“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know…” ~ Daniel J. Boorstin
Well, isn’t THAT a fact!? I’ve often laughed that when I first really began focusing on photography was when my youngest son began to play sports. It freaked me out. I didn’t want that precious baby to get hurt in any way, but there I was, watching balls get hurled at him or kids trying to tackle him. I was a mess. To “rewire” my brain, I started shooting all of his games. In support, my husband bought me an amazing lens to shoot with. In complete ignorant bliss, I walked straight down to the sidelines and stood on the field to shoot. I sat and shot baseball up against and through the fence. Basketball was tougher for me, night games were impossible, but that was okay…because I was getting AMAZING photographs that EVERY parent loved. I started getting hired. My ego was in full bloom. I’d found what I was absolutely naturally GIFTED at doing… I. Was. Amazing.
Fast forward a couple of years and I decide that since I’m “so naturally good” at this thing, I should go get a degree in commercial photography. It’d be easy because I knew my stuff and I’d have “my own thing” to really flourish at. (Do you see my downfall coming? I didn’t.) So I enrolled. My first professor was a man named Byrd Williams IV. The first day, I confidently stride in, take my seat on the first row and grin. He looks around the room and starts asking us what we like to shoot. It was a photo 1 class, so all “beginners” to this craft. Everyone took turns answering. He got to me. I proudly said “sports!” and grinned. He looked at me like I was crazy, announced, “that’s not photography”…and moved on. I stopped him to argue. HE DIDN’T EVEN UNDERSTAND! Later in the class, he explained that we’d be shooting on manual (ON WHAT!?!?) and we were not to photograph: kids, sports, sunrises, sunsets, pets, barns, windmills, etc.
HOLD UP. Everything in my life was ripped away…and I had to shoot HOW!? (On manual). Yeah, I’d never ventured that far…hence, why I could never shoot at night or a basketball game. I came home almost in tears. I didn’t like that man that didn’t get my flavor of genius and I knew I was going to fail. (I mean, REALLY….he didn’t GET ME!)
It’s been a decade (a bit more) since that happened. That man is still a friend and mentor, and I’ve laughed to him about my first impression. I’ve also laughed to myself, about HOW LUCKY I was to have him as my first teacher. (I took many classes from him…and have since even gone to hear him speak. I’ve never left not learning something from any conversation with him.) Actually, he has a book out now… did I mention the greatness that I fell into way back then???? Click here to see Byrd’s book
Even now, after taking every photography class that I could in college, I still love to learn. I’m often at workshops, weekend workshops, lectures, meetings, hands on classes, the works. My mentors span from the incredibly artsy, to documentary, street photographers, portrait photographers…you name it. Heck, in a week, I’ll be learning to shoot the core of the Milky Way with an amazing friend and mentor. I want to learn it all.
I now see why I was told that my “love” of sports photography WASN’T photography. It is. Those memories are incredibly valid. It’s more timing than lighting, so I get it. I still shoot sports. If I have a free time where I can do it, I’m on it. I love it. What I’ve also learned is that I will never know it ALL…but boy, being a sponge is much more fulfilling than simply thinking “you just know”…
I’m writing this one for all of us…who thought we knew. Learned we didn’t know. Fought like a champ to fix that. Keep learning. Never quit. Keep your mind open to all of it. Absorb it like it’s the holy grail of knowledge… and keep upping that bar for yourself.