Hammer and the Nail

_MG_0673 16x24 HP copy                                                                                                                                        Ken McCurdy

Stop blaming the hammer for not hitting the nail on the head.

Take ownership for your photographs and either learn from them or accept that you are the key element standing in the way of your ability to produce stunning images.

Unfortunately, for most it is an unwillingness to participate in the process.  Other than lifting the camera and depressing the shutter button there is no weight put into becoming any more involved in the creation of art,  the collaboration of a creative photographer and the tools they use , but expect the results to be more than hopefully technically adequate snapshots.

The camera takes the rap even though you spent thousands of dollars on the ‘flagship’ model and on expensive lenses that make you look professional even though you are now broke and struggling as the aspiring artist. Rubbing the camera bottle like a genie lamp and wishing for images that will make you a rock star photographer. Not very realistic. I have actually been in the presence of people who own expensive cameras but never bothered to learn the functions or optimum settings for a particular shoot.  Constantly cursing  the system, which for the most part will perform its function perfectly,  for poorly executed photography.

“There is nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy idea.’……..Ansel Adams

Professional photographers, who making a living with their skills, understand their camera system to the point that it is secondary now to the creative process. The focus must be on the vision the photographer wants to capture and the execution of that artistic endeavour.

If you think of the whole process involved in capturing a landscape image, for example, you have to start at the very beginning. Where did your inspiration come from? If your answer is trying to copy someone else to a tee, then you have to ask yourself a question. Are you simply in it for some kind of glory, ‘Likes’ or WOW factor, or are you actually interested in honing your creative eye?

What do successful photographers do that you are unwilling to? First, they stick with a camera system that suits their muse in photography.  Secondly, even if you can afford every lens in your system of choice, there is no need to carry around all your gear for show if you already have a plan and vision in your minds eye. ‘Don’t bring a gun to a knife fight’, it makes you look like an amateur to a pro. I’ve had to carry gear and packs for people who came on a photo hike with me because they packed everything, couldn’t carry the weight and in the end could have left most of it home. Most of us have been with people who miss shots because they spend to much time trying to decide what to use and unpack it. Some even pass on an opportunity because taking off the heavy pack more than a couple of times breaks them. All the while most of us are already shooting while listening to the questions about what lens we are shooting with, camera settings (even though we use different systems), use of filters and why they wish they had bothered to pack a tripod. This scenario continues because the person asking is not absorbing any of the information for future reference but simply taking a shortcut through another photographers vision and execution.

Photography has never been more popular, but has many pitfalls that bog down the process as opposed to traditional film cameras and process. It is easy to  look away or fall into lazy bad habits like learning way to many camera functions, learning new computer skills, overshooting a subject randomly rather than focusing on a vision, dealing with the impermanence of digital files, becoming a gearhead and unqualified camera owners calling themselves professionals because they purchased a ‘flagship’ system that will be replaced in 90 days with another.

The learning curve has to be completed, first technically and then creatively. If you can find a mentor willing to take you into their world be prepared to listen and for your sake learn what they teach. Learn.  A good student is hard to find but when we do take one on who listens and retains the years of knowledge about preparation, composition, light and gear and applies it to their own style then the student/teacher collaboration was a success for both.

‘The only way to do great work is to love what you are doing.’

Ken McCurdy/Cutter49







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