Yes, it’s been a while since I learned a new skill. The question is should I venture away from life’s path of, for me, photography and writing, and try a new skill, or should I stay, and make more graceful what I know. I lean toward staying with the tried and true for four reasons.
I know the settings on my cameras.
I have documentation, one book each, on three advanced cameras, and manuals for cameras I can continue to learn about, five point-and-shoot cameras.
I know the help screans, and I know not only basic settings but some more advanced settings on each camera. Yet, in areas of artistic ablity, I have much to learn.
My Nikon cameras have much in common as tools to create, and my only other brand, Fujifilm, is easier than Nikon brands to master. Nevertheless, all of my cameras allow for much growth with settings I’ve never tried.
So be it with Photography. I have not explored fully the Rule of Thirds, and framing techniques. My pictures are often random and messy. With my film cameras, I had to take care with most shots, and the film was expensive. Data cards have become relatively cheap, and some hold upwards of thousands of still pictures, and several short videos. Often news reporters become sloppy with their data cards filled with sometimes more than one hundred pictures to be edited out. Such sloppy techniques become the norm for all digital photography. At this point, I seldom use rapid fire settings on my cameras, five frames per second, and one still image is the artistry I seek to master.
Ansel Adams would sometimes take hours to “compose and make a picture,” Edward Weston made lighting his artistry composing and re-composing to make that genius lighting technique to perfection. Certainly, these and other great photographers used darkroom developing much of the artistic moment. My cameras are the darkrooms, and automatic focus and light metering sometimes make an image slightly less than perfectly sharp, nor quite as well lighted, not perfectly exposed. I have since my intro courses in photography made thousands of images and in the old days’ thousands of negatives not possible would make editing like this impossible. Some are good to exciting, but how do I find these in the more than 14000 photos I have stored on negatives and in clouds. However, some programs have made digital editing possible looking at each image as it comes to be uploaded into my computer. Science has used digital imaging of great photography come from the Hubble and now the Spitzer telescopes, and human beings look deep into the universe recording with photography with catalogs unthinkable in the 1980s.
With writing growth possibilities are obvious. I may try more and more poetic forms and meters. I could try approaches to fiction because truly I’ve never written fiction. I could write with research, for it’s been many years since I ventured into the Modern Language Association research documentation or the analytical voice, and the voice of the social scientist. Indeed Haiku and sonnet attract me into new areas away from the personal confessional free verse, and there are dozens of forms and meters in poetry I have yet to try. My writing has miles to go before I sleep. As Robert Frost claimed, “Free verse is writing poetry without a net.” The acrobat of Ferlinghetti has many challenges for me yet, and certainly, I can write with the excitement I felt in publishing my first poems and my only essay.
Recently I purchased The Poet’s Market, 2018, and yet to come might be The Writer’ Market. Publication left me with beautiful pieces in newsletters, small magazines, university annual collections, The Connecticut Review, Colorado State’s Voices, and the many editions of The Seria Review. I remember the excitement of receiving acceptance letters and two or three copies of the publications. These poems were good to excellent, and often I was thrilled to be published. The last publications were in 2009, and then my self-published books of poetry, and though not much could be done with examination copies, spell-check could not correct all mistakes. Winter from Spring my first publication of a collection of poems including my Colorado State University thesis, which is in the CSU Library, was not truly organized well, but it sold hundreds of copies. My second, a better book, a true sequence of 55 poems, I organized well. I insisted on some copy editing from a friend, but it contained errors that I couldn’t see. My two collections are in the Sierra College Library, and the Platte College Library, these books owned by several past professors. Both volumes contain photos and poems, a mix of my two art forms, and the beautiful layout from xlibris.com makes the books well worth having.
So maybe it’s not the time to try hang gliding or down-hill skiing, might have tried to be a hunter, or master the Bow and Arrow. I might have become even a composer were it not that I couldn’t master the piano. What I see in sports escapes my body at age 67 plus. Oh, what I would have done to make my body capable of the four-minute mile the runner, or the triple lutz of the ice skater, but I did not have discipline in those directions. My attitude in college was, “Why to study writing without becoming a writer?” I had always thought that posterity was the most exciting part of studying great literature and even listening to great music. I have thought that the best way to develop color, tone, and rhythm is to listen to music and read widely. Why not make something that lasts? Why not create photos, and poems, and essays, and stories, and great art. This is the calling, I believe, of each person; for my wife and I have raised a daughter who writes beyond my ability, yet, I may have twenty years left to make the best photos and writing I can possibly make.