New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think I ever kept one! In truth, I think I forget about them after a month or so. Why? Being lazy is a big reason. Getting too comfortable in my ways. Change is hard, especially when we’re comfortable. But the reality is usually this: I just think I’m comfortable. Routine can be easily confused with comfort. Being set in your ways does not necessarily equal comfort. Not only that, but it leads to stagnation. No change. No growth. No evolution.
But I speak for myself, not for everyone. Some people may not need change, but I know I do. Not only as a person, but as a Street Hunter. For a little while now, I’ve felt I hit a wall with my photography. The same places. The same routines. The same style. The same shot. And worse yet, shooting less frequently. All these things can lead to creative death. And that can put someone on the fast track to just giving up on photography altogether. And that is, by far, the worst case scenario.
That being said, I made myself some promises in regards to my photography. Resolutions for this new year. Some will be easy to work at, some, maybe not. But I’m going to work at them with vigor and hopefully get the ship righted and on course. Let me share them with you!
1. Back to basics
By going back to the basics, I mean just that… working on the fundamentals of photography. Aperture. Shutter Speed. ISO. Exposure. Composition. All that business.
Listen, I see myself maybe a hair above the average snapshooter. When Spyros and I started the Street Hunters train a rollin’, I was still very green. A rookie. Wet behind the ears. Previously shooting rusty things, trains, animals and abandoned places. I knew squat about photography, much less street photography. But I stayed on the train and kept stoking the fire. And I’ve learned a lot! But, I’ve come to realize there’s so much yet to learn. So very much.
Truthfully, I haven’t spent enough time working on the fundamentals, the basics. The real nuts and bolts. I haven’t had any formal instruction in regards to photography, and, in a way I regret that. However, there’s something said about just having at it. Garage band, punk rock style. Jumping in and bashing it out, taking shots and learning your way in an unstructured fashion.
However, the guerrilla school of photography can only take you so far, I believe. I’ve enjoyed my hot, torrid love affair with street photography, but now it’s time to make this relationship work. To make it last. And the only way to do that is by going back to the basics. Not abandoning what I’ve picked up along the way, but solidifying it with the fundamentals. And there’s a few ways to make this work…
2. Get out more
This is simple. GET OUT AND SHOOT MORE.
Half of last year was lost for me with street photography. I had some crazy physical setbacks (torn rotator cuff and bicep and a herniated disc) that put me out commission. That can do damage on your psyche, for sure. But now I’m on the mend and I’m itching. Itching to snap that shutter. Practice is the key, and now that I’m a little less broken, there are no excuses to not get out there and shoot.
Plus, the dogs and cats are getting tired of me snapping them.
3. Shoot other things/experiment
In conjunction with shooting more, I really need to shoot other things than what is defined as “street” in my book.
I’ve dug myself into a hole with Street Hunting. Seems to me that every shot needs to include a face or a figure. Are those common denominators in defining street photography? I don’t think they are, so why limit myself?
For example, how about just hands? I’ve never gone out with the goal of shooting just hands. Or focusing on a particular color. Or shots without a human element in them altogether? Those are just a few examples of things I need to try more.
And experiment. I’m a big fan of shooting wide open, of isolating the subject. But I’m thinking that I’ve become rather short-sighted on doing this and maybe I’m limiting myself. It’s time to try some different apertures, some different perspectives. Sometimes a moment gives you different opportunities as a photographer, different ways to shoot it. I need to take advantage of that.
And then there’s color. I’m a maniac for monochrome, but there’s a world of color out there, too. I’m promising myself to try more color. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, Andrew. We’ll ease into it. Baby steps. Color seems to be my nemesis. Either that or mono rules me with an iron fist, forcing me to see in black and white. Like I said… we’ll take baby steps here.
And I’m not going to limit myself to just street photography. I think it’s going to be important to try other things, like portraits. To keep my eyes fresh. To break it up. And shooting at night, another nemesis. The area I live in doesn’t present much opportunity for street hunting at night, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go out and practice when the sun goes down. Sharpen that skill set for when there is a chance for a night hunt in a bigger city like Baltimore or Philadelphia.
4. Get organised
My camera bag is neat and tidy. Organized. Everything in it’s place, and I can reach in there, blind, and find what I need.
So why is my digital life a complete mess?
Pictures are scattered here and there. Different files. Even on different computers! It’s embarrassing, really. I’m ashamed to even mention it. It hangs over my head like an ominous black cloud. And the lack of organization does NOT compliment my practice of letting pictures “marinate” AT ALL. Going back, sifting though hundreds of images, looking for the one shot I remembered… it’s an exercise in frustration. I scroll through, hoping to get lucky and find an image from the same timeframe. Like I said, it’s quite embarrassing.
I have a powerful organizational tool in Lightroom at my disposal. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it… I need to learn it and use it. There’s instructional videos all over the web and I even have a book on it that’s barely been cracked.
No excuses, this needs to be done.
5. Get flashy
Over this past year, I’ve come to really like street work that I’ve seen done with flash. Working with flash is something completely foreign to me, but I am interested and would like to give it a whirl. I don’t think I’m about to, nor do I want to, become another Bruce Gilden copycat, but I like the look and would like to experiment with it. Perhaps I can piggyback this on top off the “getting back to basics” resolution.
6. Forget about being cool
“I wonder if a lot of people will like this shot?”
Stop it, Andrew. Seriously. Forget about the likes, pluses and little hearts.
I firmly believe that as much as I say things like that, there’s always a little nugget buried in my (our) psyche that yearns for social media adulation. In this sense, we are products of our environment. Sharing is awesome, that’s what brings us together. It inspires us. It allows us to get feedback on our work. It turns us on to other’s work.
But there is the ego-stroking trap that, if left unchecked, can stunt creative growth. If I get too concerned about presenting work that everyone will fall in love with, then what’s the point? I’m just letting myself down. I’m operating on a level that isn’t helping to fuel what drives me. I need to work on satisfying myself and not anyone else. That’s where the real satisfaction is… in the soul, not in cyberspace.
7. Get healthier
Last, and definitely not least, I need to get healthier. The past year’s physical maladies made me face the cold, hard truth: I’m not a young man anymore. I need to make some lifestyle changes. Drop weight. Quit smoking. Exercise. All that no-fun stuff.
Taking better care of myself factors into street photography as well. I look back on all the time I was out of action last year, and I’m sure I could have been back in action sooner if I was in better shape. Also, that’s no doubt that shedding some pounds and giving up the smokes would keep me out on the streets longer. Pounding pavement. Less breaks.
This resolution needs to be kept for a multitude of reasons, with none being less important than the other. But they all lead back to my well-being and to the well-being of those around me. It will be the toughest to keep. That’s reality. However I need to remind myself that it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s about happiness. And I can use my love of street photography as motivation. Motivation to stay active and to keep on track.
So they they are, my personal Street Hunter New Year’s resolutions. Maybe there’s a tall order or two in there, but none are too unrealistic. I tried to make these promises I could keep.
I believe there’s no sense in setting completely unrealistic goals. And I think all these resolutions make very, very good sense. So how about you? Have you made any photography resolutions? If so I’d love to hear about them? And if you did, I wish you the best of luck!