Photography in the new year

New Year’s resolutions often fail, and the reason is simple: They’re just not fun.  

That’s because they generally involve self-denial – banishing unhealthy habits or weaknesses from one’s life, or committing to taking up an activity you have no enthusiasm for, like joining a gym or taking up running. If you wanted to do these things, surely you would already be doing them? 

But New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be hard. And they don’t have to fail. 

This New Year, why not make a resolution to add something to your life rather than take away from it? Something that will be fun, inspiring and motivating? In 2015, why not take up photography? 

It’s easy to get started, it’s open to all levels and abilities, and you’ll always have something to show for your efforts.  

Need some more reasons? OK, here we go: 

Cameras are duty free in the Cayman Islands. It’s one of the few consumer goods that are cheaper here than in the U.S. or Europe. If you don’t already own one, there is really no better time or place to invest in some kit.  

It’s a creative pursuit. Everybody needs a creative outlet, even if they are not artistic. This is particularly true if your job does not demand creativity. Photography will give the overworked analytical left side of your brain a rest, while stimulating the potentially under-utilized, creative right side.  

It improves concentration and focus. When you are composing your shot, adjusting shutter speeds and apertures, and tracking your subject, all thoughts of what you need to buy from Foster’s, or what you are going to cook for dinner will disappear. Photography demands your full and undivided attention.  

You’ll see the world in a new way. Once you get into photography, you’ll start noticing the light, the textures and the colors around you, and you’ll start composing great shots in your mind’s eye everywhere you go. You’ll begin to see the islands with fresh eyes, and find beauty in the every day.  

You’ll live more fully in the present. As you start to notice and take pleasure in all those little details around you, you’ll find you’re more grounded in the here and now, and less prone to let your mind wander to niggling worries or the old to do list. Without even trying, you’ll become more mindful.  

Document every day life for posterity. Children grow up and adults grow older, landscapes evolve and gardens mature. Document your life regularly so that in years to come you can look back and marvel at the changes.  

The choice of subject matter is almost unlimited. People, places, animals or scenery – there’s a never-ending array of weird and wonderful sights all around you, so inspiration is never far away.  

Memories are fleeting, but photos last a lifetime. Capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments or events, and you’ll be able to enjoy then again and again in years to come.  

You’ll never regret photos. It’s easy to look back and regret not having taken more photos at certain times or events in one’s life, but did anyone ever sigh and say: “I wish I hadn’t taken lots of photos?” 

You may discover a hidden talent. Seriously. Cayman is home to many a professional photographer, from those specializing in underwater shots to wedding and portrait photographers and all things in between – and many of them received no formal training. Yet they have gone on to make a career of the thing they love to do. You never know where it may lead – and what have you got to lose? 

Learning resources 

If digital photography had been around when he first started taking photos, Courtney Platt, one of the most experienced photographers in the Cayman Islands, says he could have learned in six months what it actually took him 10 years to learn.  

The fact that nowadays you can immediately view the picture you have taken on your screen means you can quickly learn where you are making mistakes and correct them accordingly. There is also no longer the worry that every click of the shutter is money being spent on film, developing and printing. You can take one photo or 1,000, and it won’t cost you a cent more.  

If you want to speed up the learning process, however, you can always take a class.  

Island-based resources 

Cathy Church’s Photo Center runs land and underwater photo classes on a regular basis, which will help demystify some of the terminology for beginners, as well as provide some great tips for taking better photos.  

The National Gallery runs occasional photography courses, usually aimed at intermediate photographers who want to improve their skill and technical understanding.  

For more advanced underwater photographers, keep an eye out for Digital Madness. These underwater photography workshops, led by renowned underwater photographer and marine biologist Alex Mustard, take place three times a year, in partnership with Ocean Frontiers.  

Online resources 

A simple search for “photography tips” or “online photography lessons” will bring up hundreds of websites and blogs offering valuable free advice, lessons, tips and tricks to help you on your photo journey.  

Tips to maintain your resolve  

Pick a subject:  

Like any new skill, photography requires practice. Lots of practice. But rather than wandering around aimlessly snapping away at people one minute and landscapes another, dedicate yourself to a particular subject matter.  

This could be a study in wildlife: go out and snap iguanas, roosters, land crabs or birds; or maybe you’d like to try your hand at action shots of people on watercraft, cyclists or kite surfers. Perhaps you prefer people, in which case photograph friends, family or simply interesting faces, or build up a collection of the best Cayman sunsets.  

Whatever it may be, pick a subject so that when you head out with your camera, you have something specific to go and photograph, and can be building up a great portfolio on your chosen topic.  

Set yourself a target: 

Create your own photography challenge. This could be to take one photo every day for 30 days. Or 90 days. Or a year. It’s up to you.  

Or you could make it one photo per week, for three months, or a year.  

Alternatively, devote one week or one month to, say, black-and-white photography, and the next to animals, people or sports.  

Whatever challenge you set for yourself, let people know about it and share your photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. By letting others know about your challenge and posting your photos, you’ll be more committed to seeing the challenge through to its conclusion, and the feedback you receive will motivate and inspire you to carry on.  

You may even want to start a blog – it’s free and remarkably easy to do – where you can post your photos and also tell the story behind them. It’s fun, gives you an outlet for your work, and may even earn you a loyal following.  

Good luck and happy snapping! 

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To get started, pick a particular subject area to photograph. This could be a study in wildlife, action shots, landscapes or people. – Photo: Stephen Clarke

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Photo by Stephen Clarke

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Photo by Stephen Clarke

jetski_cayman.jpgPhoto by Stephen Clarke

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