I find that setting achievable photographic goals every year is an excellent way of improving one’s skills. Typically, I set goals that fall within the overarching themes of equipment, skills, and knowledge. This post gives a brief overview of the goals I’ve set for 2015.
This year, my equipment goals focus on three areas: optics, repairing damaged equipment, and getting more use out of the equipment I currently have.
Optics, in my books, encompasses lenses and filters. This year, one key focus is purchasing high quality lenses. In the past, I’ve spent too much time acquiring new camera bodies (often belonging to different systems), and not enough time making sure that I have enough quality lenses to cover my needs with each system. To resolve this, I’ve elected to refrain from buying any new interchangeable lens cameras, unless they are part of a system I already own, and come with a decent lens that I have some use for. In addition to this, I’m limiting lens purchases to either: the Micro Four Thirds system, specifically the Olympus M. Zuiko Premium and Pro lines; and the Mamiya TLR system, likely targeting the 105 mm and 180 mm lenses. I’ve already added a lens to each of my M42 and Olympus OM-mount systems, so I’ll hold off on those for now. I will also be holding off on the Contax/Yashica mount system, and the Nikon F mount system, until I get more acquainted with what I’d like for each system. In addition to better lenses, I will need to get suitable filters, and investigate filters of higher quality.
Over the course of building my collection, I’ve bought a lot of equipment in varying states of repair, or seen equipment suffer from the ravages of time and use. As a result, I’ve rather a long repairs list, which I’ve not managed to get through terribly efficiently. This year, I want to get some of this backlog cleared, especially of the two flashguns and flashgun power pack that have been sitting in various states of disrepair for anything from three months to two years.
My final equipment goal is straightforward: using the stuff! Some of the cameras have sat for more than a year since they were last used, which in my experience, is the fastest way for equipment to fall into a state of disrepair. Between now and December, I vow to give everything at least one outing, unless it is too fragile to be used without causing further damage.
In short: this year I want to focus on getting better lenses and filters, clearing some of the backlog of items needing repair, and give everything a bit of use.
After some considerable thought, I’ve decided the key areas I need to improve in are: portraiture; the use of off-camera flash (and other light sources); long exposures, especially those involving the night sky; repair skills, to reduce the requirement to outsource work; blogging, to make this more interesting to read; and finally, videography.
Improving photographic skills is simply a matter of practice: more portraiture, more off-camera lighting, and more long exposures. This blog may play a pivotal role, as planning posts and projects to involve more of these kinds of photography will, naturally, force me to take photos of those kinds more often. This also plays into the aforementioned goal of using equipment more often, as I have a vast amount of equipment suited to those three kinds of photography, which gets precious little use.
Repair skills are something I’d like to make a greater effort to develop this year. Not only would repairing equipment myself save time and money, the skills should be transferable to the repair of non photographic equipment. What’s more, based on past experiences, it’s more fulfilling than paying somebody else, and instills a greater pride of ownership of the item (and in turn, a greater willingness to use the item).
Improving my blogging skills is broadly the same as improving my photographic skills: practice. In essence, I have to focus on making these as concise, articulate, grammatically correct and structured as possible. Furthermore, I have to try and cover a broader range of topics, and in more depth than I traditionally do. This has benefits elsewhere, too, as communication is reportedly a key employable skill in all fields. Videography, something of an alien field to me, should probably be included with the improvement of blogging skills. It’s a new skill which I suspect would be fun to learn, while providing an opportunity to communicate more in each post, or add more depth to each post.
My skill goals for this year revolve around practicing the types of photography I have more difficulty with, improving my self-sufficiency in terms of repair work, and improving my communication skills.
Equipment and skills are nothing without knowledge. This year, I want to improve my technical knowledge of the field (especially where film is concerned), keep up with the news (to predict what new skills I will have to acquire, or how well my equipment will continue to serve me), and above all else, improve my knowledge of photographic subjects (especially of flowers).
Understanding how things work is key to understanding how best to use them, and what their limitations are. Film is a key example of this: I use it fairly often, but still regard much of the science behind its function as “magic”. This has caused problems revolving around using the wrong kinds of film with certain equipment or subjects. Improving my understanding of how film functions should reduce the instances of making poor choices in future, as I will be able to establish whether or not I’m doomed to failure before wasting an exposure.
Knowing where the field is going is important on many levels: knowing when to stockpile certain equipment, knowing when to seek out information on new skills, and knowing when an upgrade will be beneficial. This is straightforward, thanks to the myriad of photography new sites on the internet. However, due to the dynamic nature of product development, and the realities of economics, this isn’t just a goal for this year, it’s a goal for life. New products will always be coming to the market, and some of my favourite products may ultimately go out of production. The challenge is to keep as up-to-date as possible on both of these fronts, so that informed decisions can be made.
My knowledge of a number of my photographic subjects is, frankly, dismal. This is especially apparent in captions, where I either don’t know where I was when I took the photo, or don’t know (especially in the case of flowers) what I was actually photographing. I feel like this is a quality-limiting factor, and with the help of Google and some books, one which I hope to overcome during the course of the year. Improved knowledge of subjects should also help to improve any attempts at humour in captions, too, for which we may all be eternally grateful.
This year’s goals for knowledge boil down to understanding how my equipment works, how long I’m likely to be able to use it for, and what I’m using it to take photos of.
As an exercise in self-improvement, I’ve set some goals for this year. These are primarily to improve what I’m using, how well I’m using it, and how well I understand it.