It’s been a long while since I’ve posted. I’ve been unable to really blog about forward progress with the building, mostly because there hasn’t been much. We’re still waiting on the committee to approve the new colors, and until that time, a lot of stuff is on hold. That hasn’t been a hardship–which, I know, is odd–but simultaneous to all of this, we ended up with work spread out from New Orleans to Texas, which means Carl is running like a crazy person, making sure we’re doing okay. He needs to be here for the building stuff, so the committee taking forever ironically worked for us instead of against. I think all of that is going to get resolved in this next month, though. Fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, last spring, I applied to The Arcanum, an online photography school that used the mentor/apprentice construct to teach. The idea being that each photographer would naturally have their own path and things they were passionate about. Instead of creating a “one-size-fits-all” type of curriculum, the guys starting the school opted for a flexible program where each master/mentor/instructor can help each student hone their skills and then aim at their specific goal.
One of the school’s initial leaders is Trey Ratcliff, the first photographer to have an HDR (high dynamic range) photo hanging in the Smithsonian. If you follow that link and see his stuff, you’ll be gobsmacked by how amazing it is. Really, he’s just mind-blowingly good.
Our teacher is A. D. Wheeler, in our particular group, and he’s pretty damned phenomenal as well. We have a great group of photographers, all with varying skill sets, which makes for a terrific learning experience. I love that the Arcanum is set up so that you get a lot of feedback at every step from fellow photographers. It sets us up to learn from each other, and then, in improving in an area, we have to figure out how to be more articulate about that skill when critiquing someone else… and having to be articulate helps us refine our knowledge, which improves the skill… and so on.
Last year, for example, I went to a party at a friend’s house where she has an old car just going to seed in her back yard. I tried to get some shots of it, but there’s a lot of shade there, no matter what time of day, and I could never get anything that I felt happy with. This was about the best I could get, then:
After a couple of months in the Arcanum, I was able to go back and, even though I was rushed, get this:
The one thing that we had to do lately was meet up with others (if we could, it wasn’t a strict requirement), and go on photo walks. I balked at this idea…I’m a hermit. I’m a hermit for a lot of good reasons, starting with “I can work in my PJs” and going from there. So the idea of getting outside and with a stranger (or strangers) and taking photographs bugged the crap out of me. I didn’t like it, didn’t think it would work for me in any way, and frankly, figured I’d ignore it.
Then, while we were visiting our oldest in Colorado, I was invited along a photo shoot with a fellow classmate, Kelly, and I ended up having a wonderful time. Turns out, going outside isn’t horrible! Who knew? (g)
Here’s a couple of shots I got while on a photo walk with Kelly up near Minturn, CO for the first one, and near Independence Pass for the second:
So then, armed with my new brave people skills, I agreed to go on a photo walk with 25 other people here in the Quarter. It turns out, if you go on a photo walk with 25 photographers, there’s almost always someone in your damned shot. And since many of them were new to the Quarter, they were more interested in stopping and drinking than taking photos, so I ended up not getting much. Boundaries. They’re not a bad thing. My new rule is no more than 3 or 4 people, max. But I did end up with one decent shot:
I’ve just made it through the Foundation levels (where you hone your technical skills), and now have started on the next levels (where you get really focused on areas you need to improve AND start working toward whatever your own ultimate goal is). My particular goal is to do a lot more composite work, creating fantasy-like scenes with real places (like the Quarter) and using models and such. Which means learning all about lighting and angles and things that, right now, make me crosseyed trying to understand them.
I am having a blast, though.
I almost didn’t apply. It looked scary, it felt insane to be putting myself into a position where there were going to be critiques… because you know, there are some places where they believe in tearing a person down in order to build them up. I’m too old for that shit (g), so I’m super thrilled that this place has such a positive, upbeat attitude. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Ironically, the side effect? I’m writing waaaaay more now, and my creativity has shot up. I think that thinking in pictures and learning in one creative field got me out of the doldrums with the writing.
Have you ever done this? Pushed yourself out of your comfort zone? How’d that work for you?