As I go back through my images from 2010 I started to think about the things that I learned about photography during the past year. I began to ponder the high and low points of the year in terms of my photography, and I can honestly say that I often feel as though my skills are not growing at all. Yet at other times I get the feeling that they have improved a great deal, but in order to keep growing I know that I need to focus on the positive areas of growth, rather than what caused me problems. If you've ever felt that you were not improving your photography, then I'm sure you'll agree that if we simply went by how feel feel about our photography it would be easy to give up and stop trying. I say that because there are often times when the image we come home with was very different than the one in our minds eye. That cannot stop us from pushing on though, because with practice we will learn to capture what we see in our minds eye.
Capturing what you see in your mind can be hard, and really depends on the subject. I find it a lot easier to capture what I want when photographing landscapes than I do birds and other wildlife. I can think of a number of times where I was able to capture a subject I'd been trying to shoot for a long time, and how excited I felt about the shot, thinking that it was a great capture. Later I would look at the image on my computer and realizing that the photo was rather boring or looked flat. That was often the result of focusing too much on the subject and not on composition. I think that is the greatest hurdle to overcome as a bird photographer, because you see a bird you really want to capture and so you take a few dozen shots. Later realize you haven't thought about anything other than the bird itself, and as a result your images, although sharp, and the subject is nice, the image itself is just not interesting.
I still make this mistake often, sometimes just because I'm just trying to capture the subject and no make an image. I have found that there is a big difference between how I take snap shots and images, because when I take an image I spend time thinking about it, even if that time is only 20-30 seconds that is far more than the split second it takes to make a snapshot. Remembering to take the time to think about the image you want to make is a challenge, especially when you do not have a lot of time, but if you want to make better images that is something you have to learn to do. If you rely on chance to get good images, chances are that they will be few and far between.