Saturday, 19 October 2013

Training the eye

I think there is too much emphasis placed on raw talent or natural ability these days.  Yes, there are a small number of people in the world endowed with such an effortless ability in their craft that it should rightly be defined as "genius."  For the rest of us, it's about work.

When a novel moves the soul, when a song touches the spirit, when a photograph becomes a work of art - it is because an artist has humbled themselves to realize that artistry takes practice.  It also takes learning from others.  You cannot write a book if you do not read.  You can not compose a song if you do not listen to music. You cannot frame a photograph if you do not study composition.

I have learned this lesson because of my desire to jump into things that are completely new to me.  When I wanted to build a clubhouse for the boys, I had no experience in doing such at all.  So I read and I watched.  I watched YouTube videos and read how-to books.  And I watched constructions sites.  Yes, although it might seem odd, there were many walks that I slowed the stroller down and stared at how the house frames were being assembled and the order of materials.  Then I invited someone who knew what they were doing to mentor me, assist me, guide me in the steps to take and the tools to use, and then let me go at it myself.

Right now I am training my eye in photography.  Sadly, I did not take as much advantage of my university education in the camera as I should have.  Ten years ago I was caught up in writing, directing, producing, casting and assistant directing.  There were some very talented professors and students around me from whom I could have learned a great deal.  I don't blame myself, though, because I was not wasting my education - I was simply learning from different masters in different areas.

Now, however, I am dusting off what I did learn, what is tucked away in the reaches of my memory.  I'm surprised at how much is there, at how much I recall, at how much more I understand those lessons now.  I remember some photographers talking about the different qualities of light, and my untrained eye simply didn't understand.  "Sun is sun" I thought, other than the obvious differences between daylight and sunrise/sunset.  Now, each day when I look outside, I see the more subtle blends and casts of the sunlight.  Then, when I was preoccupied in framing a scene, I wasn't thinking of each frame as a painting.  Now, I understand just how important the scene around your subject is, and how difficult it can be to find a perfect backdrop.

Now I am starting to really see photographs and have an instinct for those in which all the elements come together to create a work of art.  I find myself studying these images, dissecting them, asking where the light comes from and what kind of light it is, what to include and exclude in a frame, how to choose the colours and objects for your setting.  I don't feel empowered by my craft, I feel humbled by the works of others.  Each set of photographs I take are leaps and bounds from the previous set, and I often wonder how I could have loved my past work so much when I see how lacking they are.  I have far, so far to go, but I am enjoying the training beyond measure.

(This winter I also hope to train myself further in writing, however this is a much more daunting task for me, and one in which I am not nearly humble enough to begin yet.)

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