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Author Topic: Its all about the small details  (Read 40611 times)

theguywitha645d

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #80 on: February 21, 2012, 09:39:02 am »

A great photographer knows what he wants the image to be before he even gets the camera out of the bag. This ability to create and conceive a picture in the mind - and then go and find it - is what it is really all about.

John

Like Capa's images of the Normandy invasion? I would image that documentary photographers do not visualize, how can they when they don't arrange the facts. Are you saying the Smith visualized the girl in the bath tube being held by her mother in his Minamata project when it was her mother that suggested the scene? Granted, he had the skill to carry it off, but this is not him visualizing, unless visualizing is just looking.

I am not really sure what is firing up folks about the article. The author is simply idealizing what he thinks is his perfect model of a photographer. He is then just picking (and inventing) "facts" to support his hypothesis. All in all, it was not a very useful article beyond a statement of personal preference.
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BJL

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dismissiveness about the need for experience and practice, along with talent
« Reply #81 on: February 21, 2012, 10:58:46 am »

I don't think anyone is saying all you need is talent to succeed. Hard work is still absolutely necessary, but some people are thinking it's just the hard work that gets you to the top.
Hopefully not, but the original claim was mainly about the necessity of a long period of practice to excel in almost any field of artistic endeavor, not that this is sufficient to become a great photographer, so the more intense disagreements with that do seem to drift in the direction of "it's mostly innate talent, and in photography, the learning required is mostly a few simple mechanical things, quickly learnt."


I suppose that this debate is in the spirit of paying attention to all the small details, in having dozens of posts analyzing and debating two words from the entire essay: "10,000 hours".
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theguywitha645d

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #82 on: February 21, 2012, 11:18:38 am »

Naturally, the whole idea there is a definable end point for a photographer is a bit far fetched. What if I am doing passport photos? Do I really need 10,000 hours? Why are passport photos somehow less than formal portraiture--are we thinking Vogue or Sears? Adams's work is not ground shaking in an absolute sense, it was at the time he did it (which is an important reference), but he was not the only one doing this type of work. Where do we find a quantifiable scale?

Is money the defining element? No amateur photographers allowed like Julia Margaret Cameron or Imogen Cunningham? Professional photographers simply run, if it is going to last, a profitable business, talent is secondary and "greatness" is marketing.

I don't think there is an easy solution to the problem--the top ten list to being a great photographer. However, two things could be said, if you don't have an eye (whatever that means) and you don't put in any effort, you are probably not going to be taking pictures that have interest outside family and friends, at least beyond a few moments of fame when your image goes viral on Flickr. And most likely, no repeat performance.

One thing is certain about those individual we lump into the "great" crowd, none of them achieved greatness following the same path.
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Isaac

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I suppose that this debate is in the spirit of paying attention to all the small details, in having dozens of posts analyzing and debating two words from the entire essay: "10,000 hours".
With several honourable exceptions, I think it's been more like obsessing over those two words without paying attention to any of the details.

Mark Dubovoy's "10,000 hours" comments are just wrong - those comments are simply a misunderstanding of the reported research, that's a pretty big detail but a very ordinary kind of mistake.

The original researcher has helpfully provided a 1100 word summary so we can easily come to a correct understanding of their "10,000 hours" research.

Once we have a correct understanding of their "10,000 hours" research, we might take the next step and consider the research that shows deliberate practice is not the only factor.
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John Camp

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #84 on: February 21, 2012, 01:13:08 pm »


Lot's of false arguments have been raised here to discount the worrying concept of talent; worrying, because it implies the existence of something that can't be bought or attained or derived from repetition. In other words, it's not egalitarian and must therefore be denied.

Actually, I think the worrying concept here is that talent has to be earned. You can't excuse yourself by saying "I just wasn't born lucky." I think that people who believe in in-born talent should read the books we've been talking about (if they're really interested in the question of talent. If not, then don't worry about it.) These are not one-note books -- talent is a very complex thing, as is learning, and these books make that point. For example, the guy here who talks about his brother who can coax a tune quickly from almost any instrument. It's possible that his brother has perfect pitch, which makes that much easier. But perfect pitch is learned. Most Chinese and Vietnamese have it, because their languages are tonal, and they're taught pitch from the time they're infants. Some westerners also have it, but it's learned. And, I suspect this brother can mostly play certain kinds of instruments -- perhaps guitars and pianos, where the note relationships are easily learned. I bet he can't pick up a trumpet or an oboe (without previous training) and get good notes from it...

