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Author Topic: Its all about the small details  (Read 39126 times)

Rob C

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #100 on: February 21, 2012, 04:12:27 pm »

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?



Yes please! My interpretation of the law of averages indicates that you'll eventually come to me and I'll have my fifteen minutes again, if only because all the other options will have been exhausted!

Oh - en route chez-moi, you'll also come across Don McCullin who switched from documentary and war to some advertising and landscape. As for St Ansel, I tend to believe that his people stuff is only known because of the fame that came from his landscapes. However, with these changes, I suspect that the motivation comes from outwith the photographer. Changing business opportunities (read lack of) can lead to substantial and frequent Damascene Moments. However big and established one seems to be to the world outside.

;-)

Rob C

BJL

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Re: Dismissiveness about the need for experience and practice, along with talent
« Reply #101 on: February 21, 2012, 04:19:23 pm »

That "10,000 hours" stuff really is about the most extremely accomplished people.
The work of Ericsson described in Expert Performance and Deliberate Practice is not about the one in a million or even rarer level of accomplishment that achieves the accolade of 'genius', and nor is Mark Dubovoy asking about what it takes to achieve that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is about (to quote Ericsson, op. cit.) becoming "expert" in the sense of "highly experienced professionals such as medical doctors, accountants, teachers and scientists". Which we seem to agree is what us 'sub-geniuses' are curious about!
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 04:21:07 pm by BJL »
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Craig Arnold

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #102 on: February 21, 2012, 04:21:23 pm »

Rob,

I clearly didn't explain myself properly.

I think achieving proficiency with an M to the extent that one is able to focus very quickly (not having to think about which direction to turn the button to focus for example) and adjust aperture, etc to get the correct metering is something that can take a long time to master and can be improved with practice.

By contrast learning to use say A-priority mode, shoot RAW, use auto metering and a 61 point AF system on a D3/D4 is something that can be learned very quickly, and the camera will almost always make sure you have a well exposed and in focus image ... of something. Not a great deal of practice required. An amazing piece of equipment no doubt, but not something that needs years of learning to master.

Of course using colour negative film in an M7 in A-priority is also pretty forgiving.

Anyway, my point was that it's somewhat dependant on the camera, I know Large Format is much harder to get right than a modern DSLR. But I don't think either require 10,000 hours of continuous improvement. They are much closer to a light switch than they are to a piano.

I found the comment about being able to articulate and comment out loud on one's games of chess or musical performance as being indicative of the kind of thing that can benefit from continuous practice very interesting. When I was just starting photography I found it very difficult to comment for my images "what the picture was about" as Michael phrases it. Now I don't find it difficult at all. Of course it can sound very pretentious, but I can talk about my images, and for other photographers whose work I love I find it easy to talk about a picture. For those whom I cannot - well I find that often those are the photographers whose work I just don't "get" or like.

I could hardly talk for 30 seconds on an Ansel Adams picture, but can wax boringly on for hours (to myself, I don't subject others to it) about Manuel Alvarez Bravo, or Andre Kertesz, or Robert Adams.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 04:23:18 pm by Craig Arnold »
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Isaac

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Re: Dismissiveness about the need for experience and practice, along with talent
« Reply #103 on: February 21, 2012, 04:27:27 pm »

It is about (to quote Ericsson, op. cit.) becoming "expert" in the sense of "highly experienced professionals such as medical doctors, accountants, teachers and scientists".
You've quoted from the introductory paragraph not the paragraph talking about the "10,000 hours" stuff -

"For example, the critical difference between expert musicians differing in the level of attained solo performance concerned the amounts of time they had spent in solitary practice during their music development, which totaled around 10,000 hours by age 20 for the best experts,  around 5,000 hours for the least accomplished expert musicians and only 2,000 hours for serious amateur pianists." (My emphasis.)
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Isaac

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #104 on: February 21, 2012, 04:34:49 pm »

... also switched the type of work they did... Would you like me to go on?
The Book of Photography does a decent job of showing that as they say - "Photographers and their pictures usually can't be pigeon-holed. Many photographers work in more than one genre and some appear more than once on these pages."
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BJL

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And 5,000 hours for the "least accomplished experts"
« Reply #105 on: February 21, 2012, 04:53:08 pm »

You've quoted from the introductory paragraph not the paragraph talking about the "10,000 hours" stuff -
Agreed: I am not agonizing one the specific number of 10,000 hours, but just the general idea that most worthwhile levels of accomplishment require a substantial amount of effort, as well as some level of innate ability. The bit about 5,000 hours for the "least accomplished expert musicians" suggests that the practice factor is associated in that research with both mid-level and high-level expertise. (Not that even the top 20 experts in that study puts us into the realm of "one in a million" genius.)
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 04:55:37 pm by BJL »
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theguywitha645d

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #106 on: February 21, 2012, 04:58:42 pm »



Yes please! My interpretation of the law of averages indicates that you'll eventually come to me and I'll have my fifteen minutes again, if only because all the other options will have been exhausted!

