It is hard to stay focused in a consumer oriented world. This week I struggled a lot with wanting things I do not have, so I had to remind myself that it’s okay not to have those things. Especially if it has to do with technology, which will likely be out dated in six months. The best way to clear your mind: use what you do have.
If you are a perfectionist like me, you are waiting for everything to come together, all at once, and in good order. But the light is never just right, there are too many people in the way, I don’t know how to run a blog, I’m afraid I will be embarrassed. If you are like me, you suffer from ‘paralysis of analysis’ and can never get started.
I came across an article by Matt Mullenweg a couple months ago; it’s what really pushed me over the edge to actually publishing my photography and taking this seriously (again). My current goal is to post a recent photo once a week. It’s a lot of work, but what I keep coming back to is the idea that I have to post something; it doesn’t matter if it’s exactly what I want, it just has to be there.
This way I learn from my mistakes. The other way I don’t make mistakes because I don’t do anything. “If you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long.” So I guess it’s okay to be embarrassed.
How do you distinguish between a photo that is good, and one you have an emotional attachment to? When you take a picture there is a feeling, or a thought, an idea you are trying to capture. Or a story you are trying to tell. When it’s time to sort your pictures, how do you set aside “how you felt at the time” so you can make an objective decision? Maybe you felt a certain way when you captured the image, or maybe someone or something in the photo is important to you. Is it necessary to make the distinction? Does it matter how “good” a photo is if it has meaning to you? Or is something lost when you have to explain a photo, shouldn’t a photo explain itself?
Sometimes we try too hard. I think that is because we think we have something to prove. Or maybe it is that we are insecure in our ability to create. Instead of trying to do something great, do something simple. If you lack inspiration, grab your camera and take a picture of anything. And, while it is important to see the subject from different angles, it is surprising how often your first take is the one that makes the most sense.
Since Ray Bradbury passed away last week, I have been thinking more about his work. He is one of my favorite authors; my favorite story of his is The Highway from The Illustrated Man. The imagery in that story is so vivid, I see Hernando in his field every time Bradbury comes to mind.
Today I came across a lecture he gave back in 2001. I couldn’t help but think how much his advice on writing could be applied to photography. His point about “writing with joy” especially resonated with me. I had to put photography aside in the past because it became too much like work.
I also like what he said about using “word association” to counter writers block. It is discouraging when you want to make something but you feel like you can’t. Over the past few weeks I have been going along with his advice of “just [take a picture of] any old thing that comes into your head”. It helps the creativity to flow, and I am often surprised at what turns out to be an interesting photo.
Some of the greatest strengths of digital photography are also some of the greatest weaknesses. Shooting digital is essentially free once you have the initial cost of the camera out of the way. Shooting film there is additional cost involved. Shooting film you have to wait to see how it turned out. Shooting digital you have instant feedback. It seems that shooting digital will help you learn quickly because you have quick feedback, but that is not the case. When there is cost involved, be it time or money, you are more intentional. When you have to wait to see, you will make sure that you do it right. Do you want to create better photos? Slow down. After all, who wants to sort through 400 photos after a day trip to the zoo? Think about what you are going to do before you press the shutter. Be intentional, you will spend less time wondering how it will turn out.
I pay too much attention to technical details, often to the exclusion of all else. For example, I will worry about blowing the highlights, only to end up with a bunch of under-exposed photos. I constantly work to remember the overall goal so I do not get lost in details that do not matter. It is important to understand the way things work, but not at the expense of the photo.
How did we get get here? This is my second try at publishing. This time it will be different. Or will it? After having burned out, this is my attempt to reconnect with photography. I hope to be transparent here, like other photographers I look up to, who have inspired me not to give up and to not become distracted.