Still Learning To See

Learning from “mistakes”

Bucky Fuller said “Most of my advances were by mistake. You uncover what is when you get rid of what isn’t.”

Today I uncovered the fact that I need to work more on the mechanics of my photography so that I can more consistently make photographs of what I am seeing.

A cold (2 F) and sunny morning and I headed to a favorite little stream, not knowing exactly what I’d find but confident it was worth the trip regardless. Multiple layers, hot packs in my gloves, snowshoes, tripod, new closeup rings. I’m ready.

Others had been here already this morning before I arrived!

The short hike in showed the stream to be almost entirely buried under snow and ice. In a few places I could hear it below the ice, such lovely sounds, and, further up-stream, I could see a few small openings. The sun was peaking through the dense evergreens promising to make my seeing more interesting.

Mindful of my weight on what might be thin ice, even if it was distributed by the snowshoes,  I moved carefully. I know this place well but matching my summer “mind map” with the piles of ice and snow I was seeing was a challenge and a reminder to be cautious.

Simply getting to an open area, with the dark water and ice crystals, was a challenge! Ducking under a small Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) I unleashed a blizzard from a branch above that obliterated the photograph I’d hoped to make.

I moved move carefully to reach another area, this time avoiding an avalanche, and  approached as closely as seemed safe when, oops! I was one step too close, sinking through the ice, the pressure lifting the water up and dissolving all the delicate crystals.

In this bitter cold weather delicate crystals form near the stream's open water.

Moving again, having quickly learned a few things from my “failures,” and I got to a point where I set up the tripod. Life it good! I took my time composing the photograph, and moving, composed another. “Seeing this is great!”

But also I know how nearly impossible it can be to expose for both snow and this dark water. I try several techniques but don’t have full confidence in my knowledge or abilities. I need to learn more. But not now. Now I’ll just make photographs and learn from whatever I bring back. For an hour I move up the stream, being careful as I better understand how delicate the ice is. Trying various techniques, some with confidence and some less so.

I'll learn from the "mistakes" I made today so that next time I can be more confident in my abilities to make a photograph that represents what I'm seeing.

Finally I reach a point where I know I’m done for the morning. I’ve learned when to stop, hopefully just a few steps before breaking through the ice. That is a mistake I’ve made before and, for the most part, a lesson I’ve learned. I pack my gear and head home, excited about what I’ve seen and about learning from the mistakes I’ve made.

This entry was published on January 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm. It’s filed under Ice, Photograph, Winter and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Learning from “mistakes”

  1. Marti Snell on said:

    I love today’s words and photos, you tell an adventure story

  2. A nice break in my day…to read your thoughts and see your vision!

  3. Karen Dailey on said:

    Wow, John! Thanks for taking us on this little adventure, and for sharing your “learnings” and your images. Together, it is as if I can feel your respectful impressions of this magical time…even the slipping through the ice and into the water! Thanks, dear bro. Karen

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