“Every Artist was First an Amateur”      Ralph Waldo Emerson

You probably remember the time, back in the day, when you wanted to become an Olympic skier, or a concert pianist, or an astronaut, or a life-changing teacher, or an outdoor photographer who climbed Mount Everest. Many of us had those dreams but never achieved them due to a lack of time, devotion, skill, or uncontrollable circumstances.

And maybe now you have aspirations to become a scratch golfer, or a famous chef, or the solo singer in the church choir, or an amateur photographer that earns awards for outstanding photographs. Is such an aspiration reasonable or just daydreaming about a goal that is far from achievable?

As we progress through life our goals change. Some of us are still striving for professional or personal goals while others are ready to move on. But most of us still have a secondary goal that was pushed aside; perhaps a vocation we dreamed about or a hobby we enjoyed that dropped off our radar. Can we take on that goal now? As is always the case in life, you’ll never know until you try.

The goal of the First an Amateur blog is to help you on your journey to achieve your photography goal. This blog is not just for seniors who have nothing better to do. It is for anyone that would like to become an amateur photographer who moves beyond the point-and-shoot stage of taking pictures. First an Amateur is intended to introduce you to a number of other amateurs who are also on a journey to become more of an artistic photographer.

Since starting my own photography journey I have talked with many other amateur photographers who have the same goals. Their journey sounded so familiar that I asked them if they would be willing to share their story with me by answering a dozen questions to compare their experience to mine. Fortunately they were very willing to answer the questions and I am hoping this blog will motivate you to join the discussion and share some of your stories and questions.

I am retired now, but for 37 years I was an educational psychology professor. I spent my professional life studying how people learn and how teachers impact the learning and motivation of their students. Now, three years later, I miss exploring the teaching-learning process and regularly reflect on learning how to become a better photographer. I’ve come to believe that sharing my journey, and the journey of the other 12 photographers I am working with, will help other amateur photographers to improve their skills and motivation to become an artful photographer.

I am excited to work with a group of amateurs who share a similar photography journey and to explore how to help people learn to refine their photographic skills. My involvement with the Teton Photography Group (a photography club http://tetonphotographygroup.org) has been encouraging and has demonstrated how working with other photographers can motivate me to improve my photographic skills. I hope when you read about what I have learned it will help you move forward with better artistic photographs. I am striving to help create an on-line community that builds on Emerson’s idea that “Every Artist was First an Amateur.”

Optional Homework

My years of teaching showed me that when learners are engaged in answering a question their learning is more effective. So to help you learn more from my next post I would like you to think about the following question.

What do you believe is the single most important variable in improving as a photographer? There is no right answer and the most important variable in your success may be different from the critical variable of success for other people. Here are some possible variables you might want to consider: better gear; more time; better camera skills; post-processing skills; more motivation; better understanding of composition; live in a better photographic environment; access to a coach or photography teacher; more energy to get out of bed at sunrise. The last one is kind of a joke but not completely. The next post should be in approximately a week. Feel free to send me your answer and I may include it in the post.

“Our” Goal

My goal is to get a number of amateur photographers interested in joining in “our journey” to discover and implement strategies to improve our photography. I describe this as our journey because: 1) I am going to share with you what I am learning; 2) I am going to share what “the dozen” folks shared about their journey in the answers to my questions (Blog Questions), and 3) I want you to get involved in the discussion by responding to the homework questions or by sending me your answers to the twelve questions. Essentially my goal is our goal because this is our journey not just my journey. My plan is to have a post about every week that discusses topics that impact our photography. I’ll try to give a fairly simple homework assignment every week to encourage you to think about a topic and hopefully help you to advance your journey.