July 1, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

From elementary school through high school, I played the violin.  My music teachers would constantly tell me, “Practice makes perfect!” to which I would respond, “I don’t want to be perfect.”  Every teacher would ask, “Why?” and I’d answer, “Because it takes too much practice!”  I was ornery to say the least, but it was true.   I hate to practice.  I want to make that clear.  It is my least favorite thing to do.  It’s monotonous, boring, and repetitive. 

In music, practice begins and ends with scales while working on a small snippet of music in the middle.  I normally practiced alone for hours just to go to rehearsal and practice with the group for many more hours.  I practiced until the music became second nature.  I mastered each section of the larger work one bar at a time.  But practicing photography…I did not know where to begin.

Someone told me I should be able to operate my camera like I drive a car.  For a while I worked on that and made sure I understood all the functions of my camera and was comfortable with the controls.  I went out shooting as often as I could.  While that has (almost) stopped me from taking pictures with the lens cap on, that did not feel like practicing photography

I recently had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Guy Tal in a small group setting.  He challenged us to deliberately practice seeing a few basic concepts of composition.  He instructed us to give up looking for the award winning shot, but to only shoot when all the compositional elements came together without regard to the final output.  
This was my practice shot from that afternoon
And then it clicked (pun intended)!  I needed to practice visualizing an image.  I had to repeatedly look at the landscape for all of its parts and arrange them into a composition that meant something to me before even lifting the camera.  It was a revelation! 

Now I look for patterns in the landscape (big or small) that communicate the emotion I am feeling to create better images.  While I doubt I will enjoy practicing my photography, I will be able to endure it because I know now that I am improving the image, not just the technicalities.  

No comments: