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Other people do this better

Posted on | Comments (6)

This morning I caught myself thinking, "I won't try to do that because there are plenty of other people doing it better."

Red kite in a tree

Kite in a tree

It's not the first time I've thought it: As I sift through ideas for what kind of material I want to put online, there have been several occasions when I've been watching red kites circling and thought about trying to get photos - even video - of them to put online, and then thought, no, there are lots of excellent photos of birds online, I'll never be that good, so I won't try. The difference this morning was that I caught myself.

I noticed the form of the thought: It's the idea that it's only worth doing something if you can do it as well as other people, the people who are best at doing that thing. I know this is rubbish - if only the very best people can do the thing, there'd be hardly anyone doing anything.

Recently a friend shared the poem, "Desiderata" on facebook, and I copied it as a reminder to myself. It includes the lines,

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
I know this; it's not a new insight to me. And yet still, the thought crept up on me that I shouldn't try wildlife photography because there are people doing it much better than I can.

I'm trying to understand why that thought seemed reasonable - so reasonable that I didn't even notice that it's something I know to be nonsense. I'm not usually prone to thinking that way. It's not as if it's something I have to guard against in myself, I'm just not particularly vulnerable to it. So why did that thought sneak in now?

I'm building this website and I have some ideas for directions I want to take it, but I'm still working it out. I'm in the process of deciding how I want to present myself to the world. This is a very self-conscious sort of thinking: I have the idea of an audience looking at what I produce and judging it. Do you like my work enough to want more of it? I'm not fishing for compliments here, just describing the kind of thought process I'm engaged in.

In the context of, "Will people like this?" it's very easy to think, "No, they'll prefer a better version." I know that there's better wildlife photography out there; you wouldn't want to look at mine when you could choose to look at that instead. But that's not how it works. We don't always choose to view/watch/consume "the best." We enjoy all sorts of art, and there's a great deal of disagreement over what counts as good, anyway.

Even though I'm publishing for an audience, I can't spend my life trying to second guess what you'll want to see. The only way to do this and stay sane is to do it for myself. I don't know what you'll like, so I just have to put things up that I like and see what you think, or as Tom Scott puts it, "Throw things at the internet and see what sticks."

With that in mind, I share with you a couple of not-the-best photos of birds. I enjoyed taking them and I quite like the results. That is enough.

Red kite

Comments (6)

  1. Paul Campbell:
    Feb 02, 2021 at 04:41 AM

    Yes i could go turn on National Geographic and watch wildlife documentaries from far flung places around the globe, but thats the thing, they are disconnected from me becasue they are filmed in places i have never been or probably will never visit. Sometimes i want to look at photos and enjoy looking at things from someone elses perspective, how they frame a shot or how they use light on photos. Your photos have good framing and sense of scale that to me makes them real, believable, not cut off and remote like how you could get from a magazine etc. Its like im actually there, watching these animals in action myself. Sometimes with modern photography we have the idea that we have to set up for hours and wait just for the right moment to take the picture. I would rather go out and shoot 100 pictures and say only have 10 great photos than go spend 5 hours just to get one "perfect" one. Its the excitement of taking the photos for me that makes me want to get out there and take them. I like your photos because they are well framed and show the subjects very well in their natural environment. I personally think the website is going in the right direction and im enjoying the content you are sharing.


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 07, 2021 at 04:47 PM

      Thanks, that's a good way of putting it - a different reason for looking at photos than just admiring pretty pictures.


  2. Jayne:
    Feb 03, 2021 at 07:06 AM

    Oh, sod how anyone else does it. If you enjoy taking pictures, then do so. If your images serve to remind you of what happened, where you were, what you saw, and give you pleasure then they are a success regardless of what anyone else has done.

    Some kind soul commented on my blog this week they thought my patchwork was 'perfect'. Heck, it is nothing of the sort and if you looked closely at all the bits I don't photograph then you would agree. But it doesn't need to be perfect - I enjoy what I am doing and that is the end in itself. Same with anything else, do it for yourself, not others. Yes, strive to do well but don't spoil the entire activity for yourself if you think you don't meet some imagined standard.


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 07, 2021 at 04:49 PM

      Thanks, well put! It's funny how I "know" this, but still got caught out by the idea that I have to be good enough.


  3. NicolaB:
    Feb 16, 2021 at 05:44 PM

    I catch myself thinking similar thoughts a lot. For me, it’s not just that I might not be the best , or as good as other people, but that I won’t be good at it straight away. For instance, I have been thinking about getting back into drawing, which I’ve not done for nearly 20 years, since my Art GCSE. I really like monochrome drawings done with pen and ink...but I’ve not tried even doodling, as I don’t think I’ll be able to create the images that I want to. I might never be able to draw as I want to, but I definitely won’t if I never try!
    So I think you should put whatever interests you on your website, and don’t be afraid to experiment and change!
    I should really take my own advice...


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 25, 2021 at 09:48 PM

      Haha, yes, it's much easier to give good advice than to take it, isn't it! I can relate to that reluctance to accept the (re)learning stage. The voice in my head tells me, "I should be able to do this!" without acknowledging that what I really mean "able" is that I have the potential, but it will take practice. Thanks for this. x


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