we feel inadequate and stymied.  This is because the learning has become abstracted from the practice.  Would you give your 11-year old a book on photography, or a camera?

4) You might want to try an experiment.  Why not go out with your 11-year old, each with a disposable camera or two.  Take a hike through the woods, or your town, or a city you have not been in for a while.  Maybe a zoo, where the appeal of the animals will inspire you.  Limiting yourself to 24 or 48 pictures, you will look around and suddenly see a shot that might be fun to record.  Soon you will become more "choosy," as the number of shots remaining becomes smaller.  Then, bring them in for processing.  View them as 4x6 or whatever the print size will be, and see if one or two captures the feeling you wanted.  Then, take your "real" camera and one lens, and go back to the same location, this time knowing what you want to capture.

5)  Stop worrying about your kit's quality.  I have lenses ranging from a $70 50mm 2.0 to a $5400 500mm 4.0.  I frequently use my 28-135 with Image Stabilization.  You can find thousands of words of disdain about that lens on many amateurs' forums, but many of the pros I know have that lens as well.  It is not the kit that determines the impact of your images.  When people look at one of my pictures and say "You must have a very good camera" I say "That was a wonderful meal.  You must have quite a good set of pots!"

6)  Forget about "learning" Photoshop, Lightroom, or other software.  Again, abstract learning is meaningless.  Instead, look at one of your images and decide the basic things that have to be done to it:  is it too dark? too low in contrast?  is there a jet contrail going past the church spire that you'd like to remove cleanly?  Then, one at a time, learn the specific Photoshop skills you need for basic optimization.  Don't worry about layers, channels, masks, etc. until the time when you absolutely must  use them for a given picture.  If you use only what is necessary, when you need it, you will learn a few techniques very well.  To repeat an earlier point, trying to learn more than you actually need to for a given task can only be overwhelming and frustrating, and convey the feelings of inadequacy that will extinguish the flame of creativity.

I hope you don't feel I'm talking down to you in terms of the skills you do have.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2007, 08:02:59 AM by walter.sk » Logged
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