Oh - en route chez-moi, you'll also come across Don McCullin who switched from documentary and war to some advertising and landscape. As for St Ansel, I tend to believe that his people stuff is only known because of the fame that came from his landscapes. However, with these changes, I suspect that the motivation comes from outwith the photographer. Changing business opportunities (read lack of) can lead to substantial and frequent Damascene Moments. However big and established one seems to be to the world outside.

;-)

Rob C

So, are we confusing talent with fame? Are you saying Adams had no talent in his documentation of the camps? Are you suggesting this work was so he could pay his rent? And how does this relate to the idea of nature vs. nurture?
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Isaac

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Re: And 5,000 hours for the "least accomplished experts"
« Reply #107 on: February 21, 2012, 05:11:33 pm »

...but just the general idea that most worthwhile levels of accomplishment require a substantial amount of effort, as well as some level of innate ability.
Okay, when I wrote -- That "10,000 hours" stuff really is about the most extremely accomplished people -- I was being quite specific about the "10,000 hours".

I don't know what to make of "most worthwhile levels of accomplishment" - even what I accomplish sometimes seems worthwhile to me :-)

(Not that even the top 20 experts in that study puts us into the realm of "one in a million" genius.)
I don't understand. Where does it say anything about the sample size? The only "20" I can see in that summary is "by age 20".
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David Watson

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #108 on: February 21, 2012, 05:28:16 pm »

Everyone seems to have forgotten to a greater or lesser degree my original point when I started this thread.

Here's what I didn't say:

1. Practice is not worthwhile.
2. An innate talent cannot be improved by practice
3. Famous and well recognised photographers are lucky, talented or not talented.

What I did say was that it wasn't a prerequisite of being a good photographer that you need 10,000 hours of work or that the said 10,000 hours would automatically make you a good photographer.  Having said all of that it does not hurt to work at your art.
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Alan Goldhammer

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #109 on: February 21, 2012, 05:49:50 pm »

Rob,

I clearly didn't explain myself properly.

I think achieving proficiency with an M to the extent that one is able to focus very quickly (not having to think about which direction to turn the button to focus for example) and adjust aperture, etc to get the correct metering is something that can take a long time to master and can be improved with practice.

By contrast learning to use say A-priority mode, shoot RAW, use auto metering and a 61 point AF system on a D3/D4 is something that can be learned very quickly, and the camera will almost always make sure you have a well exposed and in focus image ... of something. Not a great deal of practice required. An amazing piece of equipment no doubt, but not something that needs years of learning to master.

Of course using colour negative film in an M7 in A-priority is also pretty forgiving.
Actually I'm on Rob's side here.  I found that I had to invest a heck of a lot of time when making the switch from Nikon film to Nikon digital.  Once I learned how to properly meter with film, it was pretty simple to focus, set the aperture or shutter speed and capture the image (also didn't have to worry about diffraction and could stop the lens down all the way if needed for good DOF).  With the Nikon autofocus, and all the choices that are involved things were not really as simple as point and shoot.  You have to know how the AF works, what the different ISO settings do with respect to noise, realize that diffraction is an issue and going beyond f8 for many lenses will lead to issues, and a myriad of other things.  Though well short of 10,000 hours with the D300, I'm pretty accomplished in terms of knowing the ins and outs of the camera.

Alan
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John Camp

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #110 on: February 21, 2012, 06:04:42 pm »

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.

And I find it baffling that you could have gotten this far in this thread, making several comments along the way, without bothering to read the things you're commenting on. It's been said several times that such things as physicality and intelligence ARE mostly inherited. Nobody without the right inborn physicality is going to run the 100m in 9.5 -- but there may well be people with that inborn physicality who either can't learn, or don't bother to learn, how to do it. (You don't just get off a couch and run 9.5; there actually IS a learning process associated with the best times in running.) The people who do learn how to do it we call "talented runners." The people who don't bother to learn it, but have the innate physicality, we don't call anything, because we never hear of them. The same with intelligence. Most everybody knows somebody who is very, very bright, and who excels on the tests that measure intelligence, but "doesn't use it." We even have a name for them -- slackers. Do we call them talented? I don't -- I call them bright and unmotivated. Talent is a measure of performance, not intelligence or physicality. And yes, talent usually is a mixture of several psychological and physical factors; it's not a simple thing. The idea of "practice" is not simple, either. It's not just pushing the button on the camera over and over and over. It's a very particular kind of focused work, that many people can't do. By the way, do you know why an outrageously high percentage of pro hockey players are born in January and February?