When you're discussing those things, you have to pay very close attention to what you call "talent." For example, Anthony Shadid, the New York Times reporter who just died in Syria (of an asthma attack) won two Pulitzers, and was one of the most highly regarded reporters in the world. But, he wasn't a great writer, nor, in terms of actual question-and-answer stuff, did he seem to be a great reporter. That is, he didn't ask questions that most other good reporters wouldn't ask in the same circumstances. What made him a great talent was actually his *will* to do things -- to go places that others would not (because of fear), to report on dangerous events, and to do it over and over and over. His talent was a will to witness, more than anything else. That's what makes most great war photographers -- the will to witness, and the bravery to stay with it. The camera work is actually relatively trivial. So, when you're talking about talent, you always have to ask, "Exactly what talent are we talking about?"

You also have to understand (about this argument) that "learning" is not mechanical. We're not talking about 10,000 hours learning to handle a camera -- we're talking about serious, in-depth investigation of ideas and themes that explore the whole range of photographic possibilities, or a few possibilities to great depth. You actually *can* think about such things, if you're inclined to. It's not all running out and shooting a lot of pictures. That's just taking snapshots, and like flicking a light switch, doesn't take a lot of ability. It's the thinking about new possibilities that's hard, and that develops talent.

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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #85 on: February 21, 2012, 01:35:12 pm »

... Mark Dubovoy's "10,000 hours" comments are just wrong...

Perhaps you would enlighten us as to just how and why they are "just wrong", in your own words, instead of asking us to obtain a PhD first, in order to understand it?

John Camp

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #86 on: February 21, 2012, 02:10:35 pm »

Quote
Once we have a correct understanding of their "10,000 hours" research, we might take the next step and consider the research that shows deliberate practice is not the only factor/

The cited New York Times piece doesn't mean much -- it just means that smarter people do better than less-smart people, in highly defined circumstances where there's an extreme emphasis on being smart, .i.e. being a certain kind of academic and writing papers. But, "talent" is usually defined as performance compared to a peer group, not some other group. So the Times' article authors should have compared performance between members of the 99.9% group, and what they would have found is, that some of them were more "talented" in writing papers than others. And that "talent" would have been learned, not inherited, since they're all more or less equally smart.

Nobody has said that intelligence isn't important in many fields. It's just that intelligence and talent are different things. And talent is earned, not inborn.
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Isaac

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #87 on: February 21, 2012, 02:29:48 pm »

Perhaps you would enlighten us as to just how and why they are "just wrong", in your own words
I already have - note that the bullet points are not in quotation marks, they are my own words. (It's sweet of you to place such a high value on my words, but it would be far more reasonable to place a higher value on the words of the people who actually did the research.)

Previously -
Let's correct some basic misunderstandings...


...instead of asking us to obtain a PhD first, in order to understand it?
I'm confident that you are able to understand that very short research summary - it's written in straightforward English.
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Isaac

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #88 on: February 21, 2012, 02:49:46 pm »

The cited New York Times piece doesn't mean much...
I pointed to that article simply as a reminder that although deliberate practice stands out as a dominant factor, that still doesn't make it the only factor.

But, "talent" is usually defined as...
"a special natural ability to do something well, or people who have this ability"


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theguywitha645d

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #89 on: February 21, 2012, 03:10:52 pm »

And talent is earned, not inborn.

Can you cite a source? Hard to believe it is simply learnt as the outliers seem to prove otherwise--if everything is learnt, how do we progress as we could not innovate beyond what is known. Where does "insight" and "inspiration" come from. Nor does there seem to be any biological foundation to that view--not all skill is learnt.

BTW, I think you did not carefully read the Times article. There was a study between peers where those with better memory function could sight read music better than their peers given equal practice times. This is not paper writing.
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Rob C

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #90 on: February 21, 2012, 03:15:37 pm »

Nobody has said that intelligence isn't important in many fields. It's just that intelligence and talent are different things. And talent is earned, not inborn.



