I recently got a new camera. At first it was love at first sight. That swoony metal body! Those retro buttons and dials! The satisfying click of the shutter!
Until I tried to use it.
Why does everything look grainy? Why do the settings not change when I turn the dial?? Wtf is everything black and white???
It shouldn’t be so hard to take a picture.
I did photography back in the day. Like, with a camera. With actual film. You’d think it would count for something. Experience and all that. Yet here I was, staring at this hunk of glass and metal feeling like a total newb.
I bit the bullet and took a class. Dove deep into menus and settings and points of focus. Learned a lot. Had a few face-plant moments. Oh, THAT’S why it wasn’t working. I was turning the dial-under-the-dial and not the actual dial.
I closed my laptop and seized the day.
We went to the dried flower exhibit at the Cleveland Public Library. Tens of thousands of botanicals cascaded gently from the ceiling. An hour’s drive, and an opportune moment. I proudly brandished my new camera and walked up to take my first masterpiece. I focused on a palm leaf and clicked the shutter.
I looked at the image on the screen. Good enough for a first try. Next! I took another. It stacked on top of the first image like a pile of clutter. I took another. It stacked again. What was going on?!?
I dejectedly stuffed my camera back into its bag.
I came home and put it on the shelf. Not just any shelf, mind you – the shelf. The I give up shelf. The shelf where exciting new things go to die.
A few weeks later I went out to dinner with a friend. How’s that new camera of yours? she asked with a smile. I instantly regretted ever mentioning it. Fine, I answered, firmly closing the door.
I paused for a long moment. I have no idea what I’m doing, I admitted.
I don’t either, she confided. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her work. Just keep shooting, she nudged me. A little every day. You’ll get there.
The following week I took my camera on a little walk. A few clicks here and there. A few close-up pics of the sheep. Some strands of hay in the field. A few wildflower pods. I pulled them up on my screen. Not bad, I thought to myself. Not great, perhaps; but not bad.
A few days later, another walk. A few pics around the pond. The contrast of golden oak leaves against the gray blue water. The glint of sunlight on the curling tendril of a rosebush. I studied them on my screen. Dare I say, they just might be a little better.
I picked a wispy sprig from the ground and tried to focus on it. Its hair-thin curls were too small to register. I tried again. And again. And again. I balanced the camera in one hand and the stalk in the other as the sun began to set around me. Click. Move. Click. I shivered in the cool air as I skimmed through the blur of images.
One more, I promised myself as I steadied my hand.
And then like a bolt of lightning, I saw it.
The planets aligned and the wisps came into focus and the sun hovered on the viewfinder’s horizon. Suddenly, in one fell swoop, I got it. All of it. The shot, the process, the practice. The glowing ball of sunlight captured perfectly on a tiny little screen.
All of this to say…
There’s something you’ve been working on. Maybe it’s a piece of artwork, maybe it’s mastering a new technique, maybe it’s going in a new direction.
And, it’s possible it’s not going very well.
You’re ready to throw it out the window, pack it all up, or put it on the dreaded shelf.
You thought it would all be easier. By all accounts, it should have been. You wince when friends and family ask the dreaded question:
How’s it going these days?
Before you can answer, I want to pass along the bit of wisdom that was passed along to me:
Just keep shooting. You’ll get there.
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