So Much to Learn

About the time when I set up this website, I also started contributing in my flickr account again as a way to drive viewers into this site.  I have had a flickr account for a few years already.  However, I started using flickr more only at the beginning of this year.  As I use flickr more and more, I realized that there is just so much to learn.  There are so many talented photographers out there that I can learn from.  Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming. 

Before flickr, I learnt a lot about photography through magazines and books.  Like many things else, I figured that I can just learn things on my own.  I spent considerable amount of time studying some of the masters’ works, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, etc.  Of course, I am far from learning enough from them.  However, when I got into flickr, I got to explore an even greater variety of works. There are just so many good materials.  Furthermore, many excellence photographers are willing to sharing their creative process on flickr.  All these information are just so valuable. 

I feel so lucky to be learning photography at this age of massive sharing.


Hard Work

There was this exam I took a very long time ago with hundreds of practice problems.  I asked a colleague for tips on passing.  He simply replied, “do all those practice problems 3 times.”  I laughed it off at the time.  However, by the time I passed the exam, I realized I had indeed worked through those questions at least 3 times. 

This week, the host of Photo Focus, Scott Bourne wrote a blog post called, How Hard Are You Working On Your Next Photo Project?  Scott stressed that simply nothing can replace hard work.  This blog post reminded me of the story above.

Of course, as I touched upon from my previous post, I have known this for a long time.  However, I am still very glad to read about this from an established photographer like Scott.  When I read his blog post, I thought that he might be a little over-the-top on that one.  However, I realized that, for some of the structures in Gotham Stones, I have photographed at least 3 times already.  It won’t surprise me that there might be more trip to photograph them again, and again.


Working on a Project

Even when I was a teenager, I knew that to be good at anything, I would need to specialize in it.  To be better than others who seems to acquire various skills naturally, I would need to spend a lot of time into it.  I would have to give up other things to be good at a smaller number of things. 

Of course, I later realized that no matter how hard I tried, there would always someone better than me.  However, that narrow focus of acquiring skills is still a very important part of me. 

Perhaps that is why I feel so naturally about work on a project.  Of course, I do go out and take pictures spontaneously sometimes.  However, working on a project narrows my focus very well.  Once I decided on the scope and topic of a project, the process of seeking subjects will start.  Things will fall into place afterward.  I can then put all my focus on photographing the specified subjects.  I find this process actually improve me photography.


Evolution of a Project

Last weekend, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and took a few photographs for Gotham Stones.  As you might recall, Brooklyn Bridge inspired me to start Gotham Stones.  I had a few very good photographs of it already.  So, why did I go back?  It turns out that those photographs are not suitable for Gotham Stones any more. 

Often times, I like to work with a narrow scope.  Part of the fun of working on a project is trying to be creative within those limits.  As I photographed one structures after another, I noticed various preferences in my photographs.  These preferences leaded me to change my focus.  The scope of the project was then evolved accordingly.  At some point, I realized my initial photographs of the project no longer fit into the project’s scope anymore. 

Looking at Brooklyn Bridge again from a different prospective leaded me to photograph it very differently.  That excites me.


Let Your Body Be Adjusted to Photographing

It’s often said that photographers need to photograph often to train their eyes.  However, the benefit goes beyond just sharper eyes. 

Last week, I rented a heavy lens (> 3lbs) for a trip to Boston.  That was the second time a rented such a heavy lens.  Because of the weight, I needed to hold the camera with lens with both hands.  However, toward the end of my rental period, I found myself holding the camera body and lens with just my right hand.  I was photographing for well over an hour, and my grip was still strong at the end.  My right hand had gotten used to the weight! 

Then I remember about a year ago, when I brought my current camera.  My current camera is quite a bit heavier than my old one.  The first time I went on a trip with it, the grip of my right hand was not even able to stand the weight (with a lighter lens) for an extended period of time.

Needless to say, being able to be used to the weight is very important.  Without a tripod, this is essential to get a sharp image.  As I photograph more often, my body is adjusting to the photographing motion: carrying the camera in my sling bag, taking it out, pulling it up to the eye level, stabilizing the camera right before photographing, pressing the shutter.  All these actions are remembered by our bodies.  Furthermore, if we do this often enough, our bodies will ever-so-slightly be adjusted to make this easier.  Just like playing musical instruments, you want to practice to a point where you will forget about the instruments and just enjoy playing.

So, keep photographing.