Monday, November 06, 2006

Practice Sometimes Pays Off

When I began focusing my attention on night photography six years ago, I vowed to go out shooting once every full moon. I figured that would get me out twelve times per year, or sixty times over the next five years. And I figured that sixty night photography excursions would make me into some hot stuff.

Then one day I compared my plan to that of some world-class artists. Picasso painted every day. Professional ballerinas practice every day, as do the musicians down in "the pit". PGA tour golfers go out and practice every day, even immediately after picking up their awards for winning a major tournament. Would Eddie Van Halen have gotten to where he is if he only practiced his arpeggio hammers and pull-offs once a month? Years ago I took a workshop on writing a novel. The instructor told us that if you can't commit to writing something every day, you didn't have a chance of ever getting published.

I decided that if I wanted to really improve at night photography, I had to get out there and shoot more than once a month. In fact, I realized it's also better to experiment with new lighting techniques and new equipment in between the full moons, when shooting time is a premium.

(Peterson Field, Sunnyvale)

When I get restless on a weeknight, and when I only have about one hour of free time, I often go down to the only marginally-interesting location near my home. It's a recreation field next to a local middle school (often refered to as a junior high school in some parts of the country). It's big enough to get away from direct streetlight, and the old dugouts and bleachers are better than nothing to photograph. Add to the fact that it may get bulldozed to make room for townhomes, I feel like I can't take enough photographs of this place.

(Peterson Field, Sunnyvale)

I've probably got more digital photographs of Peterson Field than anyone else. Not only have I been able to practice some things that would have otherwise wasted my precious full moon shooting time, but sometimes I actually get a shot that I really like.

The shot with the orange sky was taken during a short break between the rain. I was sitting home drooling over other night photographers' websites, and I was getting restless. It was also a few months after I started shooting with my first digital camera. I just wanted to shoot something other than the recycling bins in my backyard. Small puffy clouds were racing overhead, and I tried to not let the poison of the sodium vapor light bother me. And I got lucky. A large version of that shot hung in the Sunnyvale Public Safety Office for over a year. It also hung in the hallway of my previous employer for half a year (it would still be there if the company hadn't gone out of business).

The shot of the inside of the dugout was taken a few months ago when, as usual, I got restless one weeknight. I had been thinking about working more with a bare flashlight instead of a gel-covered flash, and I just wanted to experiment with a few lighting angles. I took about fifteen shots in just over an hour. Two night photographers, whose opinions I greatly respect, each told me they though it was one of the best shots I'd ever taken.

So whenever I think about how I've consistently been shooting that whopping twelve times per year, I just ask myself what's my excuse for not shooting those other 355 nights that year?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post Andy. This makes me want to go out every night and shoot. I can't wait for the sun to go down.

aka standers (flickr)

9:44 AM  
Blogger Ivan Ž. said...

Have you been reading Fortune lately?

If not, this link might be of interest to you:

12:17 PM  
Blogger Ivan Ž. said...

Have you been reading Fortune lately? :)

If not, this link might be of interest to you:

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You struck a chord with me Andy. Just found your blog sitting here surfing when I should be shooting. Sometimes we just need to hear it from others. Nice article!

3:43 PM  
Blogger Richard Sintchak said...

Andy, that orange Petersen Field shot is gorgeous. For me, I have no choice. I simply MUST shoot practically every day. I get antsy if I don't. I even find myself just wanting to fire off the shutter just to hear it click and say I've taken a photo, even right before I go to bed (yes, that's sick). I quench this need mostly through always carrying a camera with me, especially on my commute. I see many interesting, and even more not so interesting, things to shoot, and I shoot them. And I use a wide variety of cameras in doing so, keeps it interesting for me. Is this the way to greatness and artistic immortality? Likely not, but heck I have fun, fulfill the weird photgraphic need inside me, and I do find myself getting better and better and learning more and more about the different B&W films I use. After doing this for a few years now I started a commute photo blog I call "Shooting on the Fly". Now I at least have a place to put these images.

4:30 PM  

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