This is a post about practice. It should be filled with sports metaphors, but I was never an athlete. Instead I am reminded of my attempt a few years back to learn to play the violin. I watched 8-year-old Hilary sawing away on her half-size fiddle, attacking jigs and reels with such gusto, and thought it would be fun. Well, it was many things and perhaps fun was one of them, occasionally. The violin is a difficult instrument. There are no frets to tell you where to place your fingers. Your left and right hands are doing two completely different things. My instinct was to clench and tighten, but the best music is made when you relax.
More than anything, I wanted to learn to play Ashokan Farewell, the haunting theme written by Jay Ungar. I have loved that song ever since I heard it in Ken Burns’ series The Civil War. I played and practiced and learned the notes. But it remained an exercise, never a song.
In the end, I exercised the privilege of adulthood and decided this wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my free time. I stopped taking lessons and returned my rented violin. But the time wasn’t wasted. I have such respect for people with the talent and dedication it takes to master the violin. Now when I hear Ashokan Farewell played with sweet sadness, it is even more beautiful.
I can draw several parallels to photography. It too is hard. It too takes dedication, discipline, and talent. As I delve deeper into the study and follow photographers I truly admire, the bar is set higher and higher. And while that can be intimidating and discouraging, for whatever reason it also makes me want to be better. I aspire.
Which brings me to the blog post I had hoped to write. Last weekend Todd and I went to a minor league baseball game. I intended to treat you to a little slice of summer. I saw the moments and images: the look of surprise and delight on the face of the man who caught the foul ball a few seats over from us; the three little girls, backs to the field, having a wonderful time playing with the stuffed bears that were the night’s giveaway; the young man changing the numbers on the old-school scoreboard. I saw the images. I wanted them. I didn’t get them.
So if this blog is my concert stage, I have nothing to play for you. And I have too much respect for photography and you to pretend. And while that is a little disappointing, it is not discouraging. Because after all, it’s not about the blog, it’s about the experience. And having an eye out for those moments kept me in the game. When I have my camera with me, I see better. I had a great time. And if all that improved was my critical eye, that’s okay. Knowing when a photograph isn’t compelling is important too.
So I’ll stick with it. I’ll keep studying and practicing and playing. I’ll aspire to home runs, and share the base hits and even the strikes along the way. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
I think I actually snuck a sports metaphor in there. What do you know.