In the act of making better photos, the ability to buy and operate a camera is significantly secondary to the requirement to have a genuine interest or passion.
The world presents an infinite number of opportunities to find what you really love and enjoy so go out and find that thing. Don't look at the end game of producing great photographs as a route of learning techniques and following a set of steps or rules. Yes, you must learn the basics, you must learn how to operate your camera but if you limit yourself to only that and focus all your energy on the process you won't create anything with a sense of yourself. You will only replicate others or you will only produce technically perfect work which says nothing about you, the life you have lived or the world you have lived in.
This of course might sound 'well fluffy' or like a regurgitation of all those inspirational Pinterest quotes but I swear it's the truth. It's why I have no real interest in taking photos of people at say weddings for example. I have the equipment and I know how to operate the camera but it's not where I find my inspiration, I'd do an OK job of it but I'd never want to slave for hours and hours getting every bit of knowledge I'd need.
To try and illustrate this I give the example of how I view my own journey with photography like this:
- Growing up I spent a lot of time outdoors in the Lake District and the Peak District. I didn't realise it at the time but I've come to love those places, and not just in a come and go way. I mean in a way that when you are there all you focus on is that place and nothing else.
- I lost touch with that interest and went about other things, growing up, music, making silly videos, songs, sport, eating etc all of which added more facets to my character, experience and approach to creativity.
- I found the landscape again, I clearly remember a first trip to the Peak District after probably 10 years away. I had been living in Sheffield for 3 years and hadn't even thought to go to the Peak District. On this trip and reaching the point along the A57 where Win Hill suddenly steals the view all those memories and attached feelings were stirred.
- I took a trip to Scotland for my birthday in 2009 to celebrate completing my degree. Again I reconnected to the landscape and the sensation of climbing mountains and enjoying spectacular views (we climbed Ben Cruachen completely out of fitness and appreciation of how long it would take).
- I started to go out to the Peak District more, I used it as a weekend escape when working in London.
- I wanted to capture the sights of the walks I was doing and decided to purchase a camera.
- Whilst working away in London I spent time on trains and in hotels reading photography magazines and online information to learn the basics of photography. I would then practice how to think about those settings when presented with various situations and I got to know the post-processing software I was using.
- Eventually (maybe 2-3 years later) when using a camera it became much easier to transfer my own vision and feeling into each photograph. A combination of using the camera correctly and learning more post-processing techniques. I spent time almost trying to be like lots of other photographers, replicate certain styles and location to find what I enjoyed. I experimented with different types of photography but none were as effortless and spending time in the landscape.
- I came to a position where I actively want to share my own style my own visions and I no longer try to make images for other people to enjoy, I simply hope that if I make an image for myself that it will connect with others. This provides a motivation to keep improving and learning, to keep soaking up information from all spheres. How to work with colour, shape, pattern, graphic design, cinematic tones etc. Everything you experience can then be translated back to your approach to the next photograph you make.
- I started to want to explore more landscapes and places so that I could apply my new found photography skills and not only document the places I went but really capture the feeling of those places or at least express my own vision and experience in those places. I got to know other people who share this passion and in some way feel I've come full circle from step 1 with photography having been my way to outwardly express this love of the landscape. I could ditch the camera tomorrow and still be happy travelling and spending time in the landscape. But if the landscape became a flat barren expanse of grey and the sun just shone all day and night then I'd lose a part of myself, my past and hopefully future.
I really want to share my photographs not to prove I can operate a camera and work in Lightroom but to show you how I see the world, what's important to me, where I find enjoyment and to see if we share anything in common.
So seriously are you looking at photography as your end goal or are you interesting in something and want to make amazing photographs that show that thing, people, events, places, the planet, other planets, flowers, animals, pencils, glasses, wood, skin, climate change, socks ?
* I'm not sure how this works if your genuine interest or passion is photography itself (mind boggles).
The single best Podcast I've ever listened to is the Ffoton Interviews Podcast with David Hurn, who probably conveys the above with actual experience and authority so go check that out here.
Sorry this is a no photos blog, but I so wanted to share these thoughts that the photography has come second.