Monday, October 29, 2012
Malibu Perfection on the day of our workshop
Planning a workshop 2 months out is a tricky proposition. Ty asked me yesterday how I knew we'd have perfect weather, swell, wind, and tide conditions. To which I responded,
"I didn't. This is fortune"
And then I smiled and thanked my lucky stars.
But I did my homework. I drove out to Malibu on 2 Sundays ago to scout out the locations. I made sure I was informed of the upcoming swell, wind, and weather patterns. When I heard we were getting the Santa Ana winds, I rejoiced because I knew that would bring offshore winds, balmy temperatures, and low humidity. In fact, the only predictable factor was the tide was set since it is tied to the moon phase.
But did I know it would be this nice? No. We got lucky. Really lucky. I didn't know what to expect. For all I knew 2 months ago, we could have been shooting in the rain.
But it would have been a phenomenally unique workshop/shoot.
Expectations are a funny thing. As with anything else it's a double-edged sword. Without expectations you could be happier but probably aimless. With expectations you could be more goal-oriented but often disappointed.
In the case of having too many expectations, you are simply setting yourself up for failure. In any given photoshoot (workshop or not), you can't possibly expect things to go all your way. Consider yourself lucky if catastrophic failure does NOT occur. Murphy's law applies here, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong"
In the case of my last Malibu shoot. I expected to go out to Malibu and have a nice afternoon shoot with Alexandra. But I forgot my camera at her apartment. If I held rigidly to my expectations of having a dSLR for the shoot, I would be sorely disappointed with the results (or lack thereof). Because unless I stumbled across a genie in a bottle on that beach, it wasn't going to happen.
Expectations are only as good as your ability to make lemonade.
Hell, the one thing you should always expect, is to be making lemonade.
That's not to say I don't have high expectations. I pride myself on my expectations. I go into every shoot expecting to get amazing captures. I expect to have the comfort and control of my D3 in my hands. I expect to be in sync with the model. I expect to constantly advance my style in post-processing.
I expect the world of myself all the time. I'm competitive like that.
But with all of those expectations in place I *try* and expect very little of everyone else.
Because I can't control others. I can prep and do my homework and hope things go well, but invariably things go awry.
And you can't control the situational variables. For example, yesterday during the workshop we met with some unhappy park rangers at Malibu. Rangers in a bad mood. Rangers that ticketed an old handicapped couples car for not purchasing a parking pass for the 20 minutes they were at the beach. The rangers asked us (not so kindly) to leave. We obliged. We moved up the beach and found ourselves in an even better location with rock formations and a beautiful setting sun. It was a blessing in disguise.
But had I expected to shoot at that specific beach, the workshop would have ended early. By leaving and going up the beach we had an opportunity to shoot an even better location.
If I seemed remarkably at ease with that whole situation, it's because I wasn't surprised.
Expectations are a function of control. And control over anything outside yourself is an illusion. All you can do is plan for the best and expect the worst. When the worst hits, it's life. It's part of the roller coaster. It's part of the journey. Embrace it. Challenge yourself. See what kind of lemonade you can make out of it.
And honestly it's as simple as changing your perspective. The right attitude changes everything. No dSLR? How about an iPhone? Salvage what you can out of the situation. Learn from the challenge. Learn how to pivot and improvise.
Challenges exist to test your true knowledge and abilities. Chances are we don't know as much as we think we knew. Or we're not as good as we think we are. These tests push us to think outside the box. To examine ourselves in greater detail.
And that's how we learn and grow. As people. As photographers.
Because honestly it's too easy to let our expectations explain why we failed. "Well, I thought I'd have my camera that day..." Yeah? Well, I expected the magazines and the agencies to kiss my feet and call me God. That obviously hasn't happened. Now, I can cry about it and go home empty-handed. Or I can figure out another way to win in this game.
People are resourceful creatures, but sometimes they look for reasons to explain away their current situation. Most of the time however they fail to identify themselves as the real reason that they fail. They never point the finger at themselves, but rather push the blame on some externality.
And as we talked about in the workshop, you're the photographer. When things go well, it's because you had a good team. When things go wrong it's your fault. You're the "goalie". All the blame. None of the credit.
Sure, not everyone likes crises management. Some people faint at the sight of blood. So the best way to minimize your exposure to such risks is to do your homework and prepare. But on the day of the shoot, you have to let it all go. Actors memorize their lines forwards and backwards. But the best ones are living in the moment and reacting to their counterparts as if it were actually happening. That's what makes them amazing actors. It's real to them. For us, we must learn to work with the what we're given. The sun, the fill light, the backdrop, the foreground, the model, etc. We come prepared but we shoot in the moment.
After all, the point of learning the fundamentals is so you can actually forget what you thought you knew and be liberated to create spontaneously. That's the highest form of any art. Learn to adapt and you'll never go extinct.