Sunday, January 16, 2011


"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." --Lao Tzu

Or for me, with a single click of the shutter.

Another translation of the quote is that, "even the longest journey must begin where you stand."

I stand here, holding few photography skills, four cameras I know little about how to use, a robust but inscrutable photo processing application I have yet to tackle learning, and a wealth of information at my fingertips on the vast expanse of the interwebs. It seems I have everything I need for this journey.

Just a moment ago, I felt I had nothing with which to start this journey, looking into my viewfinder and seeing naught but the bleakness of my skill - or is that the vision of what I'd like to create if only I had mastered my tools?

Suffice it to say, I realize I have the tools, but not the skills. And that is what this journey is about - the long road to acquiring those skills. I've been wishing for them for years now, and never dedicated the time to really work on them, always wishing that it were easier. Jim Rohn says, "don't wish it were easier, wish you were better," and I do. At the same time, wishing doesn't amount to much progress.

I have dutifully clicked my way through 16 days of my 365 project, and like most things, probably like most people, already I'm looking to see some sort of miraculous growth. I don't see it. All I see is yet more areas where I could be better, things that would make my images better if I only knew how. So once again, I'm back on the internet, searching for things like "photo workflow in aperture", and once again, most of the time I'm completely overwhelmed with what I find and read. But I read it, and I know that as I keep doing this, more and more will make sense to me.

I wish I had a mentor at this point - someone who could tell me what I should be investing my time in the most, someone who could help me overcome by biggest frustrations and move on, rather than stewing along, not knowing how to solve the problem I'm looking to solve. Why, for god's sake, can I not seem to make aperture priority work on my Nikon dSLR? Do I not understand the basic purpose of it? Is that why I can't seem to get the dials to move the numbers in the way I think they should go? (Lower, in case you're wondering - that's the way I want them to go.) Or is it that my premise of framing the shot is so wrong that the strategy won't work and that's why I can't get the camera to make the numbers do what I think I want them to?

I am a member on Flickr now, and I've looked through the meet up seems easy - join the group, go meet up, talk photography...I just have to get over this intimidation factor. I imagine myself sitting with capable photographers, deer in the headlights, as rapid-fire discussions of various numbers go flying right over my head. So I sit, with my 365 photostream, and no friends. No conversation for fear of being completely stupid, completely clueless. Well, I am that; nothing to fear.

You know what I need? I need a private photography teacher - like a piano teacher, but for photography - for $30 or $45 an hour or something, have someone who will teach me something, give me an assignment, and then review/critique it and help me get better. It would be everything from technicals, to composition, to godforsaken processing which so overwhelms me. Someone I could sit down with, over a beer or a cup of coffee or a sandwich, laptop on the table, camera in hand and show me what to do with the equipment to make it work. Someone who could take me out and determine the actual root cause of my frustration.

I wonder if I could find something like that? Just thinking about it made it feel so much more possible. I bet I could - either the couple of people I know who are decent photographers to start, or even hitting up some of the pros at the camera shop down the street. I bet I could drum up something.

Sometimes, the next step of the journey becomes obvious by just talking it out.

Thanks for listening.


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