Practise until you reach unconscious competence

Practise until you reach unconscious competence

After ten days of twice-daily practise with my medium format digital camera, I am finally settling with it. My fingers are finding their way around easily. The buttons have become familiar, as have the dials.  I might even start using the aperture ring next.  

I am using it like a view camera, leaving the viewfinder off it and religiously putting it on the tripod to use.  The flip up, down and sideways screen makes it easy to use the main screen as my only aid.   

It’s when the camera gets out of the way that I can fully immerse myself in the creative task at hand of making art.  This is so important.  I have to practise using it until it becomes one with me.  It’s like when the paint brush becomes an extension of your arm and fingers.  I need to become so familiar with it, that it almost disappears.   

Bruce Barnham describes a camera cuddle to his students; which I have been doing since with mine.  Keep the camera out.  Use it regularly and practise until controlling it becomes second nature.  On the lounge even, or out on your veranda. Keep changing the aperture and learning what your equipment does.  Practise taking well exposed and focused images; rather than on creating beautiful works of art. You want to become unconsciously competent with it.  It takes time.  It can’t be rushed. You just have to keep at it until you get it.

Remember learning to drive a car. You sat next to others and watched and thought “that’s easy”. You really didn’t know what was required.  

Later, once you started learning, you realised you didn’t know how hard it would be. But slowly you learnt. You did everything consciously. Everything was thought out. Planned. You did things in the order you were taught.   

Now years later, you can drive a car and chat to your passengers or think about the amazing photographs you will create. You probably can’t remember changing gears or using the indicator.  You now have your own way of doing things.  You have now progressed to unconscious competence.  This is your goal with your camera.  

The lesson is to practise until you reach this point.   

On Tuesday, I felt this way with the camera. The light and mist were nearly perfect. The mood was gorgeous. My emotional response to my country soared.  Without the thoughts of using my camera I relaxed and engaged with my emotions. The photographs flowed. I was lucky enough to share this with Susan. What a wonderful day.   

When it’s like this, the images flow and speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy one of the results.  

Trees in the mist at Furber Steps, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018

Artist | Writer | Photographer | Educator | Adventurer