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Closing the Creative Gap
Bridging ambition and work.
Friday's The Artists of Data Science Happy Hour was phenomenal. So many gems in it! Was it because, being episode number 40, all the magic was unleashed? I don't know. I am glad I was able to be in on it. As Harpreet Sahota mentioned at some point, this is one episode worth listening to again and again. I totally urge you to check it out.
One of the points of discussion was the importance of putting in the reps in anything. This came during responses to a question by Antonio Ivanovski on how to get over the hump to start creating content.
When we start off at anything, we will be bad at it. That's a fact. And even if not outright bad, our output will be nothing like the idea of the task we have in our mind. Whether it is painting a scene, composing some music, photographing an object, writing a poem, recording a podcast... It will fall short of our ambition.
Ira Glass calls it the gap between your ambitions and your work. In this interview, he talks about this, giving an illustration from his own journey.
Daniel Sax has a wonderful take on that interview in his video that visually explores this gap.
Reps help in narrowing down that gap. Ken Jee in the Office Hours video mentioned a scenario where a photography class was divided into two groups. One group would be graded based on just one photograph they took, and then spent all their time processing it as best they could. The other group would be judged on volume, making as many photographs as they could in the given period. At the end of the course, those being graded on volume turned out to have produced better work than those graded on trying to perfect the one photograph.
As I continue my journey in writing, these are lessons I need to internalize. And when I get discouraged, I just need to look at my own work in a different field, photography. I made this side by side comparison collage to have this front and center every time I doubt my ability in any new venture I undertake.
The photograph on the left was taken on the 12th of June 2005. At that time, I did not even know that photographing bugs would form such a big part of my life. I just saw an interesting moth on the ground, and I snapped away. No thought on composition or lighting whatsoever. Zero focus.
The photograph on the right was taken on the 15th of April 2018. That is two months shy of 13 years apart. And thousands of photographs made later. Huge difference in quality. Much nicer looking photograph.
In between those years, I had to put in lots of work to become a better photographer of bugs. Some of the things I had to do to close this gap included
Reading articles on macro photography.
Watching video tutorials on the same.
Reading up on bugs.
Watching documentaries on bugs, the most notable being BBC's Life in the Undergrowth.
Photographing A LOT of bugs.
It was around 2010 when I decided to get serious about photographing bugs and actually start learning how to do it well. This was triggered by photographs made by Thomas Shahan that I saw in a magazine featuring his work.
The quality of the photographs triggered something in me, and I knew I had to get to where I made photographs like his.
This next photograph of a house fly is the first one I made that I was happy with after lots of very deliberate practice over a two year period since my resolve to master bugs macro photography. Even then, I needed to make lots of photographs of that fly over an almost three hour period to get to this one good photograph.
Fast forward four years after this to 2016. I had been asked to showcase some of my work at a restaurant set in a beautiful property surrounded by a gorgeous forest. The bugs featured would be those found in that forest.
It took me five hours of photography to get enough photographs out of which I could select the 30 that would be printed and framed. Compared to the three hours it took me in 2012 to get just one good photograph of just one insect. The gap had considerably closed!
Here are some of the photographs that were displayed at that exhibition.
Now my focus turns to writing. Let’s see how long it will take to close my writing gap. At least I have my experience photographing bugs and these words by Helen Hayes to encourage me as I move along this journey.
“The expert at anything was once a beginner.”
You can see more of my bug photographs here.
You can purchase an e-book featuring 18 bugs (Dudus) and a brief write-up about them here.