Advice From an Avid Learner

Camping Myakka-30

Here’s something I question.  As an artist (photographer) we see things differently than others, and because art is subjective, there will always be works we like and works we dislike; I get that.  What I don’t understand is a photographer who has an eye for their subject, yet they don’t do anything to make their photograph exceptional.  I don’t mean necessarily over working it in processing, but just brining out details or taking it from a different angle.  I know I’ve been guilty of not doing much to photos, but I do try.  One of the areas I am a full believer in is learning, you must continually learn your craft if you want to be better.  You must have the tools to enhance and to make your photograph even better than what it shows in camera.  You must learn from those who are more advanced than you and have been around the proverbial block a time or two, and you must apply what you learn to your own style.

Here are some suggestions that may help: 

Follow photographers on social media who’s work you admire and try to understand why you are drawn to their work.  I personally follow many photographers, some are friends and some I simply find because I look for what appeals to me.  Join groups online and places like Flickr, NG Your Shot and a few other’s where you can follow the work of some GREAT photographers.  Join groups on Facebook, however, be warned if you post something be prepared for it to be torn apart by some not so friendly folks who feel their work is superior to anyone else’s.  I limit the groups I’m in to only those who are closely monitored, and where I can develop online friendships with some awesome people.

Join a club or group and get hands on with them.  Learn a new skill, take a class or just go out shooting with them; PAY ATTENTION and ASK QUESTIONS!  I love to teach and if you come across someone who won’t allow you to ask how they got the shot, then move on, be with people who are not afraid to share knowledge.  I shoot concerts and I am always willing to teach someone else how to get the shots I get.  Are there better concerts photographers than me……oh heck yeah!  I’m still learning, and improving with each and every click of the shutter.

Ask for advice, ask for critiques and always stay open minded about what someone tells you.  Have I gotten my feelings hurt? Oh you better believe I have, no one likes to be told their work is awful. However, I have a group of pros I know I can rely on to ask either for help or for a critique. They genuinely care and I trust them.   Leave your ego at the door, there will always be someone better than you are.

Stay away from photographers who feel as if they know everything and don’t need to learn any more; they are not the ones to help you to improve.

Be helpful to someone newly learning, don’t come across as a know-it-all.  A couple of people I have “mentored” over the past few years, are phenomenal photographers. One  is currently working with photographers on an NFL team and is doing quite well on his own, the other is learning and gaining hands on knowledge and improving daily.  They know when I critique their work or explain an improvement, I’m not being hurtful, I want to see them succeed. They will take their talent to new levels far surpassing anything I have done and I’m really proud of them!

Remember, posting a mediocre photograph on Facebook and getting the oo’s and ah’s and “Likes” from your friends is not a critique and can be more harmful than good; why? Because it will cause you to think you don’t need to improve.  I know this is harsh, but if you want to be a better photographer then you need to have people in your life you trust to give you the real, sometimes hard truth about your work.

Always remember “You are only as good as your last photograph” – Unknown

 

A Difficult Time

During the summer I don’t work much, I mean I have my day job, but I don’t get to shoot much and I end up just staying at home trying to come up with things to do.  I don’t do boredom well and tend to retreat into myself.  I miss shooting concerts, I miss shooting events.  I’ve done a few local bands, and I’ve taken on a fairly large project with a small business, but it’s just not the same for me.  In a month I’m heading for a vacation to North Carolina for two full weeks I’ll be in the mountains, breathing fresh clean air and capturing nature at her best, I feel this will be the renewing I need.

I know fall is coming and life will start to get crazy again and I will be in my happy place once more.  Until then… I’ll just keep going.

Music Brings Unity

Music is my first true love.  As far back as I can remember I loved to sing and to perform music and I even took a turn at teaching music.  I don’t get to sing anymore, but I now photograph musical artists as part of another passion; photography.

