I ran across this quote today:
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
— Leonardo da Vinci
It gave me pause.
The “urgency” of doing.
Pretty much says it all. Doing is the thing that makes it work. Not reading or listening or studying or being desperately in love with the idea. One must ‘DO’ what one does. It is the only true path to becoming better and stronger.
Imagine a weight lifter who reads all the weight lifting books, listens to 6 or 7 weight lifting podcasts a week, gets a couple of weight lifting magazines a month, and can quote weight lifting stats that amaze his friends. But he only occasionally ever goes to the gym to actually lift weights.
How well do you think he does at the lifting when he gets around to it?
Same with photographers. We must make pictures to be photographers, otherwise we are not. We only discuss, read, and study the subject. Occasionally pulling a camera out to make a shot or two won’t increase our skills. Are there exceptions, maybe… I think I read about an art photographer who thinks about his shots for weeks before executing. But that seems to be his particular way of working, and the images reflect that, I’m sure.
But for the majority of us, doing is more important than learning or wanting. I have always ascribed to the philosophy that it means less what one says and far more what one does. Actions speak louder than words is another way of putting it.
Action. Doing. Progressing. Achieving.
When I teach the workshops, I blend all the different modes of learning together. We talk about what the light does, we look at what the light does, then the students do it with the lights. Hear, See, Touch. It forms a bond of learning that encompasses all the different approaches we humans bring to the ability to understand.
What struck me about this quote was that I had just finished reading a couple of post questions asking things like; “What is the difference between a shoot-thru umbrella and a beauty dish?” And, “Has anyone ever used a bounce card for a reflector, and what does it do to the image?”
In my mind it is nearly impossible to answer these questions with simple words, or even pictures and words. Maybe we can add some words to the pictures, but even then we cannot even come close to the knowledge that would be gained by simply doing it. Get an umbrella and a beauty dish and see the difference. Grab a bounce card and add it to the mix… what then happens to the image?
Of course one should know how to get hands on both a shoot-thru and a beauty dish, but that is a logistical problem, not a photographic one. Knowing where to put the bounce card can be learned by charts and graphs, but what it does the image is purely look and see. And move it a little to there… a little more. That kind of thing.
Applying the knowledge that one achieves through different means is the balance to the learning. Shoot. Shoot everything you see. Make it an urgent and immediate project.
And wanting to won’t get it done. As Yoda said to Master Luke… “Either do or do not, there is no ‘try'”. Truer words were never spoken. Telling me that you plan on or want to or should… whatever… means little. Only that you have idle time to plan dreams that will be gone in a few days or years.
Do the thing you want to do. Now… it is urgent. Urgency builds energy, energy builds desire, desire spills over to action and the thing gets done. I am not talking about procrastinators, I am talking about the “terminally planning”. Make images today, it matters not what you photograph, only that you make the images yours.
The urgency that Leonardo must have felt is obvious in his level of production. Books, paintings, flying machine drawings, architectural renderings and more. He had to get as much done as possible.
Maybe he knew intrinsically that our moments here are shortened by our existence. Yesterday is over, and will never be repeated. It has no bearing on what our today brings. And tomorrow… well, tomorrow is a great place to be, but not yet.
A talented young photographer I know just sold most of his gear and is moving back to the small town he grew up in. Talented by the work that was actually accomplished, but unfortunately the call of partying and ‘livin’ large’ was too overwhelming. He shot all the time when he got to LA, but after a couple of years, he wasn’t shooting any more new things, but trying to get by on what had been done. His work grew a little stale, and he began to complain about the business. His failure was other people’s fault. He rarely picked up his camera unless it was for an assignment, and the work started showing it.
He lost his sense of urgency. He forgot what he was, and what he wanted to be, and, most of all who he NEEDED to be. I hope he gets to a point where the action takes hold of him and he starts to produce again…with new eyes and a renewed sense of himself as a photographer, not a “business man with a camera”.
Knowing about business is of course vitally important, but if it becomes more of the focus than the photography itself, then other challenges, some even more devastating than not knowing spread sheets, enter the fray and the love of the craft can be lost.
Being a photographer is one of the coolest careers one can have. And no shooter I know of does it for the money alone. They do it because they love it. And the really successful ones push themselves hard… inventing and re-inventing and pushing themselves. With a sense of urgency.
So ask yourself if you have a sense of urgency about your work. Do you push hard enough, or depend on someone else to tell you what you should do? Find your vison/passion and DO IT with your cameras. Do it every day… push and refine your work and get over the hurdles as quickly as possible.
I am not a big fan of patience… preferring to push and shove and run and leap and fall. A lot. Patience is a slower, easier to set aside type of habit. Urgency, along with terror and fear, is a motivator.
Get urgent and get going.
Thanks for visiting, and follow me on Twitter if you would like. If you are thinking about a workshop this year, take a look at the schedule here at Learn to Light. See you next time.
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