This week I celebrated Easter. I have a deep fondness for religious festivals and really don’t mind what inspired them as long as there is some good food to cook and share with family and friends (in that respect I’m very traditional as I stick to the pagan bit). I curled up on the sofa one evening with Feast and chose a roast lamb dish and found a luscious recipe for a Simnel cake. But before it was time to cook, there was an early wake-up call for the 4am Project.
Actually before the early wake-up call was an early night and before that was the first of the new skills I wanted to develop. My attitude to life is generally that I can do anything I want (within legal limits) and what I cannot do, I cannot do yet. When I first started at the Edward Jenner Museum my boss asked me whether I could create an organisational chart for her. I told her that I would. I was upfront about checking what an organisational chart actually was but once I was certain of what she wanted I was looking for the appropriate Microsoft Office tutorial and getting on with it. The chart was in her inbox an hour or so later. It’s pretty basic but it met her needs.
What I find however, is that I work best when I have specific targets. I find it difficult to learn something until there is a context for it. So in the last few weeks I have been rustling up dozens of things in Microsoft Publisher, a piece of software I used for the first time in February 2010 when I saw it on my work computer and wondered whether it might be better than Powerpoint for certain things (I have managed with Powerpoint for the last few years as Publisher isn’t part of the student package I bought with my laptop).
The 4am Project offered the perfect opportunity to work on a few things. My camera is a Nikon D5000 I got a few months ago and I only know how to use a fraction of its potential. I was still discovering new things about my previous camera, a Panasonic TZ5, when I upgraded and I want this attitude to change. I have taken some lovely pictures with my Nikon but they are still very basic and owe far more to the clever scene settings (I particularly like ‘Child’ where ‘Clothing and background details are vividly rendered, while skin tones remain soft and natural’) than any real talent on my behalf. Where my ability lies is in composition and my ideas and I’m confident that improving my technical skills will one day bear fruition.
Something else I want to work on is my filming and film editing. When I lived in Malaysia I used to make short films for the boyfriend as a way of showing him my world and keeping us connected. I’m working on a proposal for a research project that will require film as well as the written word so my efforts here also called for development. My intention was to use the 4am Project as an inspiration for developing these skills.
It began well with a series of photographs charting the sun setting on the 3rd of April but my shots taken at and around 4am left a lot to be desired. I took a reasonable amount of film as well and it will come together to sufficiently tell a story. The experience has encouraged me to work harder and take my photos and filming more seriously and has highlighted the gaps in my knowledge. I’m also awaiting the results of a friend who has offered to photoshop an image for me to see whether it can be improved. This has raised another skill that I want to develop; improving photos after the event in addition to simply taking them.
There comes a point at which we have to ask ourselves what level of skill we are willing to accept. I am a self-confessed perfectionist prone to obsessing over tiny details and losing sight of the bigger picture at times. One reason I write this blog is that it forces me to produce even when uninspired, even when I hate what I write and even when I have a brilliant idea and then want to throw my toys out of my pram because it hasn’t worked out the way I wanted. What I find astounding is that the feedback I get doesn’t reflect my own interpretation of what I’ve written and the work I hate seems to receive similar responses to the work I’m pleased with.
So I’m eager not to lose sight of the fact that I take photos and make films for the joy of the doing and how that activity changes my perception of the world. I didn’t immediately upload my pictures onto the Flickr group because I wasn’t really happy with any of them and I suppose I left the video editing until tonight because I’m feeling a little flat about the whole thing. This missed the point of what first excited me about the 4am Project and I’m now chastising myself for getting carried away with perfecting the skill when what matters is the practise.
I won’t finish my film tonight and I won’t finish it tomorrow night as, in a show of remorse for a shocking wheel spin that covered my MX5 in Wales’ best mud, the boyfriend is taking me for dinner. But I’ll turn my attention to it over the weekend and update this entry accordingly.
It’s about the journey and not the destination at any rate.