The Process of Learning Photography

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Last winter I bought an old Hasselblad camera on Ebay.  I was admittedly in a bit of a creative slump and the camera was the kind of impulse purchase you make when you’re sure this new thing holds all the answers.  Some people buy shoes. I buy camera equipment.  I had never shot medium format film (except when I was an apprentice 10 years ago) and I had no idea how to use a waist level viewfinder.  Like any new love affair, the moment I lifted the little beauty from the box, I was smitten.  I loved the way it felt in my hands, I loved that there was no “on” switch and not a battery to be found.  I loved the seemingly endless creative possibilities held in this new lens.  And then reality set in.  The first time I took it out to shoot, I was convinced it was broken because I could not get the shutter to work properly.  I scoured forums for answers.  I watched YouTube videos. And I wasted A LOT of film.  From that first day, the Hasselblad has forced me to slow down and be patient with the process of learning something new.  I’m an instant gratification kind of gal, so I cannot express what a great personal feat this has been for me.  Over a year later, I am finally starting to create images I’m excited about.

The Hasselblad has reminded me of how it felt when I first starting learning photography.  I shot on auto on my 35mm film camera for many many years before deciding to take a photography class.  When I was first introduced to the elements of shooting manual and controlling exposure, the words washed over me like a complicated math equation I couldn’t comprehend.  For weeks and weeks of class I thought I would never get it.  And then, it clicked.

When I’m teaching Photo Camp classes, I like to remind folks that no matter what medium you are using (point and shoot, iPhone, DSLR or film), learning the art of photography is a process.  There are of course helpful tips and tricks that can improve your results, but the only way to master the art is to practice.  And then just when you think you’ve got it mastered, there is more to learn.  That’s the beauty of photography and why I believe so many people are drawn to expressing themselves through the camera. The potential is endless.

This one of the series in my 52 project (one image a week for a year) was shot in the window light of my dining room. f/2.8.  The only two images on the roll where I got the eyes in focus. Practice makes perfect.


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