But, I think I'll quit this now. For anyone really interested, read "Blink" and "Outliers" and the Ericsson stuff. As I've said before, these are not simple-minded discussions, and most of the objections to the idea of talent being primarily a learned quality are extensively discussed there.

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Schewe

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #111 on: February 21, 2012, 06:23:23 pm »

Having said all of that it does not hurt to work at your art.

What is what Mark was saying in the article...I'm glad we've now come full circle. If you want to get better, work at it. Maybe, if you're good (and lucky) it won't take to 10K hours...but it might. Either way, the best way to learn is do...as Yoda said "Do or do not... there is no try.”
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BJL

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Re: And 5,000 hours for the "least accomplished experts"
« Reply #112 on: February 21, 2012, 06:54:46 pm »

I don't understand. Where does it say anything about the sample size? The only "20" I can see in that summary is "by age 20".
Sorry, my misreading. Still, I doubt that the sample was big enough to distinguish the effort level associated with 'one in a million' levels of greatness, just degrees of 'expertise'.
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Isaac

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #113 on: February 21, 2012, 08:25:35 pm »

Who would prefer MD to tell us about his own experiments and pratice in such or such case? Or what kind of details are important to him when it comes to HIS way of making photographs?
I would!

I happily accept that Mark Dubovoy is the source for information about his own photographs, so I was much more interested in what he had to say about "Dick's Secret Canyon" and "Dune and Dead Branch" than in what he has to say about Cartier-Bresson.

I would have liked him to tell us the specific details that lead him to say "The Pond" "is an excellent example of The Unseen" (I can think of some, but I'd like to hear what he sees that wouldn't have been apparent to him at the scene.)

Of course, that doesn't mean I won't get stuck on things in the photos: Are those distant buttes tilted in "Butes From The Ranch"? Is "Wine Glasses" better with the glass stem reflection down to the bottom of the photo or would it be better without a reflective surface? (Would it work at all without a reflective surface?)

"F/8 for 35 mm full size sensors" And be there! :-)
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 08:31:36 pm by Isaac »
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Isaac

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #114 on: February 21, 2012, 08:30:35 pm »

Everyone seems to have forgotten to a greater or lesser degree my original point when I started this thread.
You mean we've been commenting on Mark Dubovoy's essay rather than commenting on your comment about Mark Dubovoy's essay? Is that surprising?
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jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #115 on: February 21, 2012, 08:55:14 pm »

And I find it baffling that you could have gotten this far in this thread, making several comments along the way, without bothering to read the things you're commenting on.
That's a very dumb and ignorant thing to say. I actually make a point of carefully reading and rereading before posting on forums - which is time consuming and why I don't frequent forums too often. Just because I have a different opinion to yours does not make me illiterate.

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It's been said several times that such things as physicality and intelligence ARE mostly inherited.
Which is talent.  :P

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Nobody without the right inborn physicality is going to run the 100m in 9.5
Which is exactly the point those of use who do not believe practice is everything have been saying.

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-- but there may well be people with that inborn physicality who either can't learn, or don't bother to learn, how to do it. (You don't just get off a couch and run 9.5; there actually IS a learning process associated with the best times in running.) The people who do learn how to do it we call "talented runners." The people who don't bother to learn it, but have the innate physicality, we don't call anything, because we never hear of them. The same with intelligence. Most everybody knows somebody who is very, very bright, and who excels on the tests that measure intelligence, but "doesn't use it." We even have a name for them -- slackers. Do we call them talented? I don't -- I call them bright and unmotivated. Talent is a measure of performance, not intelligence or physicality.
Now this is where you get it very, very wrong. Talent is simply an ability, whether or not you choose to use it does not make you more or less talented. Nor does whether or not you were financially successful in your endeavours necessarily have any bearing on your talents. What if you simply have no interest in selling your creation? What if you are smarter than everyone else and come out with all these clever ideas that are rejected by a conservative society? What if you create art that is too bizarre for most people, yet years later you are recognised as a genius? Despite being a complete failure in his own lifetime, Van Gogh managed to break a few auction records for the prices of his paintings some years later.
Being more technically capable can also be of no relevance. What's the difference between a jazz guitarist and a rock guitarist? - One knows 3 chords and plays to 3,000 people, the other knows 3,000 chords and plays to 3 people.  ;)

 
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And yes, talent usually is a mixture of several psychological and physical factors; it's not a simple thing.
Again nothing we disagree on here.

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The idea of "practice" is not simple, either. It's not just pushing the button on the camera over and over and over. It's a very particular kind of focused work, that many people can't do.
And there are those who can take great photos as soon as they've mastered the fairly simple mechanics of how to use a camera. Some people just know how to do stuff.

