Tam resolves to take better pictures this year, and that got me thinking about my journey as a shooter, both with a camera and gun.
I had a photo-j teacher who had the most brutal method of critiquing student’s work I’ve ever experienced. He just asked “What did you want to accomplish with this picture, and did you succeed at doing it?”
That simple question would not only crush my soul, but at the end of each critique, it would leave me utterly convinced that should I give up my goal of being a photographer and give up seeing for all eternity by stabbing out my eyes like Oedipus Rex.
But I got better at it, and eventually made a living in the photo business for 10 years (more on that later). Having to defend my photos as more than just another pretty snapshot made me think about what I was putting into each shot. Why was I taking that shot? Why was I at a given location, and what did I hope to accomplish with my photos? Thinking about the shots I wanted to get before I even loaded the camera was a trick I could use when taking still lifes, portraits or even shooting the hectic pace of a pro basketball game.
It’s also something that I now do unconsciously. Even if I’m using my iPhone, I’m looking at lighting, background and composition to make them more than just grab shots. It doesn’t detract from the photo experience, but rather, pays off in photos that I believe capture the moment and will be a keepsake forever.
Now on to guns. As I said awhile back, I don’t just go shoot to have fun anymore, I go to work on something, be it draw time or getting rifle DOPE or a Dot Torture, and I accept that fact. I take guns seriously now, and that means changing how I use them. There will come a time, though, when time/money/effort will stack the deck against me, and I won’t be able to put in the effort to improve my shooting techniques. I’ll have to just roll with that I have at that moment, and while that is scary, it is is reality.
And the reality is, I wasn’t able to put in the time and effort needed to take my photography to a level needed to make a living at it. I was a *heck* of a photo assistant (the best in town, if I do say so myself), but I chose (and it was a choice) not to put in the effort needed to make the jump to tripping the shutter for a living. I could see where photography was going post-film, and I wasn’t ready to put in the effort to make it work.
Which is ok, because my post-photography life is pretty awesome right now. Yes, comparing snapping pics to shooting a firearm is ridiculous in many ways (even Bob Capa never had to defend his life with a camera), but in any process of self-improvement, you’re going to get to a place where you reach the end of yourself and accept your limitations. Mine was that I was a good photo assistant, not a good photographer. I’ve yet to find the outer limits of my abilities as a shooter.
Should be interesting when I do.