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Happy New Year! – What’s your photographic resolution?

Thursday 31 December 2009

So 2010 is almost upon us.

What are you going to do differently in 2010? What are you going to challenge yourself with?

It is so easy to get into a rut. If your job is secure and your family is healthy, we often find ourselves a few years down the line wondering what we’ve achieved. I don’t mean that we should feel the need to start a new life or make an impact on the world. It’s just healthy to be thinking of what we can do to stimulate our lives or our hobby.

If you work in photography, try something new this year – a new technique or a new way of looking at the world. If you’ve never tried shooting and processing raw images – try it! If you’ve never explored the nuances of black-and-white – try it! Try shooing everything for one month with your zoom set at its widest angle. Some of the trendier things to do right now include 365 Clubs (an image a day for a year) or, along the same lines but perhaps designed for those who have a day job – contributing to a 52 Club (an image each week). Try printing your ten best photos from 2009 then framing or “plaking”  or 5 of them. How about publishing a book of your 20 best images from 2009. Remember that family trip you took last summer? Put together a book of images and publish it – one for each of your kids so they have it as a reminder. But don’t try all of these at once. Taking on too much at once can cause you to drown in change and projects.

What ever one thing you choose to change or try for the first time, stick with it until you have mastered it. I believe it was photographer Minor White who once said that it takes a full ten years to learn your craft. It’s not a whole craft you’re learning, it’s just one change, so maybe you could accomplish it with some degree of satisfaction in two or three months. Fred Picker, another of America’s black-and-white photographers felt you needed to repeat a task 100 times before you could confidently store it away as “second nature”. He was referring to processing stacks of 4×5 sheet film by shuffling them in a tray of developer in the pitch dark without scratching them. While nothing we do today in photography takes that kind of care a dexterity (after all we’ve all learned Command-Z or Control-Z), there are certain skills that do demand repetitive training. Photoshop routines come to mind such as masking or sharpening or healing brush or black-and-white processing.

At this time of year, just about everyone who feels the need for personal growth is setting for themselves some kind of goals or “resolutions”. Even if you’re a hobbyist, try setting some goals for your photography. Write down two or three things you would like to accomplish this year that are within your power. Winning a photo contest is not really within any one individual’s power no matter who you pray to, so make them personal growth or personal vision goals. Have you ever done a family portrait? Have you ever studied the changing light on a venetian blind as the sun glides across the heavens? Have you ever tried night photography or stars or the city or the moving cars on a highway? How about puddles – have you ever tried to shoot 15 different images of puddles? Here’s my favourite – and, no, my name isn’t Rover – try shooting 15 different images of a fire hydrant. Or shadows in the snow; or a photo essay of your city; or…

A year from now, revisit those goals to discover where they have led you. You may be surprised that the pathway wasn’t as straight as you expected and that somewhere along the way you ended up in an entirely different albeit equally satisfying place.

All the best to you and your family for 2010!

— Terry McDonald

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