Do we take advantage of our time?


Tick Tock...

Time is the only true constant in our current existence, certainly for the foreseeable future anyway. The sun rises and sets every 24 hours (or thereabouts) and another day has passed us by. Until the sun dies, or something massively dramatic takes place that shifts us from this cycle I think we can say it 's a given. These days bring us the weeks, then months then years, and it is true what they say, it can pass you by in the  blink of an eye if you let it.

Time is my most precious commodity, and I, as with other precious commodities invest time as wisely as I can, however I do spend some carelessly and save some for myself. I much doubt that there is a single being on this mortal plane who has full control of all their time and so it is down to the individual as to how you choose to spend it.

As with many, a significant proportion of my time is spent earning a crust, sleeping, eating and socialising, which leaves a proportion of time for me. With all the working, life admin and socialising it is essential to allow brain time to breath and recharge, I am finding it more and more important to allow myself to relax my mind as I remain more focused when tackling important tasks, this you might say is my careless spending, it's time doing nothing important and achieves nothing but a clearer head.

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This time is is pent doing nothing in particular, it could be sleeping watching TV or doing leisurely activities with loved ones and friends that disconnects the mind from the daily grind and provides free thinking space. This time could be daily, or could be for more extended periods of time like a holiday. This may seem like a contradiction, why would this time be seen as careless spending? All will become clear soon, but I personally see this as something that I need to consciously allow time for and for me this is the simplest way of labelling this proportion my my personal time. 

'Do you take advantage of our time?'

Learning isn't for everybody, in fact there are large numbers of people I have met over the years who would do anything to never sit in a classroom for a second longer than they have to, and as I age I'm inclined to accept this fact more and more; learning isn't for everyone. I, on the other hand, am one of those with an inquisitive mind, the type that asks unrelenting questions to further my understanding of parts unknown. Give me the opportunity to sit in a classroom and expose myself to something new, I'll be there. Hands up and cards on the table, I am that annoying geek who will pester you in an attempt to know as much as you do and broaden my knowledge, which is something in my make up.

I find it uncomfortable when people allude to my talents, as I do not accept that I have a natural abilities, I just work really hard at what I do seeking every opportunity to invest in myself, further my understanding and develop my skills and knowledge. Often I am asked who taught me to take pictures and develop the RAW files, and the answer I always give is that I am self taught, but this isn't strictly true..

Well, it is true to a point. Yes, I have spent a lot of time in trial and error working things out for myself furthered by reading a few books which I will come in to later, but I discovered a lot through YouTube - this my friends is the single greatest resource for knowledge mankind has to offer. Yes, you have to sift through a couple of million videos of cats, kittens, slime, and people making idiots of themselves, but beyond all that there are people all over the world feeding the Internet with information, for free! 

Information is widely available, we are fortunate to live in the age of information where at a touch of a button you can learn almost anything instantly, something that is somewhat taken for granted in this day and age. I am of the generation who lived the world without the Internet and this luxury of instant gratification. To learn something you had to go to a library or bookshop, find a book or perhaps an instruction video and read/watch it. Now you just type in Google and discover it instantly.

It's through YouTube channels such as Fro Knows Photo and Thomas Heaton that I honed my skills as a photographer; watching, and re-watching whilst going about my own personal trial and error process. I have spent many hours sifting through channels seeking out individuals providing good quality information that I can relate to and connect with and consume their content to further my knowledge and understanding. 

In addition to videos online I have read a few analogue books on the subject, 3 in particular by Michael Freeman who's writing style is pretty hard hard going. I often find myself glazing over at times where he goes off on a bit of waffle to pad out the books, and get really annoyed when he references work by other photographers and doesn't print the particular images in the book, but as I have said we have information a the touch of the button so I can quickly google the photo he is referring to for reference. Oh, and the books themselves are an awkward large square shape that is difficult to hold in bed, but aside from all that the content is actually really informative and I do recommend his books for those that are pretty clear on the basics and are seeking to further your knowledge int eh subject of photography.  

Further to books on taking photos, I have consumed a few books on business, one most recently by Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson which was all around taking your creative side hustle and turning into something awesome! This was a great read, and very interesting even if it is targeted at young women thinking of starting an online store selling beads or something (seriously, there is a whole section on how to operate a business when having kids). I'll summarise some of my recent reading materials below for you should you be interested.

It is reasonably fair to say that I'm not easy to buy gifts for, usually because if I want something I'll just go and get it. This causes problems for my poor mum as she is always at a loss as to that to get me. This year for Christmas I received an online photography course; an 18 module online course by i-Photography, and she assures me that it's not because my photos are bad. Keeping an opened mind I have taken to the course thinking it would be a walk in the park, but it turns out I have a lot more to learn than I thought! I'll give an account of my time on the course on my blog as I work through it. 

So, the question I posed to you in the title of this post isn't about how you spend your time, that is personal to you, and there are quite literally thousands of people on the Internet who will queue up and tell you how to live your life. I am referring more to the age that we live in, which for better or worse, has some incredible benefits that were not available to us before.

We're not living in the Matrix just yet (or are we?) so you still have to actively use your time to consume this material, which brings me back to how I use my time, what I call investment.

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Spend Wisley... 

So we have spent some time carelessly, this has allowed for a clearer and more responsive mind so we can knuckle down with some self-investment, which leaves one final section of sand slipping through the hourglass of life: time for one's self.

I enjoy my photography a lot, and having invested time into it means that I enjoy it even more and I'm generally more satisfied with the results than if I hadn't invested in myself. I like to think that this final slice of the space and time where I am one with my camera is perfected by my earlier efforts.

