Tag Archives: practice

Clarinets and Cameras

I’ve used this analogy in several of my classes, so some of you have already heard this. ūüôā

I love music. In many ways I think perhaps it is humanity’s¬†most beautiful and complex art form. ¬†It is an art that can be expressed individually or collectively as a group of musicians in a band or orchestra. Music can be produced¬†and enjoyed in so many different ways, and there is no one “right” way. ¬†Music gets inside us, gets inside our brains. A melody, words in a song, can inspire us, bring us to tears, make us smile, take us back to a moment in time.

I learned how to play the clarinet when I was around 13 years old. Wait, let me rephrase that. I started learning how to play the clarinet when I was around 13 years old. (It took a while.)

Have you ever heard a beginning clarinet student play that instrument?  Wow, you can make a lot of bad noise when starting out. I feel sorry for what my parents had to endure when I practiced at home in my bedroom. Day after day, I practiced. Getting a little better over time, but boy did it take a while to get beyond just making noise.

Learning an instrument starts out as a technical exercise. You even have to learn how to place your mouth on the instrument right. (It is not as obvious as you might think.) You have to learn how to place your fingers on the instrument in the right way. And in creating the various notes, you have to press your fingers down or lift them up in the right order or it won’t work right. It is a bit complex.

And then there is the music theory you have to learn also. What is an eighth note, a half note, a rest? What is staccatto? Tremolo? On and on.

You spend a long time learning enough of the technical stuff before you really get to what is interesting: the music. Eventually, you have learned enough to discover the real beauty of the art is not in all the technical stuff of where you put your fingers and how you read sheet music, but rather it is how you make something beautiful with your instrument.

There are some similarities with photography. Granted, you can pick up your instrument, in this case a camera, and immediately start taking pictures (and it’s sure not that way with a clarinet). The more you learn¬†the technical stuff, you can produce even better art with your camera because you have more ability to be creative with your instrument. You can go beyond the limitations imposed by using a camera in its fully automatic modes.

As you dig deeper into learning the technical parts of photography, it is important to remember the real objective is to get beyond the technical to explore the art of photography more fully.¬†Learn the technical, but don’t get hung up on the technical. Learn the rules but don’t be afraid to play with the rules, bend the rules, maybe even break the rules if needed. Stay focused on creating art.

Art is more of an emotional thing than a technical thing. The technical stuff is really just a necessary means to an end.  The fun really begins once you have learned your instrument and you start creating beautiful art with it. That is true whether it is a clarinet or a camera.

Music has many different genres, and so does photography. ¬†I encourage you to explore different genres of photography. Try new things. Explore. Experiment. Fail. Experiment some more. Learn from your mistakes. Discover what you like. Discover what you dislike. Eventually find your passion in the art. ¬†Find what you love, and do that. Find a way to express YOUR view of the world through your images. Don’t just copy others. The world loves a creative artist who expresses their art in ways they have not seen before.

Create something beautiful. Be an artist.

Happy Picture Taking