It's Like Learning To Read Music
I like to think I'm a pretty good Photographer. Like many people who swim in the artistic waters I find that I am frequently frustrated with my own work. I think all artists get frustrated. Even the greats. In his interview with the great New York photography maestro, Jay Maisel, Scott Kelby asked him if he too ever got frustrated, to which Maisel answered "I do, but on another level" (I'm paraphrasing). For me, much of my photographic training has been self thought. I am pretty good at most things, but there are certain areas of my skill set where I still lack knowledge. When it comes to the technicalities of exposure and composition I'm more instinctive rather than technical. Of course there's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it feels like I'm just winging it. In a way, I'm like a musician who learned to play his or her instrument by ear. Now I want to learn to read music (if you follow the metaphor) Anyway, as I've begun to try and fill in those gaps, it's led me to a few realisations.
First of all, as an artist you're never done learning. It's always worth your while looking at new approaches or trying things outside your comfort zone. For me, I have what some would say is a bad bad habit of primarily using aperture priority for everything. In a way this has led me to many frustrations. Good and all as Aperture Priority mode is, and I know many people use this most of the time, it does have one drawback. You have to either keep re-framing your shot very time you take a meter reading, and hitting the AE-L lock. Whereas, in manual, you meter for a scene once and then you don't need to do it again until the light changes or you move on. I always knew this, but it goes to show how easy it is to get into a bad habit.
So the first set of tasks I set myself was to get out of that habit and go back to primarily using manual. This led me to my second realisation. Sometimes, it's good to get out and just shoot for the sake of brushing up on your skills. Sometimes I think there is the pressure to capture great shots every time. I think a lot of this comes from forums where people berate others for posting "snapshots" even if it's just to illustrate a point. Anyway, It's quite a freeing experience, and it's good to practise.
The funny thing is too, that once you stop trying too hard, all sorts of things start to present themselves to you. Anyway, you're probably wondering what the point of all the is? It's simple. Sometimes it's good to take pictures just to improve your skills, and to get some practise. They don't have to be earth shattering and they don't have to be high art. Just enjoy the process and learn a thing or two while you're at it. Here's a few more from my little trip down "manual exposure lane". I hope you enjoy. They're not award winning material by any means, but I had fun taking them and sometimes that's all that matters.