Well, John, that's where I'm afraid we have to part company; talent is neither earned nor learned: it's the flux that lies within the aether in which specific abilities lie dormant until their moment comes. Then, it's the catalyst that makes those abilities flourish. IMO.

I've been listening to almost constant music for what I imagine must be a most unusual, daily, amount of time: from radio beamed into India from Radio SEAC in Ceylon during the 50s to pirate radio ships filling the darkroom and studio during the 60s and 70s; from cassettes to even more radio now streamed into my Spanish office from Lerose in Louisiana. My head is filled with the stuff and I imagine myself perfectly capable of telling when a singer hits a flat note. But, the moment I open my own mouth to give forth, the only cheers I receive, even from myself, sound suspiciously like advice to shut the hell up.

Those Chinese and Viets that you mentioned must have something else; I wonder if it's talent?

;-)

Rob C 

jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #91 on: February 21, 2012, 03:20:23 pm »


Nobody has said that intelligence isn't important in many fields. It's just that intelligence and talent are different things.
Really! You can't be very talented if you think that.  ;)
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Isaac

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #92 on: February 21, 2012, 03:27:33 pm »

Once the principles and basic practice with the equipment is mastered I am not convinced that any more practice can make any meaningful difference. Perhaps one's skill with a Leica might be I suppose, never having to think about focus, never having to think about metering, etc. ...

In this context, I think "skill with a Leica" is the same as mastering the equipment.

The art of photography is not obviously or unequivocally amenable to the 10,000 hours effect, even in principle...

Yes! The research findings are for activities where performance consistently increases beyond acceptable performance. So we should ask - Have there been photographers who kept making better and better photographs? (Whatever that might mean.)

"Although his range of subject matter is wider than that of many other well-known photographers -- portraits, landscapes, abstractions, machinery, details of natural forms, architecture, and village life in various parts of the world being among his recurrent themes -- his methods and his ways of seeing changed so little that the photographs he made in Mexico in 1966 are impossible to differentiate from those he made there thirty years earlier." (My emphasis.)

p15 Paul Strand: sixty years of photographs
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 03:54:49 pm by Isaac »
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PierreVandevenne

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #93 on: February 21, 2012, 03:40:04 pm »

As I've said ad nauseam, photography has to be one of the easiest, most simple processes to learn: an ape could do it.

_can_ do it

http://www.petapixel.com/2011/07/05/monkey-hijacks-photographers-camera-and-shoots-self-portraits/
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theguywitha645d

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #94 on: February 21, 2012, 03:43:56 pm »

I don't remember Ansel being well known for his sports photography...

Ansel is very well known as a documentary photographer that photographed the conditions of the US concentration camps for US citizens of Japanese descent. I would also look up Gordon Parks that was a documentary, fashion, and fine art photographer as well as a novelist, poet, and movie director. Margret Bourke-White was a commercial photographer and documentary photographer. Domon Ken and another Japanese photographer that escapes my name, also switched the type of work they did. David Hockney and Man Ray also come to mind. And Salgado is trying his hand at landscape and nature photography. Would you like me to go on?
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jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #95 on: February 21, 2012, 03:44:46 pm »

When you're discussing those things, you have to pay very close attention to what you call "talent." For example, Anthony Shadid, the New York Times reporter who just died in Syria (of an asthma attack) won two Pulitzers, and was one of the most highly regarded reporters in the world. But, he wasn't a great writer, nor, in terms of actual question-and-answer stuff, did he seem to be a great reporter. That is, he didn't ask questions that most other good reporters wouldn't ask in the same circumstances. What made him a great talent was actually his *will* to do things -- to go places that others would not (because of fear), to report on dangerous events, and to do it over and over and over. His talent was a will to witness, more than anything else. That's what makes most great war photographers -- the will to witness, and the bravery to stay with it. The camera work is actually relatively trivial. So, when you're talking about talent, you always have to ask, "Exactly what talent are we talking about?"
Talent is simply an inherent ability that is over and above other people abilities in the same area. Being prepared to work really hard, to push yourself further, to persevere, these are all talents. Just as good hand eye co-ordination, intelligence, artistic flair, physical strength, musicality are also talents.
Practice can certainly make people more able than those who are too lazy to make use of their talents, but with equal practice some will simply excel, due to the simple fact they are more able. Schools are the obvious demonstration of this in practice. The whole population goes there, but only a few ever excel in any subject or activity. Same applies to language - people can live for decades in a new country and still never master the language as well as your average native.

