Just recently I wrote a list of hopes and dreams that helped define what I wanted out of life. It made me realize that a huge part of what made me happy was appreciating and creating beauty, which was why photography made it into the list. Well, guess what? There must be some truth to the folk wisdom that says writing things down helps them become reality, because for the past month I’ve been busy learning and exploring my new Nikon D3100. It’s more fun than I ever expected it to be, and the sense of wistfulness I always feel whenever I experience something beautiful is lessened with a camera in my hands. If I can capture something in a photograph, then that moment will never be lost or forgotten, and I can take others inside my memory and share what I’ve seen. It’s an incredible thrill.
It’s also a challenge. I’ve never been a gadget enthusiast. I have a five-year-old ASUS netbook that still runs on Windows XP, a Nokia cellphone with a huge blot in the middle of the LCD, and a 500 gigabyte external hard drive that makes mysterious clicking noises every now and then. And I’m completely okay with these things, though more than one of my techie friends have given me looks of mingled horror and laughter upon seeing the ridiculous state of my electronics. But now that I’m getting into photography, I realized that my blend of ignorance and indifference might keep me terribly limited. A modern SLR camera is a complex piece of technology, and if I can’t maximize its potential, then I might as well have stayed with my little point-and-shoot. And then there are lenses, software, lighting equipment, and so on (I mean, who knew there are actually debates about which kind of memory card is the best? A memory card is a memory card to me: blue and plastic and annoyingly easy to forget that I’ve left it in the computer)…until I’m just about ready to take up painting instead. However, my utter lack of talent with a brush or even crayons compels me to pick up the camera manual once again, then put it down in exasperation, and turn to Google for an explanation written in real-person language, not the incomprehensible jargon that the good folks at Nikon would have me believe is English. Thank God for free online tutorials, is all I can say.
Aside from the technical aspect, I am sometimes intimidated by how far I still have to go. The thing about being a bookworm is that I tend to gobble up information as fast as I can get it on whatever subject I’m interested in, which sometimes leads to overload and the frustrating awareness of how very much I still have to learn. (The more I know, the more I know how little I actually know, if that makes sense.) Then there’s the pleasure/torment of looking at the works of photographers I admire and wondering if I’ll ever make it to that level of artistry. I shared this piece of insecurity to a friend who’s a really talented photographer, and he responded with this insight:
I realized that he’s right, and that I need to be patient with myself. Photography is like writing, where you have to gradually find your own voice, and though I’ve been writing for most of my life, I know the journey’s far from over. I’m simply enjoying the process when it comes to writing, so I’ll try to apply the same attitude to photography and take it one click at a time. As an amateur, I may not turn out the best photos the world has ever seen, but it’s all about experiencing beauty, and that doesn’t require credentials, a portfolio, or even the most cutting-edge technology. Just open eyes and a willingness to see the world in a new way. I have those in abundance, and I know it’s gonna be fun.