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What is a “Newbie” Anyway?

We were on the Celebrity Reflection, but when we saw the Pacific Princess, we looked high and low for Gopher, Julie, Doc and Captain Stuebing.

We were on the Celebrity Reflection, but when we saw the Pacific Princess, we looked high and low for Gopher, Julie, Doc and Captain Stuebing.

I am back J. In the third week of January, I left for my second Caribbean Cruise. We had a great time, but with more limited photo “ops” than I had hoped. While I carried the new D800 around the islands and aboard ship, my shots were limited. I was pleased with the ones I did bring home, though. We arrived back in Michigan on a Saturday, and by Sunday, I was down with the latest upper respiratory virus. After 2 weeks, I am finally re-joining the ranks of the living. So, here is an off the wall topic………

I am struck with how often I read, or hear someone say, “I am a newbie to photography and have lots to learn.”  “Newbie.” Interesting word. Like life itself, the journey in photography is a constant educational experience. In my near 30 years as a lawyer (my “day job”) I marvel at how often I still learn something new. I have remarked to others that if you are not learning, you are moving backward. That translates, in my view, to photography, too (perhaps more than ever in a world of rapidly changing technology). We are all “newbies” on some scale, and always have more to learn. But perhaps even more notably, I am always impressed at how a “newbie” can bring a freshness to the vision of photography; a lack of “baggage” that some of us “old hats” carry with us.

We are all newbies on some scale

So what exactly is a “newbie”? My first camera was a Kodak Baby Brownie, shooting (I believe) 120 black and white Kodak film. It was—more than anything—a toy I used as a child of mere 10 years. It produced a lot of boring, blurry, poorly exposed snapshots. I suppose I was a “newbie” at that point. Like most people, I had the odd instamatic, and then 35mm point & shoot camera over the years and used it on rare family occasions or trips to produce “snapshot memories” (in most cases, the memories good; the images—not so much).

Years later, in the 1970’s, I became “more serious,” acquiring a very old 35mm camera my dad bought in Korea during his stint in the Military, inspired by my college professor and gifted landscape photographer, John Knox. Was I a “newbie”? I don’t know how you could have defined me as anything else. Forward a few years. “Better” equipment; a few more skills; some time in a B&W darkroom and shooting for college newspaper and yearbook. New Experiences. Definitely a “newbie” again. A few more years . . . well, hopefully you get my point.

We are all “newbies;” at some point on the infinite learning curve. That is why I take a certain joy in helping inspired photographers, “new” at the craft, or wanting to advance their craft. I am probably just barely qualified to give them a little push up the hill, before I really need to hand them off to the real teaching professionals.

But there are some great things being a “newbie” brings to the table. They often have a fresh, unorthodox view of things. I have a handful of friends, a couple of which I have personally helped (at least in some small way) move from the P&S stage to advanced shooters. I have frequently been impressed with their vision. We would shoot together, or shoot the same or similar scene and I would see in their images, a view of the scene that I completely missed with my “technically correct” image. Sometimes a lack of “baggage” brings a fresh and unique approach to an iimage. I also appreciate the fresh enthusiasm for the craft that is often brought by the so-called “newbie.” And I may have learned as much myself by “teaching” others as in any other way.

I am probably just barely qualified to give them a little push up the hill, before I really need to hand them off to the real teaching professionals

Ironically, there are some very experienced, and very talented long-time shooters I know who continue to produce new and inspired material, in spite of their long years. But I’ll bet they would agree that they continue to learn new things and to be “newbies” at something at any point along their photographic journey.

We are all newbies at various points along the learning curve

We are all newbies at various points along the learning curve

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One Response

  1. I’ll tell you two things that I know. Being technically correct doesn’t matter to the content. I looked at two New York Times reports on the latest blizzard. Staff and wire. And, an Instagram NYT blog. Guess who made the most interesting pictures? Two. A week ago, we were working in Memphis at this big blues thing. I hung out with guitar players who have 50+ years of experience. Most of them admitted that their chops didn’t get good until they turned about 55 years old. It ain’t the tool, it’s the time invested.

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