Believe it or not, I used to be a runner. Nothing crazy or competitive (and I would never consider myself fast) but I ran a lot. I even ran (and finished) a marathon back in 2006 which was an exhilarating experience. After all of my years of running the one thing I learned about myself is that I never give up. Getting to the point of being able to run long distance takes time, training and patience. You have to work at it regularly, walk out the door and just run. You suck at first, but it gets better … and better … until you cross the finish line of your first race. But that finish line isn’t the end, because there are many more long, strenuous races to run.
As a photographer there are a lot of parallels with building up the physical endurance of running to the point of crossing a finish line many miles down the road and the learning process of photography. If you’re picking up a camera for the first time—even if it’s the most expensive camera on the market and the fanciest lens there is—you still have a long way to go before you’re able to make intentionally beautiful photographs. Good running shoes don’t make someone a better runner, they just help with the existing skill and training that has already taken place. With photography that same principle applies—put in the time to learn your craft and solidify your skills and you’ll find that eventually you may just surprise yourself with the quality of your photographs (which is always a good feeling).
Being a skilled photographer doesn’t happen immediately. You won’t walk away from a photography class, an intensive workshop or conference and have enough skills to photograph anything that is in front of your lens. I’ve learned pretty much everything I know about photography from picking up little nuggets of information in various places over several years. I also tend to focus in on one specific type of photography and dive into it 100% to get good at that one specific genre. My new adventure, and something I’m determined to learn as much about as possible, is macro photography and focus stacking. I recently purchased the Canon 100mm macro for food photography and I’m also using it for my personal work (like with the image in this post).
Giving myself new things to learn is my way of challenging my skills and building on to the existing foundations I already have. I know a heck of a lot about photography, but I don’t know everything … I’m still collecting nuggets of information and I suspect that I will always have room for more. In five years I want to have polished my skills so much that the photos I take today look like crap in comparison. And I want the learning and growing to continue until I float on up to the big’ol’ “Darkroom in the Sky”. I guess it’s not just a marathon, but a super-marathon … there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll keep on going, and I hope to see you hitting the metaphorical pavement along with me.