Friday, 30 November 2012

On being a beginner

If I've been quiet on the blogging front recently, please forgive me. It's less than two weeks until the end of my Open University photography course, and I'm supposed to be putting my portfolio together.

Over the years I've picked up a few skills - I speak French and German, I can write a literature essay and I make a mean chilli. Photography is a different matter altogether. It's quite humbling to be a beginner again and I'm not sure I like it.

When I say I'm a novice photographer I'm not exaggerating. I've taken a few decent snaps in my time, but these have been happy accidents - an interesting subject or good natural light. I used a digital SLR camera for the first time three weeks ago and it's all I can do to remember to remove the lens cap. I've always been interested in the idea of a photography, but what with aperture sizes, focal lengths et al I wasn't expecting a maths lesson.

Perhaps it's being assessed that makes me compare myself to the experienced photographers who wow the on-line with Mumbai street scenes, lions on the African savannah and studio-lit portraits. I keep forgetting to measure my progress against the 'before me' rather than these masters of photography.

Then again, we need to see what we can aspire to and learn from those so much more skilled than we are. In the blogosphere there are two photographers I admire. The first is Denise at Solway Scribbles. She has captured some of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. Fontilan is completely different, showing the poetry in urban decay. Denise combines her photography with descriptive prose, whereas Fontilan lets the pictures and the accompanying soundtrack say it all. Both inspire me.

In the meantime I grapple with a myriad of buttons and dials. On Tuesday I took a photo excursion to Morecambe. There's plenty of potential in Morecambe, both as a writer and a photographer, with stunning views across the bay to the Lake District and also the wonderful art deco Midland Hotel. I went with the best intentions, but I'd forgotten how cold the seafront can be on a November morning. Camera shake was a definite problem, but I managed to brave the slicing wind until my fingers went numb. Talk about suffering for one's art...

8 comments:

  1. The technicalities of manual photography are a bit of a shock aren't they? Thanks for the mention -although over at OCA my sunsets would be dismissed as meaningless chocolate box images!But I'm sticking with what I like. Hope the portfolio is going well.

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    1. I'm submitting my portfolio tomorrow. I'll be glad to see it go. There's a lot to be said for doing what you enjoy.

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  2. I know I couldn't do this - it's all way too technical for me now. However, Rilke was all for the sensation of being a novice; he thought it was one of the great advantages of writers, that they always felt like beginners in their circumstances. Mind you, I felt a beginner when I left academic writing behind for more popular type writing and it was not that much fun at all to begin with! Do watch out for the comparisons - they sneak up on you and steal all the pleasure. You've got the journey to look forward to, don't let anything get in the way.

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    1. Perhaps our senses are heightened when we move out of our comfort zone. We become acutely aware of our actions. That's okay as long as it doesn't result in paralysis.

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  3. A photography course sounds very enterprising, but taking pictures in Morecambe in November definitely calls for stamina - I braved the Stone Jetty in November last year, and thought the wind was going to blow me and my camera away! By the way, than you for visiting my blog.

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    1. I love the Stone Jetty. Did you go in the cafe? That or the Midland Hotel are just the place when the cold is too much to bear. They're quite different venues of course, but both interesting in their own way.

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  4. I know just what you mean, Karen. Almost everything I do is brain work, so when I decided to take up quilting and do a City and Guilds qualification it was a real shock to the system. I'm sure you will do magnificently well.

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    1. Thanks Alex. I think it's the 'conscious incompetence' stage that's most unsettling.

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