One day a friend and I were checking out an online photography gallery and came across a beautiful shot of the setting sun behind one of the lighthouses at the Outer Banks.
We know that lighthouse well. In fact, we took some photos of it ourselves on our last visit earlier this year.
This one was better.
We were both thinking the exact same thought: how much time and effort did it take to get this shot?
When we went to the OBX, we took bags of camera equipment and did our best to capture that lighthouse from every side.
Why was his photo better? It was a great angle taken at a time with great lighting. Sure, you could say that clouds are unpredictable so there must be an element of luck involved, but I would bet that this guy spends a great deal of time at that location. He’s probably got thousands of photos taken from every direction around that building in every possible lighting situation — and probably at multiple times of the year because the sun sets at a different location depending on the season.
Why do I think all this? Because we have a beautiful attraction right here in our own county that gets photographed all the time. How many times have I shot Pilot Knob over the years? I’ve driven all the way around the mountain and hiked all the way around the big pinnacle looking for the best angles and best lighting.
And now I know that I owe a big apology to my ninth-grade English teacher for being such a pain when I read Shakespeare for the first time.
The late Mrs. Godwin was trying to explain some of the nuances of The Bard’s writings as we studied “Romeo and Juliet.” I was having none of this.
For a guy who up to that point in his schooling tended to be quiet and studious, I suddenly was insistent that my teacher was full of bull.
I can’t recall exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of: Old Billy boy wrote a perfectly good story, and here you are ruining it by reading too much into it. You are being very pretentious, inferring all these things in the story that he never implied.
Poor Mrs. Godwin looked like she might fall over from shock — the straight-A kid blaspheming Shakespeare. The horror!
She tried to explain his writings to me, but I had already tuned out. What I couldn’t grasp is something that rings true in some many facets of life: the great ones always make it look easy.
It’s true whether you are discussing Stephen Curry hitting a 25-foot jump shot, Eddie Van Halen using a two-handed tapping technique, or a comedian delivering a funny routine. It seems so simple that we think that we could do that ourselves — until we actually try it and see how hard it is.
Then we resort to sour grapes and say things like, “Well, he must have been born with talent.”
It’s true that some folks do take to a certain activity faster than others, but to become great, all of them have to work hard.
When my kid was growing up, some Saturday mornings we would watch Bob Ross together. It was amazing to watch him do an entire oil painting in only half an hour, and do so while still mumbling to the camera to keep us engaged.
A friend took a Bob Ross painting class, led by someone who worked on the show with Ross. The instructor said, “Yes, Bob paints a whole piece in half an hour. But what you don’t see is that he spends the week leading up to the show practicing that same painting idea over and over.” The painting shown during the closing credits isn’t the same one he painted during the show, but rather one done earlier in the week so that the producers could go ahead and finish the closing-credits segment early. Check it for yourself sometime if you see the show on.
We might smile at his paintings, but who among us wants to put in the practice to be Bob Ross. We might marvel at The Rock’s muscles as he performs some manly feat, but how many of us are willing to put in the hours a day working out that Dwayne Johnson does?
At least with some things, no one ever doubts your abilities. A regular person can’t pick a grown man up over his head and throw him through the air like The Rock. A regular person doesn’t have the writing skills to sit down and pen the Great American Novel (although many have tried, to awful effect).
However, any Joe Schmoe playing HORSE can hit a jaw-dropping shot. That doesn’t make him Larry Bird. But the fact that he could do it once makes the guy feel like a stud and fantasize about signing a million-dollar contract with the NBA.
Someone with no photography experience can buy a camera and luck into a good photo or two. That doesn’t make her Annie Liebovitz. And yet Facebook abounds with people who have started a photography business and want to be paid.
One of my favorite photography stories comes from British shutterbug Sam Haskins.
“A photographer went to a socialite party in New York. As he entered the front door, the host said ‘I love your pictures – they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera.’
“He said nothing until dinner was finished, then, ‘That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific stove.’”
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.