I've been involved in dance and martial arts for a very long time and it's so obvious that some people simply have the ability to do the activity well from the get go even though they may never have practiced this activity before. Others with a lot of practice can become very capable. But no matter how long they train, will never excel as they simply lack the aptitude. In dance it is musicality that separates the technicians from the real dancers.

I have to say I find it utterly baffling that anyone thinks people can be gifted at something simply with practice. It's like saying anyone can run a 100m in 9.5 seconds if they practice long enough. And physical skills or attributes are as much a talent as mental prowess and capability. And surely no-one here is going to try and claim we can all be Nobel Prize Winners.


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Christoph C. Feldhaim

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #96 on: February 21, 2012, 03:46:28 pm »

_can_ do it

http://www.petapixel.com/2011/07/05/monkey-hijacks-photographers-camera-and-shoots-self-portraits/

From the petapixel article cited:

Quote
Here’s an interesting question: doesn’t the monkey technically own the rights to the images?

BJL

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Dismissiveness about the need for experience and practice, along with talent
« Reply #97 on: February 21, 2012, 03:54:54 pm »

Once we have a correct understanding of their "10,000 hours" research, we might take the next step and consider the research that shows deliberate practice is not the only factor.
That last phrase sounds like 'flogging a straw man': attacking the other extreme doctrine that "only effort matters, and innate ability not at all". And the evidence cited there is rather weak: the numbers I see are that in explaining the sight-reading ability of talented pianists, practice might explain "nearly half", while "working memory capacity" explains about 7%.

So already, as a teacher, if I have to choose between emphasizing the controllable factor [practice] that contributes about half, or the uncontrollable factor [allegedly innate memory capacity] that contributes far less, I know where I would put my emphasis! Then there is the question of whether testing of adults for "working memory capacity" measures a purely innate talent or a mental ability that is to some extent improved by its more frequent exercise in activities like, say, memorizing music.

Of course the correlation between amount of practice with achievement cited earlier in that opinion page piece also proves very little: talent or already achieved competence in a particular area is likely to motivate one to more practice. I know that I as a student I had the bad habit of studying more in my best subjects than in the ones where I had the most need of and room for improvement.

Finally I would avoid the extreme cases of the most egregiously accomplished people. For most of us, the more relevant question is how much various factors contribute to achieving a good level of artistic of professional accomplishment, not whether practice alone can produce a photographic Da Vinci.


Note to Slobodan: All text in double quotes refers to http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/opinion/sunday/sorry-strivers-talent-matters.html
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 04:19:44 pm by BJL »
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Rob C

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #98 on: February 21, 2012, 03:55:10 pm »

Perhaps one's skill with a Leica might be I suppose, never having to think about focus, never having to think about metering, etc. But as mentioned, that may not lead to anything more than perfectly sharp pictures of fuzzy concepts, and by purchasing a Nikon D4 most of that stuff is achievable by a novice with only a few weeks of instruction.


I just can't believe I've read that on a photography forum.

In my innocence, I believed that the Leica, having no af, would actually demand that the snapper snap with care; having a simple metering system with the Ms indicates to me that a sound understanding of metering would be essential. As for the Nikon you cite, I think it would cause the neophyte more than a little sweat under the armpits or at least across the brow! I found the switch to digital cameras a friggin' nightmare of learning just how much I could safely ignore and how to best revert the thing to as close to manual as it permitted!

Please tell me you were being sarcastic and that I simply didn't catch on!

Rob C

Isaac

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Finally I would avoid the extreme cases of the most egregiously accomplished people.
That "10,000 hours" stuff really is about the most extremely accomplished people.

For most of us, the more relevant question is how much various factors contribute to achieving a good level of artistic of professional accomplishment...
Yes!
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