This past weekend Lauren and I attended a motorcycle training course. Learning to ride a motorcycle has been a near lifelong dream for me, and I was fortunate that Lauren not only approved but also wanted to learn herself!
Throughout the two-day course I wanted to keep in mind the idea of practice and how it relates to riding a motorcycle, as well as photography.
Having been a photographer for quite some time I find it difficult sometimes to remember that first experience of picking up a camera and learning how to use it. I was keen to observe how my perception of riding a motorcycle would change over the course of two days worth of training.
Here’s how things went:
The first day was exciting but a bit discouraging! Lauren and I were both so happy to be riding on motorcycles by ourselves it was easy to forget how terrible we looked. Constantly stalling the motorcycle. Almost totally unable to find neutral with the shifter. Holding onto the motorcycle handle bars so tightly that we weren’t able to properly control the bike, and terrible control of the throttle.
The day seemed like a success because we didn’t get into any accidents, or drop the bike, and besides being quite sore and stiff we didn’t injure ourselves! Still, I kind of felt that I might not be able to pick up some of the more difficult techniques, as my abilities with the basic ones were quite rocky.
The second day was a lot better. Our experience and excitement from day one carried over to day two.
We practiced more advanced techniques with greater success. We practiced the more basic techniques with even more success. The bikes were less intimidating and we had better control over them.
The day culminated with a quick group bike ride around St. Albert. It was a fantastic experience getting to put everything we had learned into practice in a real-life situation, an exhilaration I’ve known with photography.
Learning to ride a motorcycle was a great experience for both of us. While neither of us are pros (so far from it!), we’re both in a much better position to start practicing the fundamentals (techniques we’ll both be practicing on motorcycles for the rest of our lives!). It really took practicing the techniques in order to establish a “Yeah, I can do this!” attitude, and then even more practice to realize that these are skills we’ll need to always be getting better at.
I think some of the best advice that the head instructor (an ex-pro racer) gave us was about practice. He said that “Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent“. Which means that if you learn how to do something the wrong way you’ll always be doing it the wrong way. On the other hand “Perfect practice makes perfect“. If you learn how to do things the proper way and constantly practice, your results will reflect that.
- Learning photography (like learning to ride motorcycles, or learning anything new!) can be a bit discouraging at first. There are always so many things to pay attention to, and it’s easy to believe that you don’t have the mental capacity to juggle everything. You just need to keep at it and realize that the things you practice will get easier. Stick with it!
- Photography especially is the sort of art/science that involves a lot of self education and discovery. It’s easy to unknowingly pick up bad habits that end up reducing the quality of your work. I would urge new photographers to focus on the basics. Read through every word in your camera instruction manual (I do this for every new camera I buy!). Read through it more than once! Understanding the basic functions of your camera is going to put you in a much better position for “Perfect practice makes perfect”. More advanced and professional photographers should also read the manual, but beyond that you should take some time on a regular basis to evaluate whether you’ve picked up any bad habits that you should unlearn. Unlearning also requires practice!
- Practice, practice practice. You might be past the “starting out” phase but you will never be past the “just learning” phase. We constantly need to practice the fundamentals, as well as learn about and practice new and different techniques. It will only make us stronger photographers! Our instructor had been riding motorcycles for 40 years, and still constantly practices the basic techniques we learned. You are NEVER too experienced to stop practicing the fundamentals.
Practice is a very interesting subject, and one we will certainly be exploring more!
Have you ever found constant practice to have enabled you to accomplish something you thought impossible? Share!