Get Up, Dress Up, Show Up and the Growth Mindset for New Cameras

Last week, I heard a talk by inspirational speaker and ex-baseball player, Mike Robbins. He’s a pretty cool guy with some great clips on YouTube about the power of appreciation. In the talk, he referred to the work of Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford, on the Growth Mindset.

Dweck says that some individuals have a fixed theory of intelligence and believe that success is based on innate ability. Dweck calls this a Fixed Mindset. Others believe their success is based on hard work. This is called a Growth Mindset.

This matters when we fail. A fixed-mindset person thinks that failure is a negative statement on their basic abilities. Growth mindset people don’t mind failure as much because they realize they can learn from it.

So what does this have to do with photography?

A client had asked for me to make a classicly beautiful color photograph of the topside of St. John’s Bridge in Portland, Oregon suitable for interior decor. He had already ordered and installed a photograph of the bottom side of the bridge that I had made and he was pleased with that work.

I rented an Olympus OMD EM-1 (a micro 4/3rds with 5 stop programmed HDR) from BorrowLenses for the occasion. Lighter weight meant crisper handheld exposures. Greater MP files meant I could print larger. It was my third time renting the camera. It was the third date with intent. I wanted to see if I would marry this camera after long monogamy with Canon.

The weather forecast was for drizzle and throughout my stay, that’s what was on offer. The bridge was 30 minutes away and I doubted that the weather would change but I decided to exercise my mantra, “Get up, dress up, show up.” and see what would happen.

Sure enough, 30 minutes later, it was still drizzling. I got out of the car and walked up the hill to the scouted spot. And began to shoot. I had a hard time explaining to the client why I was going to shoot anyway. I was not hopeful of “success” meaning an image that would work for my client’s purposes. For him, the images would be a “failure.” But I was there in town, I could use the shoot to learn important things for that perfect time.

The Olympus 5-stop HDR feature was a dream. However, critical things like finding the aperture and shutter speed settings were not simple. Fortunately, I had downloaded the manual on my iPhone and was able to look this up while standing in the rain. It is my firm belief that setting these 2 features should be intuitive, memorable, and easy to do with one hand. The user interface feels mostly awkward despite being my third time out with the camera. I will not marry this camera. 

Nonetheless, the Olympus also has some interesting “artistic filter” features. I used 4 or 5 of these shooting in JPG and RAW when I had given up on the main approach. These single RAW exposures ended up becoming the most interesting of when I worked with them in Photomatix.

St John's Bridge on a Rainy Day by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014
St John’s Bridge on a Rainy Day by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

None of the images met my client’s needs. However, in shooting, processing, and editing the images I learned a few things:

  • to use the de-ghosting feature on Photomatix as well as a strangely placed sharpening feature. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t born knowing how to use either one of these.
  • to design a folder structure/ workflow to simplify editing given the Olympus’ naming convention
  • If you’re open to possibilities, you may get what you’re not looking for and it may be good even.
  • I need to look for a different micro 4/3rds or just upgrade my Canon
  • A telephoto would have yielded better images from that vantage point
  • In the fall you can actually see the bridge from the side. Reminds me of Emily Dickinson: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant””
St. John's Bridge Through the Trees by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014
St. John’s Bridge Through the Trees by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The shoot overall was a failure in terms of achieving my client’s immediate objective. But getting up, dressing up, and showing up anyway gave me the chance to learn some things that will make the shoot better next time. That’s a growth mindset.

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