The first week
Okay. It’s been a week since I started this “one camera, one lens, one month” experiment and I’ve posted seven photographs (not counting Experiment #0) taken with my Panasonic GF1 and a 20mm f/1.7 prime lens.
So what have I learned so far? It might surprise you.
I’ve learned that my respect for professionals—that is, photographers who do this for a living—went up a notch or two. It’s hard to do this every day and still feel like you’ve got something to give—and I’ve only been at it a week! I am balancing a full-time job and family obligations with it, but I think those two activities map pretty well to the business side of photography and the same obligations to family. I work as a designer in the creative services industry, so I know a little about meeting deadlines and exceeding client expectations, but I’m not sure I want to mix that with my photography. I’m still very much on the fence about that.
Another thing I’ve learned? To give myself permission to suck. Most of the photos so far, while good exercises in creativity, are not going to win any awards. But they’re not intended to, are they? They’re meant for me to stretch my brain; to think about photography in a slightly different way and perhaps to open up a path that I’ve never been on before. Allowing myself the freedom not to worry about what others think of these images helps me toss aside rules and guidelines and play. I’ve discovered that you have to be a little selfish about this and ignore everybody else. Forget about what you think will sell or hang in a gallery or be published in a magazine or on a web site (of course, you can do that yourself now, if you want to). Who knows, I might create something that other people like, but that’s not the point now is it? Remember who you are and you’ll discover what you want to say.
I’ve also stepped a little bit outside my photographic comfort zone. This goes along with allowing myself to create some bad photographs—”wrecking some pixels,” to paraphrase Mr. duChemin—but it also makes me better at the craft of photography. If I put myself in situations where the light is unlike anything I’ve photographed before, or I need some fill flash—in other words, where I have to solve a problem—I add to my skill set as a photographer. There is an 800 lb. gorilla in this room, though: people photography. I am naturally reticent to approach people as photographic subjects, but I think if I don’t get past that, I will miss out on some great moments and great images (especially during my upcoming trip to Italy). I plan to work on that over the next week or two of this experiment, so look for some street photography or portraits coming up. (Crap, now I really have to do it.)
In the end, all of these things expand my photographic vocabulary, which is the point of the whole experiment. The more photographic “words” (concepts) I learn—negative space, leading lines, visual weight, etc.—the better I am able to build “paragraphs” and eventually stories to communicate what I’m trying to say. I’m also digging deeper to find out what it is I truly want to say and what I want to photograph, though you might not see that in the images so far. But I’ll get there.
I also want to take a moment to thank all of you who have been checking out the Flickr feed and enduring my Facebook posts about this. Your comments and support have been great. Thanks.
Now, on to week two…