Thursday, May 23, 2013

Practice your Craft

Portrait of a Bear (Ursus arctos) - Radium Hot Springs, Canada
Canon 7D = Canon 300mm f2.8L IS @ f2.8
It's not often that I have the opportunity to make a tight portrait of a large predator. In fact, other than my safari experiences in East Africa, I have found the pursuit of carnivores to be among my greatest challenge. Large predatory birds always seem to be just distant enough to frustrate, while mammalian carnivores rarely reveal more than a glint in the eye. So when faced with a fleeting moment, I want it all to be automatic. Here, automatic is not a dependence on some predefined camera mode but, rather, a reference to mechanical memory. The way I see it, the difference between maximizing success and minimizing failure is practice. 

I was a photo-newbe in the 1980's. Those were the days of photo magazines, books and film. Magazines and books were cheap, and film was expensive. As result, I spent more hours reading about photography and playing with jewel-like cameras than taking pictures. When I did shoot, it was like driving with my foot on the brakes. Fearful of wasting money and making poorly exposed images, I was a paralyzed by the process. As my income and knowledge expanded, so did the willingness to experiment. My skills and my vision are a product of the past, but the quality of my work has everything to do with the present. While there is little doubt that I've benefited from a thousand rolls of film, shooting medium format negatives, and laboring over a light box, this is not a requisite for today's aspiring photographer. What took years to make ten-thousand images can now be done in months, weeks or days. Digital is the great liberator and equalizer because each image is as disposable as it is precious. Once you've made the primary investment, picture making is free. So, if you want to be prepared to make the shot of a lifetime, work the trigger finger and practice your craft. 

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