playing scales

  Fuji 400h on a Pentax K1000

Fuji 400h on a Pentax K1000

  Portra 400 on a Pentax 645n

Portra 400 on a Pentax 645n

  Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

  Kodak Portra 400, shot on a Pentax K1000

Kodak Portra 400, shot on a Pentax K1000

  Kodak T-Max 100 shot on a Pentax 645n

Kodak T-Max 100 shot on a Pentax 645n

  Fuji 400h on a Pentax K1000

Fuji 400h on a Pentax K1000

  Fuji 400h on a PentaxK1000

Fuji 400h on a PentaxK1000

  Portra 400 on a Pentax 645n

Portra 400 on a Pentax 645n

I know, I know. It's Monday. I'm not even supposed to be here until tomorrow, right? I just had the most amazing conversation about photography, or any creative endeavor really, last week and I couldn't wait to get the words on the page. To come here and share it with you guys. And let's face it. I know I said I was okay with turning 45, but I'm still not sure how long I wanted my mug hanging out there on my homepage on the internet. Part of aging comes learning discretion, right? RIGHT?!?!

I can't even remember how it started, (I'm super forgetful these days.) but we started talking about that age-old creative's dilemma between having a consistent style vs. becoming a one-note. I said, and acknowledged at the time that I know I sound lame when I do say it, that I actually think about this a lot. See? Lame. How do you find the balance? How many Instagram accounts have I unfollowed after a few months because it's the same/similar photo over and over? And yet, YET! How many artists are doing mediocre work because they are trying too many different things and mastering none?

I continue to work to find my voice as a photographer. You might say that artistically it's my biggest project. Sure, I love that white wall in my little studio and you'll see me shoot a million things from eggs to flowers to cookies in front of it. But I also like to take pictures of Cal and the ocean and Neel and my beagle and the flowers in our back yard and a random beautiful doorway and the light that pours through my living room window. So where's the thread? How can I be all these things and still consistent? How can I spread all these pictures on a table and have you still know they are all me? Maybe it's the color palette, maybe it's the light I like, but I think these are just part of what makes a voice.

As we batted this conversation around the table, my friend Dave landed on what I think is the deep, deep truth of the matter. A million people have said it, all far better than I. And it boils down to this: practice your craft. "People come listen to Yo-Yo Ma," he said, "whether he's playing folk music or classical, because he shows up everyday to the practice room knowing that his scales aren't perfect."

Yo-Yo Ma. Everyday. Knowing he isn't perfect. Facing those scales every damn day.

Practice your craft. Batting practice. Showing up at the page. Playing scales. Whether you shoot weddings or newborns, make sure you pick up the camera (or whatever your instrument of choice) just for yourself. Do it creatively. Give yourself a personal project that inspires you and pushes you. Do it technically. Dive deeply into that new lens you got or explore a different lighting technique. It's only when you push yourself for yourself, not to meet a quota or when a client is paying you, that you'll really grow. When you think, "hey I think I want to try this," and you go out and try it, well, that's when the real fun begins.

And what if you're like me and you're already shooting for yourself? Well, that's when batting practice matters most I think. I truly believe that I'll only find and refine my voice as an artist if I continue to step into the cages and swing at pitch after pitch. If I stare at page after page. If I sit down to practice scale after scale.

If it works for Yo-Yo Ma, why can't it work for me? Batting practice? Playing scales? Same/Same.