When I was in High School, one of the most sought after elective classes was Photography. I got lucky, and was able to take it my junior year, along with other fun things like Choir, and Physics. Photography and Physics go really well together, in case you were curios. Chemistry might have, too, if I hadn’t loathed the class.
I learned a lot of things in Photography, like what an aperture is, how to make a pinhole camera, and why the “dodge” tool in Photoshop looks that way. I also learned about photo composition, and ways to manipulate your camera to get the effects you want. I learned the old school way of photo editing and printing, using light and chemicals and blind groping in faint red light.
I owe my Photography teacher a debt of gratitude for those things, and more. Because of him, I have been able to get the photos I want, if not because I remember how to get the effects, then because I remember that they’re possible and what they’re called and I can look them up. It’s less that I still have the tools, and more that I remember that they exist, so I can go find them as I need them.
I like learning random things. I enjoy picking up new crafts, just long enough to begin to grasp the possibilities, and then moving on. It used to be that I picked up new crafts and dropped them again because I wanted to, and not because I felt it was a useful thing to do. Now I realize that in picking up each of those crafts I’ve armed myself with knowledge. It’s not that I have all those tools, but that I know those tools exist, and I can learn to use them if I want to.
I think that this is where the internet really shines as a tool. It’s very difficult to find a thing that you don’t know exists, but if you’ve learned enough to know the possibilities, the internet has the tutorial or video, or picture that you need to learn how to do it.
I will now spend more time unabashedly learning what is possible, and not worrying too much if I won’t remember how to do that embroidery stitch or weld that thing in six months. I will remember that it’s possible, and so I can re-learn it anytime I want to, with a little practice. And the more practice I get at the broad categories, like “manipulating things with your hands” and “make the computer do what you want” and “create food that is delicious” the easier specifics will be to pick up.
I suppose that I am suggesting one should spend one’s life learning a glossary of things, so that when one particular thing is needed, one will know what it is, and know what page to turn to in order to get more detailed information. So, here’s to glossaries, and learning a sample of everything you possibly can. Here’s to knowing some of the possibilities, and looking them up. Thank you, internet, for having detailed instructions on things like light boxes and depth of field. Thank you, High School Photo teacher, for sharing your knowledge with me.