I really do appreciate your comments yesterday — good advice, reassurance, commiseration, encouragement. I liked what Hannah said, that she often thinks she has to know everything about something before she can do anything. Taryn said to learn one thing at a time, which of course didn't actually occur to me. And so I set out to learn maybe one thing every day.
I took a bunch more pictures yesterday, just setting up a bunch of different stuff. Cassi, what would I do without your pincushion. I really think it's the most photogenic thing on the property. If you want to practice focusing on stuff, flower-topped pins work pretty well. I'm starting to love the big black already, people, though it really prefers the tripod. And yes, I think the color on the Fuji seems more realistic, more sophisticated, really — it has a more soulful quality. I really do think that. But I also think that when I understand the white balance among other things, I can control that a bit more. The depth of field is just deeper, more thorough. Here's one with the focus on the glass vase (thanks Steph, and thank you for the bowls Natalea!).
It occurred to me that learning about the camera feels a bit like Latin, like learning Latin felt. I only studied it for one year and have, of course, retained nothing. But I remember our teacher talking about what a "clean" language it was — there were so few irregulars, you just had to know what to do, what ending to put on, to say what you were trying to say. It was so beautiful that way, he said, the most beautiful language, no gray areas, no kinda-sorta right. Obviously, if you didn't know a thing, you couldn't make it work. But if you knew what it was that you had to know, you could do it — it wasn't personal, it was technical. You didn't have to cajole it, you just had to turn the knobs.
It reminded me of something I hadn't thought of in so long. It was this one autumn afternoon when I was sitting in the McDonald's drive-thru, waiting for my hamburger, small fries, and orange drink with my mom. I was about ten or eleven and had just finished my horseback-riding lesson. Riding was never easy for me — if it was a good day, I loved it. If it was a bad day, I hated it. And I really felt like I had no idea whether it was going to be a good day or a bad day, and didn't really understand my own role in either of those kinds of days. I thought sometimes the horse "listened" to me, sometimes he dumped me on the ground. I was convinced he was dumping me, as if I had nothing to do with it. I see now, when I look back on those years, that riding well or riding poorly had everything to do with me, and my own confidence in myself. Occasionally, other environmental factors applied, or the horse felt her own emotions, such as they were, but still, as the rider it was my job to consider and respond to all of that, and still get us over the fence. It was too complicated! It was too much! As I sat in the passenger's seat of my mom's car in the drive-thru, I started thinking about this, and got progressively twitchier, and more upset and irritated. "Agh!" I said. "Agggghhh!" My mother passed me my Happy Meal, pulled the car back onto the road, and said, "My god, what is the matter?" And I bleated, "YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE! YOU JUST HAVE TO TURN THE WHEEL AND PUSH THE PEDALS AND IT DOES EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT IT TO DO!!!" And then I probably started with the sobbing, or at least the gulping, blotchy earnestness, all still in my riding clothes. To that end, I offer Exhibit A:
Mmm-kay. Yep, that would be me, circa 1980ish. How my mother did not fall over laughing while taking this picture, which I made her do the day I got this outfit, in front of the garage which I felt looked most "barnlike," I don't know. Sigh. But anyway. About the camera.
What I'm trying to say is that the camera is nothing like this. It is nothing like a horse. It is like Latin, obviously, or the car. There are things about it that you need to know, and when you know those things, you can set the dials how they need to be in order to go where you want, say what you want. You might have flair, or something say, or an urge to drive fast, but, you know, you gotta know how to use the clutch. I, of course, approach the camera as if it were the horse. I look at it suspiciously, and believe it will feel my insecurity through my fingertips, and dump me.
But I think I'm feeling better about it. I just have to practice some more. And of course get a book.