Are Workshops Helpful?

This past week, I attended a photography workshop. The subject was bird photography. It was held at a location known to be a key flyway for spring migrating birds here in Canada, particularly for warblers and related species.

I am not a bird photographer – my nature interests lie in landscapes. So I thought it would be interesting to experience the event and to learn about this fascinating subject that seems to delight so many of my friends.

The workshop was held over 5 days, with each day offering an early morning and a late afternoon outing. Outings were only marginally planned, to coincide with weather, wind direction and the observed arrival of birds that day and the day before. Our workshop leader was experienced, with many decades of knowledge about birds, bird photography and this location in general. So how did it go?

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What It Means to be an Expert

I’ve had the pleasure since 2014 of immersing myself in photography full-time. Prior to then, it was a hobby, indulged in only when other things didn’t demand my time. Since then, it’s been the other way around. I can honestly say that it is the one job I have had in my life that I have truly loved. It isn’t really a job, either, for the simple reason that I don’t depend on income from it to live.

You approach things differently when you love doing them. Everything about the subject fascinates you – even the mundane can have some appeal. But for me, every time I learn something new and am able to apply it, it’s better than anything else in the world (except family, friends, health and comfort, of course).

Acquiring lots of knowledge eventually labels you an “expert” and someone said that in reference to me the other day. I immediately corrected them and said I was still learning. But yes, in that particular area, I had pretty much figured it out. I stopped to think what it means to be an “expert”. The answer is interesting.

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Attending Online Photography Conferences

With the second year of Covid lockdowns and restrictions upon us, many photography professionals have turned to online delivery of presentations and workshops. Whole multi-day online conferences have emerged, bringing together talent from across the world. These professionals have innovated and adjusted, bringing what would normally involve hands-on guidance to the small screen.

As the Program Director for our local camera club, I have had two “challenges” arising from the lockdown. The first is providing meaningful events and entertainment to our club membership online. The second is finding ways to transfer knowledge when hands-on in-person options don’t exist. These new photography conferences would seem to serve both purposes amazingly well. Or do they?

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Jumping Into the Deep End

Senior CitizenI’ve decided in 2021 to step out of my comfort zone and try new things.  Why?  The residue of 2020 and its horrible effect on my well-being, plus the fact that in 2021, I will officially become a senior citizen.  Both have been and are scary.  But in some way, both have inspired me to fight back.  Getting older reveals obvious changes in body and mind, and I want to control both of those if I can.  My biggest fear, revealed only to all of you, is that I might start to lose my rationale self, lose my curiosity about the world and start to forget people, places and events.  There is a history of that in my family.  I can’t have that happen.  What better way to address that than to try new things, learning as I go, keeping the mind fresh and tuned.  So what’s the plan? Continue reading “Jumping Into the Deep End”

Getting Inside My Head – Learning New Things When Older

PhotoshopI’ve set myself a goal for the next year to become more proficient at Photoshop.  I use a variety of editing tools now, most of which are slider-based.  You move a slider and watch what happens on the screen.  The sliders in most applications are laid out in a nice orderly fashion, and you can literally move from top to bottom and achieve a well-edited well-presented image.

Photoshop is not remotely like that.  It’s like making pizza with every ingredient possible available to you in small containers on the kitchen counter.  There is some semblance of order (Camera Raw, basic exposure adjustments, image cleanup) but once past this, the choices become ridiculously complex, with the opportunity to create whole new “flavours” of pizza by taking previously used flavours and combining them in whole new ways.  No cookbooks, just imagination and an ability to reason how things might go together.

shutterstock_262945148Add to that the challenge of learning something new as an older adult.  We don’t absorb information the same way as we did as a child.  We don’t necessarily retain it even when learned.  Memory declines in uneven ways too – with muscle memory and the memory of physically doing things changing at rates different from the memory of reciting things or recollection.  So I’m not only setting a goal but trying to find the best method to accomplish it. Continue reading “Getting Inside My Head – Learning New Things When Older”

Photographers I Admire

To be a good photographer is to be a lifelong student of the craft.  There is no such thing as a photographer that knows it all.  Even if you are the most technically proficient expert around, the art of photography is something that needs attention for as long as you shoot.

I’ve noticed an evolution of my abilities and interests over the 4 years since I took to this seriously.  I’m not bragging.  Far from it.  Some things have become second nature while others send me down a rabbit hole of discovery, wrong turns and sometimes an “ah-ha” moment.  But the most mind-intensive introspection, for me, occurs when I’m examining the work of other photographers.  I’ve come to realize that this is a good thing, even if it leaves me with more questions than answers. Continue reading “Photographers I Admire”

Some Inspiration…

One of the joys of photography is simply the chance to talk to other photographers.  So many topics to indulge, so many experiences to compare.  And of course, best of all, the chance to admire good work.

I had the pleasure yesterday of attending a talk at our local camera club by Kas Stone, a Canadian photographer based in Nova Scotia.  In addition to her work as a landscape and nature photographer, she regularly teaches, holds workshops and speaks to groups like ours about the art of photography.  Continue reading “Some Inspiration…”