Recently, Professor Jeff Curto dedicated a podcast to his idea of "the mountain". His point was not to keep looking for the ultimate photo. Instead, he suggested, keep your eyes on the path and derive your interest, effort and photographic results from that. It's a great metaphor, especially as we're learning how to build on our creative impulses. How can we get better without keeping our eyes directly on the prize, so to speak?
I used to feel - and I've heard from others - that's it's difficult to get out and photograph. We look longingly at our earlier successful images and yearn for those rare days when we can get out again and do the work that we think is truly the most meaningful to us. I think this is especially true for landscape shooters who are stuck in the city waiting to go out again. I think I would say that you can keep you can keep your "eye" and skills up doing some other kind of work.
I have been thinking about these points and took some time to think about how I may be working in the way Jeff suggests. After I joined my office photo club in 2014 and getting the bug back after almost 20 years of photographic hiatus, I soon found myself out shooting street and architecture images almost every day, weather permitting. Before I knew it, I had walked tens of miles per week and ran over 15,000 RAW files through my little FujiFilm X20 and a couple of thousand on my iPhone. Every day I shot, I imported the day's haul into Lightroom and tried always to post at least one presentable image on my Flickr photostream. In retrospect, I think I was really trying to keep my eyes on the path in Curto's jargon.
So what does this mean? Well, I have almost three years of directed practice in a sort of daily visual journal. And, like any diary, I can see my state of mind, not to mention the state of my art, through the photostream. Every now and then there was a ringer. Gratitude. Felt uninspired? No images. That's okay. There would be another day. Got tired of capturing people? Go back to buildings. Buildings got me down? Shoot the painted lines on the street. Looking for a challenge? Go back to people. There is always something. The light is different every day.
Light. Recognition. Patience. Timing. Capture. Import. Ponder. Tune. Export. Post. Enjoy.
It's not a bad way to spend your lunch hours and evenings. I'm not looking for the ultimate image but I have hundreds of journal images. A few are very good. I try to follow established rules of composition and processing but I'm not married to them. Always thinking. Always trying to do better. I don't always succeed. I don't care. There will be another day, another opportunity.
By committing in this way, I was able to continue producing images. I'm getting more intimate with my camera. It works. It's fun. I've made friends. And my anxiety about producing *anything* is greatly reduced.
Look around. Flowers on your dining room table? Your children or grandchildren? Even having the camera app ready on your phone when you walk the dog. There are daily opportunities. Maybe they're not your true love and might be difficult - photographing strangers in a major Canadian downtown as an example - but it keeps you in the game.
Now, if only I could apply this one-day-at-a-time philosophy to other aspects of my life!