While formal education has it’s merits, there is no more important learning tool than being able to teach one’s self. It takes discernment that most are not born with and many are never truly taught this art. Consider the simple scenario of determining which camera lens is best for capturing wildlife.
Questions Can Be Better Than Answers
Many people who will not hesitate to give you answers. Perhaps the 800mm? Maybe the 100-400mm. No, how about a 600mm with 1.4 multiplier attached? This is one place where self-directed learning is so very valuable.
People will often start with their preferred lens. This is what they carry (or want to carry) on their own photographic expeditions. They are trying to be helpful. But the first response really shouldn’t be an answer. It should be a question: What kind of wildlife are planning to photograph?
A friend and I traveled to Yellowstone many years ago. With our 100-400mm lenses mounted, we were photographing a wolf crossing a large, open field. Another gentleman was in between us with his own rig. He was taking photographs for a calendar and, if I recall correctly, had been provided an 800mm lens by his employer. I said, “It must be nice to have that sort of reach.” He responded, quite frankly, that he’d rather be using my lens. It seems that, too often, the wildlife were too close to capture the context in which his subject was found. His images needed that context.
Closer to home, I am planning to attend PhotoCon this week. I will catch up with old friends and acquaintances. While not a networking guru, I hope to catch up to certain speakers I met years ago as well. What I have found is that the best instructors at photography conventions tend to be self-directed learners. They certainly answer questions as if they are, anyway. A good instructor will often respond with a question of their own. They will guide you through the learning process. You end up not just knowing the answer, you understand how you got to it.
Understanding how you got to the right answer is the most important piece of the puzzle. Don’t just do the math. Understand the proof.