The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions. -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
I’ve been thinking… What is it that I have learned over the years that I have been an active participant in photography? Have I learned anything? Surely there are a few things that I have learned. Maybe something that others could find useful or at least interesting. That’s a different question than, am I a better photographer than before? Whenever before may be.
After reading a recent article in a back issue of lenswork online, I decided I should put more thought to this.
The following are some thoughts or more like realizations that came to mind while contemplating the past 15 or so years as it pertains to photography and trying to live a creative life. I hope you can find something interesting if not useful.
Lessons Learned From Photography
First and foremost, double check that you have all needed equipment before you leave. This includes food, drink, and personal non-photographic items. Then check again.
Pictures must not be too picturesque. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you find something of interest and you would like to photograph it, be patient. This has to do with the light, the time of day, even the season. But mostly it is about the light. It is better to wait patiently on the light in a good location than hope you are in a good location when the light is just right.
Good, even great images can be found when you aren’t looking for them. Experience does play a part in this. Experience and lots of trial and error. With the errors being the most important part. Failure is the greatest teacher of success.
Understand you will spend most of your time traveling, exploring, wandering, looking, thinking, dealing with odds and ends, and waiting. And very little time actually photographing things. The ratio of creating vs everything else while your out photographing is about 1 to 1,000 respectively. Get use to it.
When you get tired of looking for potential photographs. Just start making photographs wherever you may be. It’s amazing that once you start being creative how the creative juices will build. You will discover there are potential photographs everywhere. This can be used as a personal creative challenge as well. Pick a place at random. Go there and start making photographs. The act of going through the motions seems to energize the creative muse. It can be enlightening.
Make an effort, a serious effort to focus in the moment. Try not to plan your next location, next adventure, or something on your to do list back home. Just focus on what is in front of you and how it makes you feel. This is a skill that can be learned but not easily done at will. It takes work. Being creative is best done when you are relaxed and unworried about other things. The process of photographing can help ease the stress and the worries if you let it. It’s kind of the yin/yang thing that happens. Recognize how one influences the other as well as strengthens the other.
Invest in a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer.
If you are wondering if you should stop and make a photograph of something that catches your attention, do it. Trust your initial instinct. If you pass it by you will forever wonder, “what if.”
Double the amount of time you think you need when you go out in nature. It will never be waisted.
If you get tired, rest. A tired mind is not very observant or creative. When the weather is pleasant one of my favorite things to do is stop in a scenic place and take a short nap. And I am not even a big nap taking person. It makes the rest of the day just a little better.
When conditions allow, wait before you make your first photograph. The amount of time can vary but try to wait at least 30 seconds. During that time study what you are wanting to photograph. Ask yourself why you want to photograph it.
Before or after you photograph a scene slowly turn 360 degrees and view everything around you near and far. On occasion you will find something of equal or greater interest in other directions.
Food always taste better when eaten outside.
Take advice from other photographers about how to improve your photography with a grain of salt.
This is in no way a complete list. There are undoubtedly many more lessons I have learned due to my love of photography. Some directly associated with photography and some just life lessons. The way I see it, the more a person involves themselves in something creative the more opportunities they have for improvements.
To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. -Joseph Chilton Pearce