Music is a universal language, every culture has music and it brings people together in celebrations no matter what the reason.  I have learned something significant in being able to photograph concerts; people are happy when they are listening to music.  I photograph everything from Country to Hip Hop and I have found that people of all colors can come together, love each other and enjoy being in the same place with each other.  Last night was proof that multi-cultures can work together and treat each other like humans are supposed to. It was refreshing to be away from the political crap of division and to just be happy humans; A rainbow of humans out enjoying music.

“I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company
I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace through out the land
(That’s the song I hear)”

Writer’s Cramp or Brain Cramp?

I feel so inspired lately, so many things to write about yet I have a difficult time just putting it all down in the written word. It’s not because I don’t know how to start, or what to write, but the motivation to sit in front of the computer for another forty-five minutes to an hour after I get home from work is not something I want to do.  I’m on the computer all day at work, and when I get home even though I have a brand new shiny computer, it’s the last thing I look forward to.  I remember feeling this way when I worked a day job where I was on the phone all day, I would come home and avoid talking to anyone on the phone; I was burned out from answering questions and putting out fires eight hours a day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the computer, the feel of my fingertips lightly stroking the keyboard, and as a trained typist, I enjoy the physical activity of typing. I enjoy the look of the words on the page, the satisfaction of seeing something I have created being posted for the world to read.

How do I overcome this aversion for my home computer?  I thought getting a new iMac would be the key to my success; nope, it’s not.  What about the prompts I try to write in my Passion Planner each week, that should do the trick, nope it didn’t.  Then what? What do I need to do to bring it all together and get the words jumbled up in my head down into written form?

I have to understand where my head is before I can get my behind in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard:

First, I feel if I’m not editing photos, I’m not being productive, or I get lured away to Facebook land and there goes my focus.  Second I need something to motivate me, something to lure me to log on and start writing. And third, it comes back to the mentality of maybe I’m not good enough to do this; the negative self-talk that undermines my confidence.  Understanding the few things I listed helps me to see what I need to work on to clear my mindset. How-To-Remove-Negative-Thoughts-From-The-Subconscious-Mind

Addressing the first issue is easy; I have to put in my brain that I am being productive when I write, it is part of my overall business of photography.  Next, I need to set a timer and not allow myself anywhere near Facebook until the timer goes off.  The second issue is I just need to stay ahead with some good content, blog my activities and where and when I’ve been photographing, add more reviews of the artists I photograph and the equipment I use.

But it goes much deeper than any of that; My self-talk is not always kind, and when it’s full-on beating me up, the doubt slides in and goes for home base.  A good friend of mine Karen Zeigler wrote a great blog a few days ago titled “Tired of Peeling the Onion? Stop Peeling the Onion, It’s Time to Fry it Up!” (don’t you just love that title?) you can check it out here: http://karenzeigler.com/stop-peeling-the-onion-its-time-to-fry-it-up/

Karen has been a great mentor for me, mostly from a distance, but she knows how to ask those hard questions, the kind that open you up piece by piece and help you get to the meat of the issue.  She has a way of giving me the words I need to hear, even if I don’t want to hear them, and she uses her God given gift of writing to do so.   I’m thankful for strong women like her who push me out of my comfort zone to do the hard stuff; digging deep and releasing what’s been holding me back, “Peeling the Onion”.

Until next time, from behind the lens.

How Do I Compare?

Going to write this from my heart.

One of the most difficult habits to break is comparing my work to the work of others.  There are those moments when I look at my current work and I’m not happy, I don’t see the quality I want or the creativity I desire, and I get frustrated.  The work may not be horrible, but it’s not good, it’s not the type of work I strive for and I become really tough on myself and even doubting and fearing that I’m not any good.

I have to take a step back and ask myself, why do I feel this way? What caused me to underestimate myself? What can I do to improve my current thoughts about my work.

To answer those questions I simply need to take a step back and regroup.  Look at my work from a different perspective and try to figure out how I can improve.

