I know I made it sound like I was against New Years Resolutions, but I'm not against self-improvement. Every time I try to think about what I really enjoy doing for no reason other than doing it, photography bubbles to the surface.
Photography is one of those skills than anyone, regardless of mastery or equipment, can feel good about. Within a few hours of having a camera in hand, most people can take a shot that pleases them in some way. Maybe they think it looks nice, perhaps it captures something that they enjoy; their happy children, pets they love, places they've been.
And yet, every experienced photographer, regardless of mastery or equipment, has room for growth. They can always look back at pictures that pleased them in the past and realize that they've seen improvement since. It's a skill you can develop (yeah, I said it!) for your entire life.
On trips, during photo walks, and during my 365 periods, I'm often seen slinging a heavy DSLR camera around. It's my favorite travel activity: carrying a camera around, seeking higher ground, and taking as many pictures as I can. When people see me with that heavy and conspicuous camera, they often ask, "are you a photographer?". And I say, "oh my god, no... not at all! no way!" I don't exactly know where the line is between enjoying yourself with a camera from time to time and allowing "photographer" to be a title that defines you. What I do know is that I haven't crossed that line.
It's subjective for everyone. I've met people who identify as "photographers" even though they rarely touch a camera and they've never done anything that anyone has ever seen. And it's totally within their rights to call themselves that. I know that I can't call myself a photographer now, but one of my personal goals is to figure out what it would take for me to be comfortable with that title.
Last year I signed up for an online photography course. I've only just scratched the surface on the material, but I feel that achieving a certain technical mastery is the first step for me. I want my pictures to be in focus whenever I want, not just when I get lucky. This year, I hope to work through the material as I continue taking pictures that make me happy.
Mastery is a combination of skill, art, practice, and reflection. Leave out any of these elements and I won't make much progress. In the past, jumping into a 365 project has been a good way to push forward my skills through practice; this year I hope that it will help me grow if I can take a day off now and then for a little reflection.
Someday, I hope to be able know what it means to provide an affirmative answer to, "are you a photographer?" And maybe some day after that I'll be able to do so. Right now, I feel grateful that I can enjoy the shots I take - both old and new.