Wanderings – Always learning

One of my favourite photographers is Michael Freeman. He is an internationally-renowned photographer with over 40 years experience in the field. He has photographed everything and anything, been published around the world, and is still learning. Imagine that – someone with over 100 books published, has designed university-level photography curriculum, and has about as much success as someone in the field can get – still learning.

Freeman published a new book earlier this year simply called Composition. Billed “the ultimate photography masterclass” the book breaks down how to make a photo look great based on the placement of objects and people. But it is so much more.

I have been taking photographs since I was about 10 years old. Using my parents Minolta film camera, I really got into photography in high school, and then in relation to my career. Among the first things I learned is you can’t take the same photo over and over again and expect it to come out differently. And you need to switch up your photography style so all your photos don’t look boring (Thanks Mrs. Elliott).

Over the years I’ve learned more about technique, placement, angles, the exposure triangle, et cetera. All those “blah blah” things. iPhone users just point and shoot with their phone cameras and say “wow that looks great.”

Sometimes my aforementioned analysis paralyses will creep in, or I will overly obsess around technical details and miss what would have been a great photograph – if I had pushed the shutter trigger two seconds sooner.

Reading Freeman’s previous books (I own 10) and this latest, I have come to the realization that I need to keep learning. That’s not self-deprecating talk, running myself down – just I know I should always work to do better and learn more than I did or knew before. This realization is more about not feeling stuck in a rut than anything else.

Many people I’ve talked to feel like they are stuck in a rut. The effects of two-plus years of the pandemic, restrictions or not, have gotten them down. Old routines were broken; the new routines established since 2020 are more boring than before. I feel that too.

Getting out of the pandemic routines shouldn’t necessarily mean returning to those pre-pandemic routines either.

Learning is a great thing. Not just for learning what you can do and how to get better at doing it, but also for learning what you can’t do.

In photography, I know I can learn and grow. Soccer is similar, I can learn to be a better coach, learn to run things better. But there are also things I learned about what I am not good at, or that I don’t want to do. Wedding photography is one of those things.

It’s been five years since I last photographed a wedding, and while that was a positive experience, I learned I will never photograph a wedding again. Actually it was two weddings, back-to-back that I photographed – no pressure there at all. I worried that I’d make a mistake, that one of my cameras would break, a flash card would mess up, or I would miss “a moment”. I’m good with my decision to never photograph weddings again.

There are many out there who need to figure out what they are good and not good at, and deal accordingly.

I realized eight years ago that I wasn’t good at running for office, so that has been removed from the bucket list – just like wedding photography. Other people should figure things out too.

Breaking out of the normal and trying/learning something new is fun.

Buy a book, pick up a camera (or your iPhone), book a bungee jump, hop in the car and point it in a direction and go.

Keep learning, always learning, and don’t do the same thing over and over. Repeating the same thing over and over again thinking you’ll get the same result never works. Try something new. It works.