Today I woke up being kicked in the head. I did not get drunk last night on New Year’s Eve, and the foot that woke me with a kick is not a colorfully worded metaphor for a hangover. It was a literal foot, six or seven inches long, attached to my three-year-old daughter, and it kicked me in the ear. January 1st (and the year 2019 thus far) is therefore no different from any of the many days of 2018.
But that kick, common as it was, did jolt me into wondering what changes I could implement in the new year to improve my quality of life and, in part, perhaps eliminate kicks to the head. The obvious first pass; I could build a cage and make my daughter sleep in it every night. If too cruel, I could buy a Swedish sensory deprivation chamber and lock myself into it every night. That may be the ticket. I could sleep in the basement, or outside in a tree.
One hour and two big cups of espresso after these thoughts had spun through my mind, I’d come to a more realistic resolution – I’d improve my quality of life by improving my photography. (There, see? I knew this photography blog article would get on track sometime.)
This isn’t a new thought. I’ve known of the imbalance between my business and my photography for years. I wrote an article about it back in, let’s see, January of 2015. Wow. Take your own advice, James.
The problem is (and some of you readers will relate to this even if the specific things pulling us in different directions aren’t exactly identical), I spend a lot of time writing about cameras and selling cameras, while I spend far less time actually making photos. When I shoot it’s usually because I’m writing a review, and I spend my time maneuvering the lens or camera into situations for which it was and was not built. This is a great and practical way to test cameras and create editorial content. It’s a bad way to enjoy and improve at photography. Over the past few years, my eye for the craft has suffered. I feel like I’m stuck.
My New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is to get good. Good at setting aside time to pursue more creative photography. Good at evaluating my own photography and editing out the garbage (which most of it… is). Good at considering other photographers’ works and what makes that work unique, special, and compelling.
I want to get good at composition, framing, light management, seeing in black-and-white, manipulating color for effect, and good at street photography. Good at the rule of thirds and good at breaking the rule of thirds. Good at waking up for golden hour. Good at holding still to eliminate mirror shake, and good at embracing mirror shake when the shot calls for a sense of motion.
New Year’s Resolutions fail for a lot of reasons, but chiefly they fail because they’re too broadly worded. It’s not enough to say “I want to get good at photography in 2019.” There needs to be an actionable plan.
To this end, I sat down this morning and bought ten photography books, and a hundred rolls of black-and-white film. I’ll spend as long as it takes going through these books, studying good photographers and what makes their photos good. And I’ll shoot at least one roll of 36 exposure black-and-white film per week, on one camera (the SP in the header image), for the entire year. Landscapes, architectural shooting, street photography – we’ll see what works.
The reason I think this will work is that when I’m shooting that camera this year, I won’t be thinking about talking points or whether or not the camera is good, or trying to come up with funny metaphors and insightful observations for my readers. I’ll just be shooting, and trying to actually make a decent photo. What a concept.
More than anything, I want to get good at storytelling through images. I’m not sure how to do that yet, but I’ll try in 2019. Wish me luck, and happy New Year to you all.
I want to hear your New Year’s Photographic Resolutions, and more importantly, I want to know how you plan to achieve them. Tell me what you’re going for in 2019 in the comments below.
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