Saturday, August 4, 2007

Seeing too big

I'm reading Josh Waitzkin's book "The Art of Learning." It's a combination of a autobiography and teaching lessons. And while it's focused on his life in chess and Tai Chi, it's focused on lessons you can take into yourself and your life. One chapter was an insight into why I struggle and get lost in and with my photography. I like to see and think big picture.

This is why I like to photography my rides on the Washington State ferry when I ride from Bremerton to Seattle on my once a month excursion for errands in Seattle. The ferry ride takes about an hour and drops you off in downtown Seattle just off Alaskan Way along the waterfront. From there it's a drive through downtown Seattle to get anywhere.

Anyway, while on the ferry I like to walk around and take photos - see galleries "WSF" in the list of galleries. I took photos this last Thursday and watched many other passengers taking photos, but Friday's Seattle PI had an article on suspicious tourists taking photos. It's a "Hmmm...", and wonder how they were acting.

Back to the subject. The big picture. I like landscape and nature photos, and looking at the many portfolios I've taken most of the images are of open space scenes. I like to see the "bigger" scenes, and have to force myself to rethink and focus on the small things in the scene. Josh writes about this as "making smaller circles" where you focus more and more on the smaller and smaller things.

He used this in chess when he learned the end game with just three pieces on the board and added pieces as he learned the variations. He used this in Tai Chi when learning body control and movement by focusing on one movement, then after mastering that, added additional body movements. He built the small circles into larger circles or the sum of the smaller circles, one after another.

This is similar to ballet where you learn one body movement, over and over, until you know it without thinking. You're conscious of the movement but your memory and subconscious does the work. This is continued through the life of a ballet artist by practicing the small movements nearly every day in the studio. You have to keep the memory current so you can focus on learning the whole ballet without thinking about your body except to learn the movements in the choreography.

In a way, it's slightly different in photography because you have different elements to focus on. You have your equipment, the scene(s), and your mental photography, the images you see. You have to become instinctively familar with your camera system and continue to keep yourself current. You have to venture into the world not just looking for specific scenes or images, but keep an open eye and mind for new ones. And you have to keep learning your weaknesses and strengths of your images to continue to practice what's good and learn to improve what's not good.

This means to me to keep my eye on the horizon but keep the foreground in view. To borrow the adage, think globally, act locally, I have to think big and small with the eye and mind.

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