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By the way, do you know why an outrageously high percentage of pro hockey players are born in January and February?
Is it to do with the timing of the school year and physical development of students at certain ages? In my school year I was one of the youngest and others in my class were nearly a year older. Makes a big difference when doing some sports and if selection is due to when you are born, you can end up being a year behind if you are at wrong end of year.

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But, I think I'll quit this now. For anyone really interested, read "Blink" and "Outliers" and the Ericsson stuff. As I've said before, these are not simple-minded discussions, and most of the objections to the idea of talent being primarily a learned quality are extensively discussed there.
The fundamental flaw in Ericsson's observations regarding those who have practised playing their instruments a lot and thus become 'experts' in 10,000 hours, is that it is based on a self selected group of people who were actually good at something to start with and is very probably why they then did the many hours practice. Not to mention they were being judged on what is basically a mechanical skill [a very complex one admittedly], which is the sort of thing that responds very well to long term practice.
Now if the study had instead gathered a group of people that was representative of the entire population and had them practice for 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 hours that would then be a much more significant and relevant study. And if the testing of ability included creating music as opposed to merely playing someone else's now that would be even more interesting. Many musicians and artists do great work when their talent is raw and unpolished.
Even more telling is the number of musicians who are not anywhere near being experts in the technical sense, but produce great music not in spite of this, but because they do not have their uniqueness polished out of them.

I have to say I'm a bit underwhelmed by Gladwell. Whenever I see an article about his latest insightful observation, I usually think. So what? I already knew that, it was either obvious to me or previously reported upon.
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DaFu

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #116 on: February 21, 2012, 10:27:05 pm »

jjj said:
Quote
Talent is simply an ability, whether or not you choose to use it does not make you more or less talented.

I quite agree. In 30 years+ of martial arts teaching there were more than a few times where a new student came to class with no prior experience and after a month or so it was utterly, completely obvious they were talented. Talented to the point they could do some things better than good students who had been practicing for a decade. What was very, very interesting was that often they didn't last very long. I came to think the problem was that they found things too easy—there was no challenge. What they didn't realize, of course, was that some things come easy, but the ability to do them at any time, in any place, as part of some complex situation where simple reactions are not enough, comes with practice. Lots and lots and lots of practice. If there is something about an art that catches the talented person's fancy (and the stories from top performers in any discipline bear this out: "Something just fascinated me about it and I had to find out more . . .") and they have the drive, then they can become superlative. As for the rest of us schmucks, if you enjoy it and keep at it you'll be better and you'll have had some truly pleasurable experiences.

Dave

P.S. I hasten to add that I have also seen students who "blossomed" sometimes after years of just good work. Why, I suspect in their cases, is very complicated.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 10:36:13 pm by DaFu »
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jjj

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #117 on: February 21, 2012, 11:42:44 pm »

I was also going to mention the talented students leaving issue, which I've also encountered in teaching martial arts.
But you've already said what I was going to.  :)
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Rob C

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #118 on: February 22, 2012, 04:12:02 am »

So, are we confusing talent with fame? Are you saying Adams had no talent in his documentation of the camps? Are you suggesting this work was so he could pay his rent? And how does this relate to the idea of nature vs. nurture?




According to a DVD that I have, Adams had a hard time paying for anything until he was a fairly old man, at which time it rolled in. Once I find it and verify the authors I'll let you know, but it really does seem he was under quite strong financial pressure very much until his old age when he was taken under the wing of someone who then promoted the hell out of him and pulled his name up into starhood and into political interest groups and powerplays.

No, I don't think a whole heap of the shots of his that I've seen on the 'camp' genre. To be even more brutal about it, he strikes me as very good on technique and relatively empty on content; a stationary Ferrari, if you will. That's one of the penalties of raising people to the heavens: they usually can't deliver.

That's just my own opinion, and many many more disagree, as they are perfectly entitled to do.

As for confusing talent with fame - no, not in my mind; I'm very clear about the difference. Nature/nurture? Come on, you think that nature has no rôle, that nurture can stuff a dead turkey with the power of flight?

Rob C

Alan Goldhammer

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Re: Its all about the small details
« Reply #119 on: February 22, 2012, 08:41:07 am »

According to a DVD that I have, Adams had a hard time paying for anything until he was a fairly old man, at which time it rolled in.
Rob C
When I moved to the Washington DC area in 1978, Harry Lunn still had his art gallery that specialized in photography down here.  One of the photographers he represented was Adams and at that time you could still buy an Adams signed print for $250 (though not Moonrise, as far as I remember that one went for $1500).  Lunn later moved the gallery up to New York.  This obituary from the Independent provides an interesting snapshot to Lunn's life.  His first gallery show of Adams was in 1971 (Adams was 69 at that time).

Alan

Edit added:  My regret was not buying a print at that time but I was just a 'poor' post-doctoral fellow and $250 was a significant sum of money.  One of my neighbors did buy a 16x20 print of Aspen Trees!
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