I often listen to Carla (my wife) talk about Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now. Being “in the now” is a maxim of living in the present—not being dogged by your past and not putting too much focus on what may happen in the future. While I respect her views and beliefs, the notion often gets a matter-of-fact shrug from me. It makes sense, but I, probably like so many people, have this nagging habit of looking forward or behind. However, the point of being in the present is starting to make much more sense. Just today, I clicked on the Daily Thought in my email inbox.
Most people rush after pleasure so fast that they rush right past it.
– Soren Kierkegaard
Wow. That’s it! That quote nailed it for me, and touches on precisely what I’m struggling with today. Allow me to build the story. Those who know me will appreciate, or at least be patient with, my tendency to be a bit long-winded. (It’s all about providing context.)
For some time, Carla had mentioned doing a photo shoot of some her food for a book project. She really wanted me to take the photos. It struck me that she was not interested in my taking the pictures solely because I’m her husband, but because she actually thinks my work is good. Anyway, Carla invited a designer she’s working with and a friend, who is a photographer, to come over for the photo shoot. I was not familiar with the work of the photographer, his background or experience. However, when he arrived, he lugged in a mountain of equipment and several camera bags. To be honest, it was intimidating. I have no practical experience with external lighting, let alone have an arsenal of equipment at my disposal with which to learn. The photographer was very gracious and frequently deferred to me for thoughts on composition and lighting. Nevertheless, I found myself shrinking a bit into the throws of self-doubt. What could I possibly offer someone who has all this equipment? Clearly, the amount of equipment is reflective of the overall skill, experience, and aptitude of a photographer. Right?
That’s exactly what had me a little unsettled yesterday, and it stayed in my head through night. Why was I intimated or overwhelmed with the photographer and his equipment? I have to believe it’s because he brought in all the trappings of what I feel that I need to be a “legitimate” photographer. In a word, I felt inadequate. I looked at the gear and many different cameras, though he only used one body and one lens. I only have two digital bodies and a hodgepodge of lenses. He had a big tripod with a nice head on it. I have a pretty basic tripod, not a nice Gitzo or Manfrotto. Let’s not even get started on the lighting equipment. Overall, I had a sinking feeling of how far I have to go to be legit.
As I thought more about it, I first had to shake myself from the idea that I’m not a good photographer. I think I am. Secondly, and more importantly, I had to take a step back and think about not only where I want to go, but where I am—presently. The quote above really brought it home. I’ve been so focused, as I discussed in my last post, on the romantic notion of what I’d like to do, that I’m not focusing on…and enjoying…where I am today. I truly am at the beginning of my journey. I don’t think anyone would be expected to have a room full of gear just starting out. Nor would I, even after years of shooting, necessarily need all that equipment. It will really depend on what I want to do with my photography. I have to let that come to me, and not get saddled with what I don’t have. I suspect this is not an isolated feeling, and many people pursuing a dream get in their own way by obsessing about where they should be and not appreciating the lessons gained along the way. This is where “being in my head” is a good thing, because I do question whether what I’m feeling makes sense. Fortunately, Carla is a good point of reference and sounding board. She created a business from scratch, and talks frequently about the balance between having a business plan and being open to where things may lead her. She continues to navigate opportunities for growth while staying true to her personal and business values and sensibilities.
As for the shoot…at the end of the day, I think we both took some excellent shots. At times I felt a little nudged out by the other photographer and others in the room (quite unintentionally I’m sure), but it did not deter me from shooting images of Carla’s food. After reviewing all of the images, I think it became apparent I have a very particular photographic style. Carla commented later that my images are probably more artistic, in that I tend to focus on the beauty of an object. Unfortunately, though, that means I occasionally overlook the function of the item — in this case, her food. I’m learning how to capture her food in a way that is suited for publication, not just for wall hangings. I think this was a good opportunity for me to think about the importance of being open. What I have in mind for my photography career (artistic images for exhibit and sale) may take a turn into something just as fulfilling (media, portraits, etc).