Channel Your “Flow State”

According to recent research, it normally takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any discipline. Wow. Not that I thought being an expert would be an quick trip, but reading about these type of metrics really puts things into perspective. I came across this information through an interesting article I read on some exciting findings and research being made on a mental state called the “flow state” (you can read the article here… The article is really about how to induce this “flow state” to put people on a fast track during training or learning a new skill.)

In the article, this state is described as “that feeling of effortless concentration that characterizes outstanding performance in all kinds of skills”. They give an example of how tennis phenom Roger Federer, is able to effortlessly perform a complex set of moves- all within a second without any consideration (after years of training of course!). But what was interesting to me is that over the 10,000 hours of practice, your brain creates a complex web of connections and circuits knitted together that allow you to effortlessly execute that skill, without having to consciously consider each action- it becomes second nature. Practice makes perfect right? Ya, ya- you knew that already…

So, how can you apply this to your photography? Most photographers will simply say- “get out and shoot” or “shoot everyday”. I think this is a given- but my take on this advice would include with the addition of “BUT- be aware of and make that effort to understand what you are doing.” Let me explain. The digital evolution has made it quite easy for this generation of photographers. The cameras out there today are taking the “process” away from the art. The cameras of today are so smart and so wonderfully engineered, that images straight out of the camera can rival professional work produced just 5 or 6 years ago. No more thinking, no more adjustments- pretty soon we may very well see the death of manual mode! When you have cameras like the Lytro- who needs to even focus your shot anymore? With 36MP cameras who needs to compose an image when you can just crop in post processing and still have a great quality shot?

My advice here is not just to go out and shoot. Learn the technicalities of photography- venture into manual mode and experiment! Try and understand the difference in shooting at 1/500th of a second @ f/8 versus 1/4000th of a second @ f/2.8. Don’t always rely on rapid firing 80 exposures, knowing “one of them will be a keeper”. Understand your results rather than relying on the tech to eventually get it right for you. Make an effort to learn while doing it, rather than just doing. Then when you get it right, keep doing it! This will encourage your grey matter to create all sort of connections, bringing you closer to being able to access these new circuits quicker, and faster- reducing the “think” time with each iteration. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, love what you are doing. Nothing encourages success more than motivation- if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, how can you expect to continue your efforts? Practice with passion and an active mind makes perfect!

Taking a more active stance on learning the process, and eventually the “art” of photography, will certainly put you on the fast track to photography as second nature and unleash your “flow” state.

20120208-140707.jpgAJ in his “flow” state, learning to skate for the first time || iPhone 4 || Snapseed

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