A few days ago, I posted a piece about deliberate practice. I asserted, but did not defend, the position that that technique can help your photography. Today I’d like to take on what I consider to be the easy part of the argument: that some of photography consists of motor skills, and, since deliberate practice has a demonstrated track record with those, that it can help photographers.
Back when I was starting to use a view camera, I found that I was missing the light because it took me too long to set it up. I practiced unpacking the camera, setting it up and centering the movements, taking it back down. and packing it up over and over. It helped a lot. That was before I’d ever heard of deliberate practice. If I had to do that today, I’d spend a lot more time on the analysis and tightening down the problem parts of the task and less on mind-numbing repetition.
Same with changing lenses. Each body has its own tricks, and you use a different technique for collar-mounted lenses than those that you mount by hand to the camera. In the digital era, speed in lens changing is even more important than it was in the film days, because the more time your camera is open, the more opportunity for dust to get inside.
Can you find the tripod collar locking screw by feel on every lens you own? Can you adjust the locks and gears on your tripod heads without thinking about it? I stumble sometimes on both of those.
If I haven’t convinced you, let me know why not. If I’ve made an OK case, but you’re still not gonna do any overt practicing, let me know about that. If you’re going to practice something I haven’t mentioned here, sing out.
Mike Nelson Pedde says
Sounds good to me. When I teach people how to drive, one thing we begin with is putting the driver in the seat (ignition off) and I put a blindfold on them. Then we find the radio control buttons, the windshield wiper switch, the headlight switch, the gear shifter, the rear view mirror, etc. We repeat this again and again. If you’re driving in fog, rain, snow, heavy traffic or whatever, the less time you need to take your eyes away from the windshield, the better. It’s the same thing with everything – even cameras, and especially since more and more cameras are getting back to dials and buttons and away from multi-level menu buttons. Can you take the lens off your camera by feel? Do you know what it feels like when it’s not connecting properly to the body? Can you find the MF/AF switch without taking your eye from the viewfinder? And so on.
This is why I like aperture rings. I can set the aperture on the lens without looking at the camera, and prefocus it so it only needs a bit of tweaking before I can get the shot. You can’t do this with little click dials because it’s hard to know where they started.
Or at least I could when I wasn’t adapting lenses. Stop down metering is annoying sometimes.
I do a lot of nighttime photography that involves using the camera in complete darkness. While I could shine a flashlight on it so as to make its controls visible, this often has a negative effect upon my night vision, so I prefer to avoid it whenever possible.
Being able to work a camera/lens by feel alone is the reason why I greatly prefer aperture rings and dedicated shutter speed/exposure compensation dials to the ubiquitous scrolling wheels. It’s also the reason I’m very reluctant to purchase a camera without them. I’ve had to do so in the past, unfortunately, but am increasingly unlikely to do so in the future, because this form-factor simply doesn’t work very well for me and the type of photography I prefer.
And Yes, I do still practice setting up and operating my cameras by feel alone, even after I have worked with them for a long period of time. It’s a great way to pass time while watching dumb movies or TV shows and as the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
Lynn Allan says
There really is an advantage to having a VERY consistent user interface from camera to camera, including buttons and menu.
I recall my first DSLR … a Canon XS (1000d) sub-Rebel. I worked rather intentionally at getting to know where everything was, and being able to “navigate” almost “by Braille” in the dark.
As expected, the 50d was a LOT different, and it took a while to learn how to “navigate” proficiently. The 5d2 was Very Similar, and it worked well to have both cameras together.
To me, it’s been annoying how different the 6d was from the 5d2, especially button placements.
I’ve read posts where people describe having a Nikon f.f. and Canon f.f. at the same time on a project. I’d think that would slow things down dramatically with clock-wise vs counter-clock-wise rotations.
It does concern me to add an A7r2 to “the fleet”, particularly in terms of “proficient navigating”.
It’s not an option for this retired hobby’ist, but I can see why pro’s would get two of the same bodies at a time when upgrading.
I’m a wildlife photographer and I totally agree with you on practise. Another key is anticipation. Here are a few things I try to do all the time:
• have the camera ready with the right lens
• continually reassess exposure and have it set – I usually use manual exposure because wildlife moves and so does the autoexposure
• my lenses autofocus from far to near so I make sure I am prefocused at a slightly greater distance than I expect for the subject
• I practise moving the focus reticle so I can nail the focus and composition