I think one of the most useful motivational sayings is "practice makes perfect." This seems to hold true no matter what subject area you are talking about - learning a musical instrument, painting, acting, writing, cooking, and even walking (think back to when you were one)!
In fact, experts tell you that it takes something like 80 BILLION hours* of practice to become really really really good at something. They call this proficiency.
Well now, in the area of photography, if you browse Flickr at all, you'll stumble across people doing 365 day challenges and 52 week challenges where the idea is that you take and post a new picture every single day (or every week) for an entire year. Lots of people are reluctant to start because "they aren't any good", but by the end of the period, THEY ARE GOOD! At the very least they get a lot better.
So, I've always wanted to try that with photography, too! (me too, me too!)
Naturally, I've never done anything about it. Enter my online friend Samantha Renns and my big mouth. See Samantha had pretty much the same thoughts - she always wanted to DO a 52 week thing, but started and stopped and didn't keep up with it. Now Samantha is already a fantastic photographer (and makes her living at it), but you can always get better, right? This is where Samantha did a really dumb thing. SHE WROTE IN PUBLIC THAT SHE WAS REALLY TRULY DEFINITELY GOING TO DO IT THIS TIME. Get that? IN PUBLIC. On Facebook. Now she is stuck. She doesn't want to have angry mobs at her home if she misses a week, does she? No! So, she has to do it. She even said that she has a LIST of the subjects for each week. Wow. She's serious.
Now, here's where I did an even dumber thing. So far, I'm completely not involved, right? No responsibility, no angry mobs at MY door. Well, I go and (trying to be all encouraging and stuff, because I'm nice like that) I tell Samantha, "Hey, this is really great! Good for you! I can't wait to see what you come up with!" (so far, not too bad, right? Stay tuned.) "Hey, do you know what you should do?" (look for it, here it comes) "YOU SHOULD PUBLISH YOUR LIST SO OTHER PEOPLE CAN PARTICIPATE!"
Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding. (That's the stupid bell going off)
Now, to my credit, I didn't really expect anyone to listen to me, in particular an online friend, right? I mean, we aren't that likely to run into each other at Dierbergs and have to feel all embarrassed about ignoring such a brilliant (stupid) idea, right? 'Cause, chances are, we could pass right by each other and honestly not notice because guess what? Online, THERE IS PHOTOSHOP! Also, I mainly post pictures of flowers and other in-animate objects... NOT MYSELF. (foreshadowing, people, try to keep up)
Well, the next thing I know, I'm getting an invitation from Ms. Renn, asking me to join her new 52 Week Photography Challenge for 2012 on Flickr.
Honestly, I have no choice but to join what with my encouragement and all, but by now I'm not really feeling all that energetic about a 52 week project, right? To make it all worse, what is Week One? A B&W self-portrait - natural. I wasn't sure what "natural" meant, but I took it to mean no Mardi Gras masks and no "manipulation."
And that, my friends, is why last night, in the middle of the night when half the family was sleeping and the other 25% (other than me) was in their room laughing hysterically over inane YouTube videos with her friends, I was in my living room, setting up tripods and step-stools, getting the lighting, exposure, and fill flash JUST RIGHT, and practicing posing while not looking like I had just triggered my camera's two second timer and thrown the little remote control onto the couch.
In my mind, I have pretty much failed on all of those tasks, BUT THIS IN WEEK ONE folks. Look out for Week 52. It will be something completely different. Oh, and luckily, not every week is a self-portrait.
For your own safety, I recommend not enlarging this photo. You've been warned.
*80 Billion hours was a completely made up statistic because I was unwilling to look up the real number. Your actual time should be much less.
I used a Nikon D60 with the kit 18-55mm lens, on a tripod, a little negative exposure compensation, and fill flash at the end of the exposure at -2.7 stops.