I went on a fun trip this weekend, exploring a part of our state I’d never really been to. With a group of friends, we utilized a travel/photography book that lays out a full day tour of an area and provides lots of quirky sights to see and explore. The book is semi-geared towards photography and makes sure to offer plenty of stops with scenic views or subjects. It was great fun and gave me a reason to dig out the camera again. Looking over the nearly 300 shots I took… the results are mixed. It highlighted how quickly we lose a skill or muscle memory if we don’t continually exercise it.
I think I have a good photographic eye and vision. I’m pretty good at composing a shot that’s interesting and slightly different than a standard cell phone snap. That skill seemed to be the same as it always was (probably because I still take a lot of pictures with the cell phone). What was off was the mechanical skill of photography. Things like trying to remember apertures. What the buttons I’d pre-programmed on the camera did. How to find a particular mode or setting. Because we were with a group, I was rushing a little bit to keep up and didn’t have time to experiment or hunt and peck through menus to find what setting I was looking for. A lot of time I was in spray-and-pray mode. Take a whole bunch of shots at random apertures and hope I got something.
I just assumed I’d remember what to do, so I did zero practice before we left. That lack of practice showed. A couple years of not using the camera and those skills were gone. The same is true of the photo editing software I use. I spent several hours just trying to remember my workflow and how to achieve what I wanted.
It’s a good reminder that you have to keep up with skills if you don’t want them to atrophy. It’s why it takes two or three days on the slopes at the beginning of each ski season to feel comfortable again. We’re at the start of mountain biking season and I haven’t been on the bike since last fall. These first few weeks will be awkward and tentative. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. It would be a frustrating and humbling experience.
On one hand I’m a little disappointed in the photo results. I had a grand vision in my head of how things would turn out. The reality was pretty mediocre. But I did get a few shots I was pleased with. And those few good shots were just enough to get me excited again about photography. I’m now going to spend some time to relearn my camera and do the slow and methodical experimenting to get those skills back.
If you have a skill, a sport, or an activity that you used to do and enjoy – it’s time to shake off the dust and try it again. Don’t forget to tell yourself that if it’s been a while, your initial results aren’t going to be what you remembered. Don’t be frustrated, just keep at it. That muscle memory will kick in before long. It’s never too late to bring back activities you used to enjoy. But the longer you wait, the harder it’ll be.
I wonder if I still remember how to rollerblade?