Monday, November 19, 2007

Things You Learn

I'm one of those hands on learners, where you learn by doing and by making lots of mistakes. In many things, mistakes are mostly innocuous, a mess here or there, something not quite right, a few sheets of paper trashed, and so on. You simply start over, and in the process grab the manual or book and start looking to see what's behind what you want to do.

I'm also a researcher reader, meaning most of the books I've read were for research and I rarely read them cover to cover, but read chapters or selections as part of the background to what I was doing. I did this through graduate school and for my thesis. I have a small library of books and articles as testiment to it. I always copied or bought the publications so I didn't have to spend the time sitting in a library taking lots of notes I wouldn't understand later.

I also used it for work in hydrology, data management, real-time system, or whatever the topic. I would buy a book for a critical chapter or two so I didn't have to write notes. I could simply look it up. I'm one of those who believes that knowing where information can be found is more important than knowing the information. You need both in life, but most of the time, immediate recall isn't all that important as knowing how and where to find it.

And this applies to my photography? As the saying goes, "You betcha!" I have several small libraries of books. One for Web design and my Mac G5. One for all the photo processing, production and printing software. One for my Web-based photo guide for Mt. Rainier NP. And one for photography, on the many aspects of it, including large format photography, photography ideas and essays, and various types of photography, landscape, black&white, etc.

Well, when you put this together, or rather expressed as me, it results in a person who sits down with PhotoShop with an imported image(s) and learns by wandering and seeing. Looking at what's there and what happens when I do this or that. This means my work gets better in increments as I find new tools and methods. And it's always non-linear, often backtracking or sideways. And then find the book and/or manual and read a little more.

But it's who I am and how I learn. One of these days you'd think I would learn to find a way to learn better. Not. And while much of my photography is a do over, in the flow of things, sometimes I get it right the first time. Or the second time and so on. But it's the road to knowing I wander. For instance?

Well, for the life of me I was trying to scan an image I took of the Black River near Fort Apache. The slide looked fine, very good exposure (something to be said for Minolta's old metering system), but I just couldn't get the scan to replicate the slide. And after about a dozen scan and tinkering with the right setting, it worked as best you can from the scan.

This allowed me to import it into Photoshop and produce the Web image with almost no retouching in Photoshop. It's still not perfect, but then I'm not one who likes to tinker with an image until sunrise. I know I should, and some images I have spent days, but most are to almost there or close enough I can see where improvements are better or just personal choice. It's where I get to the point my brain is fried and just can't think what's better or worse.

I once worked with a self-taught computer specialist. And while he would take manuals home and read them cover to cover - you know those 400-600 page ones - and could make software stand up and dance, he didn't have much of a sense of humor or a sense of Web design. He would criticize me for not knowing and having to read something again and again, but I didn't care. It's who he was and who I am.

He would criticize me for doing a lot of work by hand because I found it easier and faster than developing some new tool or program to do some global thing. He like automating everything and I like keep it personal. While he would develop several versions of something, comparing them, I would simply work on one, going forward, backward and sideways until I was happy with it. I would only keep a copy of the original to start over if the working one failed miserably.

He taught me, despite all his criticism, that my way for best for me. The curious thing was that for a lot of the work, we were about the same on productivity, using different methods to get to the same result at about the same time. And while his had advantages of easy global fixes, my worked better when we needed to develop something, iterations or individualized changes than developing new tools to go over and over everything with global changes.

Anyway, I learned that learning is unique to each of us and I am also how I learn.

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