But enough about me, let's talk about you. We'll leave any excuses out of it for the moment. You know the, I don't have enough time, I'm not good enough, I'm not clever enough, blah blah blah. The truth is if I can do it, so can you. Find something that makes you happy and invests in yourself to make that thing more enjoyable to you. You may have to try many things first before you find it, but it is out there waiting for you.

The information you need to hone your skills is at your very fingertips, it's nothing more than a Google away. Never before has so much been available to so many and it is being woefully neglected by the masses. Of course, if you are already familiar with the concept of self-investment then you are already winning, but if not, and you're familiar with the excuses we agreed to cast aside, then follow this advice from Canadian journalist Malcolm Timothy Gladwell who alludes to the 10,000 hour rule in his book  Outliers: The Story of Success. The general idea is that if you practice the same discipline for ten thousand hours you will become highly experienced in that subject, maybe even an expert, or even a  leader in the field, this is something that I have unconsciously followed most of my adult life before even being aware of Gladwell.

Ten Thousand Hours!?

Yes, this is a gig scary number! Lets try and break it down together:

😒Practising for 1 hour a day for 60% of the year will take around 45 years to hit 10,000 hours

🤔 Practising for 2 hours a day for 60% of the year will take around 23 years

🧐 Practising for 2 hours a day for 85% of the year will take around 16 years!

Are these numbers still too big? Probably.

Now, this isn't a cast-iron guarantee and will be dependant on the efforts exerted, I am also aware that looking at these numbers it still looks like a huge task, even a second job, and who needs that? Huddle round because here's the rub, as you continue in the process and remain dedicated to your cause you will find your skills improve and I genuinely believe that skills are proportional to enjoyment. So forget the 10,000 hours, you only need to practice as much as you need to be confident in what you do and peak your level of enjoyment in your chosen activity.

The same process applies to professional development, but I am not for one second suggesting you stop practising and developing in your chosen profession , ever! Furthering professional skills should always be a high priority and be developed for as long as possible to increase a persons employ-ability and earning ability, but as this post relates to how to enjoy something for yourself we'll leave professional development out of it.

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Do the Work!

I have no idea who you are, I am not sure what brought you here and what your curiosities are. My blog is targeted towards photography/travel/street photography enthusiasts so I do assume you have some interest in photography and can relate to my journey. If photography isn't your thing, then don't worry the same principles apply if your interests are jewellery making, rock climbing, poetry writing etc...

Find time in your life for the following:

🤓 Read books on the subject; either educational books, or biographical books from leaders in the field

🤓 Watch YouTube tutorials; there are millions of videos online for all manner of subjects

🤓 Follow and read blogs; like this one! Find people you connect with and follow their journey and use their tips

🤓 Google it; when something comes up you don't understand, stick it in Google!

🤓Do the work!

This last point is the central point to the book I referred to earlier, Being Boss, in which the reader is encouraged to do the work as without it you are not moving forward. For me doing the work in this context represents going out to shoot, doing modules of my course, watching tutorials on editing techniques, reading books and writing my blog.Yes this very blog I am now finding as a great way of fine-tuning my thoughts which better enables me to focus on elements of my photography and where I can improve.

Still Not Convinced??

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The above image was taken in Surrey (I think), back in 2016 around springtime on my first camera, a Sony RX100 iv. At the time I probably thought this was a good picture; it's well exposed, has a leading line and follows the rule of thirds with the main subject. I can't say for sure if any of these elements were truly understood by me at the time but I am able to look at the image and it's embedded metadata now and objectively critique the shot. 

Firstly, the exposure; yes it is properly exposed with enough detail in the shadows and no clipping on the highlights. Unfortunately, I do not have details of the mode I shot the image in so I cannot say for sure if the settings used to capture the image are all my own doing, either way, the image was shot at 1/800s @ f4.5, ISO 80. This wide aperture has provided weak focus for the background, which although does ensure a stronger subject, but this has meant that any interesting detail in the background is lost. The same exposure could have been achieved by boosting the aperture and reducing the shutter speed by 2-3 stops which would have retained more detail in the background. 

Composition at first glance appears to be fine, but there 't anything about the image that grabs attention. The fence on the right-hand side does imply a leading line towards the tree, but it is so acute that it is barely noticeable, and the main focus of the shot, the tree doesn't fil enough of the frame to make it stand out and be important. The clear featureless sky brings no interest to the shot. 

The fact that I have no RAW file for the image suggests that I shot in JPEG which limits my ability to carry out editing to the image inline with my preferred image style. Further to that, as I inferred earlier, the metadata is lacking key details such as location and other keywords so that the image could be found through searching my image database. 

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For the purpose of comparison I offer the above image which was one of the very last images I took in 2018, this another landscape image this time shot in Scotland with a similar subject. This image has been appropriately labelled with keywords so it can be easily located and provided with appropriate information such as Copyright details embedded in the original RAW file.

Clearly, the weather conditions between the two shots are in total contrast so the exposure settings used for this image are a little different. I had to bump the ISO in order to maintain an acceptable exposure setting, and maintain a shutter speed that allowed for a sharp image for the focal length whilst being shot hand held. All this factoring in an aperture that is within the range of the lenses peak performance for sharpness. Settings used are 250/1s @ f8, ISO 500.

Then the there is the post work. The first image has none as it is a direct JPEG out of the camera, with this shot I have used layers to add atmosphere to the scene which is supported by subtle tweaks to the colour curves to add depth to the colours and overall richness to the shot. 

This is my reward for the 2 years of work in the time between the taking of the two images. It is so satisfying to look back and see the progress and I look forward to seeing how much further I can push myself. 

Do I think I'm making the most of the resources available to me? I'd like to think so, but I could probably do more. So how about you, are you taking advantage of our time?

Thanks very much for reading, for more information on the materials I have referred and more to see the following links below:

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