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Monday, 08 July 2019


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We are like so many monkeys with typewriters.

There's one difference in your examples from other disciplines, at least for me: knowing when a photo actually IS great.

Perhaps I just don't get it. I read photography books and look at some photos, and I think "Are you kidding me? This is a great photo?"

Of course, sometimes I look at a photo and I see its greatness.

Because of this, my permanent, lingering fear, is that I'm rejecting and deleting a photo of my own that actually is great, even though I can't see it.


You might be good, MJ, but I can boast a genuine 100% record at clay shooting. Every shot I've ever taken has been a hit! On my first attempt, first barrel, I hit the target. So I handed the gun back and have never fired another shot!
It's a very different story to my shutter finger. I know some might survey the photographic target, find the best viewpoint and composition, wait for the best light or decisive moment and then shoot. The might end up with 5/10 good shots for the day. I'm resigned to spending time editing 200 shots for the day. I need to shoot as I work the viewpoints, the subjects, the light and compositions. The feedback from that takes me in directions I would not go if I stood and contemplated. It might be more of a scatter-gun approach but the result will be around 5/200. But my 5, I believe, will very different to a contemplative 5, for better or worse.

Way to cure any self-esteem issues! Maybe there's some money in motivational speaking for you out there?

In one of his podcast series Malcolm Gladwell did a story about a basketball player who upped his free-throw percentage by a large amount by heaving the ball underhanded, you know, the way a grandma would. But he reverted to his old style because he couldn't stand the shame. Peer pressure was more important than actually scoring points. I can't remember which season of the Revisionist History podcast that was in. I'll try to find it and send you the link. It's a fascinating story and I don't even like basketball.

You didn't mention that sometimes brilliant scenes create mediocre photographs and simple little scenes sometimes create brilliant photographs.

T̶r̶i̶x̶ games are for kids, silly rabbit. Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. Put another way, second place is first loser.

Who aspires to be a loser? Not me. I have a tin ear, therefore my only musical instrument is a drum-machine.

I've got a secret. I'm one of those photographers, who, once in a while, hits a great shot, right on the green, next to the hole. Not in golf actually, but with a darned good photograph.

My secret is that I don't show... all the lousy shots. Just the one's like "the pros" :)

But if you think about it, maybe many of the most admired photographers couldn't have competed in a photography tournament. And it doesn't matter. As long as the photographer just keeps showing the best photographs...

I've saw a "natural" in photography when I taught a middle school group. She just picked up the camera and knew how to look through the viewfinder and find something way more visually interesting than any other student. She was not good at editing, lacked discipline, and had other issues sure to make any pursuit a challenge, but her eye was far better than mine.

Good thing you didn't start the day on the driving range. (Or, did you?) That's where the best drives go to die.

Mike it's debatable that you can claim a shot in pool/golf/basketball etc is great if you don't understand how it was accomplished,can't repeat it consistently and under match conditions.
However with photography it really doesn't matter how a great shot was achieved, it's still a great shot and may not be repeatable as the moment may never occur again.

I believe the old saw is, "Every now and then, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn."

The parallel to photography has one caveat: simply that identifying the great shot in photography is not as simple as identifying the great shot in basketball/golf/pool etc. If a three pointer goes in, nobody can argue about the success of that shot. It takes a lot more time and many more eyes for somebody to get a rounded opinion on the success of a photo.

Personally, I've found the more engaged I've been with photography, the bigger the gap between my pace of growth in identifying greatness in photos and my pace of growth in the ability to make them. In other words, I become better but less satisfied. Maybe that happens for some in sport too?

Mike, I couldn't care less about any of the sports/games you mentioned. Of course, anyone taking numerous pictures can spontaneously end up with a good one. Occasionally. So then, what makes the 'Great Photographers', those whom we worship, so great?

[Well, not all of them are for every one of us, eh? I have my favorites and then there are people with substantial careers and followings who leave me cold and who I don't care a fig about. Really a matter of personal chemistry, isn't it? Like our reaction to music or sexual attractiveness, it's all relative and it's all personal.

However more to your point, I sometimes say that professionals are people who can get a B even on a deadline or under pressure, whereas art photographers get an A occasionally and C's or D's the rest of the time. It's kind of a joke, but there's a kernal of truth there. --Mike]

On the other hand we get to enjoy dreaming about equipment we will never own. Professionals are too well equipped to have that pleasure.

When I started drawing, I learned that my mind tricks what I am seeing. When I take a photo, a similar thing happens. The tricking in my mind is then worsened, because the camera ‘sees’ differently. And then there is the workings of the brain of the person who is looking at a photograph.

So one of these days I’m going to run faster than Usain Bolt. All it takes is once...
OK - that might be a tad facetious ;~)
But you still make a fair analogy, given the sports you mention require a high level of technical expertise, not just brute strength and speed. That’s not to say sprinting is without technique, just not the same degree.
As others have said before - thanks for the motivational post!

Should you wish to diversify your cue-sports, you could try Loop:
It happens that some years back I had a chat with the world champion in my office, without evening knowing this particular point of his fame:

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