Concert work is wonderful, but there are variables I have to deal with, such as lighting, venue and energy of the room, things I have zero control over.  However, I do have control how my camera picks up the light, I have control over where I point my camera and I have control over my own energy.  I need to stop making excuses and use those times of bad lighting to improve my camera skills, to work my scene and get the right angle even if I’m shooting all the way in the back, and I need to be truly excited about what I’m doing, and stop comparing my work to someone else.

 

Another Year……Memories

Most of the time I enjoy looking back on my year.  However, this year I slacked, a lot, and I have to make some changes.  I just didn’t get out as much as I normally do.  Even during camping season it seemed it was always interrupted with something I “had” to do.  I wasn’t as intentional as I had been the past few years.  I didn’t create good content for my Facebook page and actually neglected it.  I had something happen that set me off into the “not good enough” thought process, which in turn caused me to  purge a lot of unneeded stress in my social media life. But I would go out and take photos and think, “these are not good, what am I doing trying to create good photos when I can’t do it?”  I really had to shake that mindset; I am my own worst critic.

Life was  disrupted with a move in the middle part of the year and it was during a very stressful time.  I’m still trying to adjust. Then, in September we were hit by one of the largest hurricane’s in recent history. Irma totally upset my world, but I came out a whole lot better than many of my friends did and I can tell you I am most grateful for that blessing.  Yet, the stress was still there and even guilt that so many lost so much and I didn’t.  I can’t explain why it was that way, but it was; again I am so grateful to not have had any damage.

Sometimes life gives you those old lemons and it’s not always easy to make the lemonade.  In fact, I have thrown a lot of lemons away because I just could not bring myself to make them work.  Ever feel like that?

I’m looking forward to a clean start with 2018, I won’t make promises I can’t keep, but I will put a lot more effort into making it an incredible year personally and professionally.

Here’s a look back on what I did accomplish photographically:

 

 

Moving Forward…

 

I feel as if I’ve been MIA for way too long.  I have not written much since the end of April, because life took me for a loop for a while.  I’ve been stressed and really haven’t felt much like writing, always had good intentions then as soon as I would get home, my brain kicked off and I shut down.  I’m not sure what I am going through, but it’s definitely a funk of some sort.  I have been trying to figure out the reasons for it and have come up with several plausible excuses.  Moving; this was a big one, moving for me, being alone is extremely stressful.  I did have some wonderful help from friends and my youngest son on the big move day, but still I did a lot of loads by myself.  I think in the beginning of the move I really didn’t have a place to live, and had a lot going on in the photography part of my life and it sent me over the edge of being confused and stressed.  The next element to lead up to this funk is that I’ve not had enough down time, and I don’t mean just weekends at home, I mean true down time with being out of doors camping and spending time with my son.  My schedule this past season was so busy I didn’t have time to really release myself to the outdoors.  I miss it, I miss spending time with family, and I think that has a huge play in my current feelings.  And third, I just have no motivation, my creativity has decreased and I think it all relates back to reason one & two.  I am tired……really tired, the kind of tired that all you want to do is to stay in bed and sleep kind of tired, but I make myself get up, get dressed and go out.  Last night was the first time in quite some time I did photography for me, for my own pleasure and although I totally enjoy going out with my shutterbug friends, I felt as if I was detached and not really into what I was doing; this needs to change.  I took some beautiful shots which I will include as a slideshow at the end of this writing.

I need to get myself back to being excited and wanting to go out and shoot beyond my concerts, which I still find so enjoyable and exciting! I have the possibility of four of them in the next couple of weeks with one of them getting me away and in a hotel for a night….this will be good, because I can then take myself to visit someplace new the morning after.  I will not only be photographing three of my top bands, I will also be attending the concert as fan.

My energy definitely goes up when it comes to concerts; I love the excitement of being in the pit and challenging myself to get those near perfect shots, I also need to get out into nature and stop coming up with excuses on why I can’t or won’t.  I need to be behind the lens……..

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