I have too many hobbies. My wife tells me this all the time. Photography is truely unique though. I am not really a dummy, but I think I could WORK_AT making fine and interesting prints for at least 3 score more years and still not acheive all I would like to acheive. Most other endeavors can be mastered to the point that, like tic tac toe, are not really worth the effort anymore. Everytime I go into the field or makeshift studio and shoot film, everytime I go in my darkroom and develop film and make prints, I again realize just how challenging this whole thing is. There are those that make it look easy; I guess I am not one of them. Every success I have is setting at the top of a heap of failures --- five feet tall. The funny thing is, I feel like I have gotten somewhere. I have a clue about composition. I see interesting things and know how to compose and spot meter and choose which film and developer and exposure and development compensation to get the contrast I want.
And yet after many years and more money and time than I would ever admit, I daily feel like I am still closer to the beginning of the trail than even nearing the middle. So the only shortcut is to "stand on the shoulders of giants" and I am always grateful for the good folks that share their successes. Not one of us invented this all from scratch but many have taken all they have gleaned from others either from books or in person or now -- on the net or in workshops and taken that knowege to the next level. Invent where existing methods are lacking. Then share with others who would see the benefit.
We all have a kind of unique way of seeing the world and I would hope that for art, we try to please ourselves. I am still searching for my "Style" that which I seek to do that is my unique specialty. That thing I get really good at - my niche. I have ideas and I explore them. No one really neads to be a clone of someone else. But I very much appreciate the style of Ansel in his later printings, the way Lange captured peoples' spirit, the way Schatz makes skin into a landscape. There were many specific skills it took to make their vision pop on paper. I guess I don't want to be any one of them or all of them, I want to figure out what is the unique art I see around me and learn the skills to make -THAT- pop on paper. So thanks to Les and Barry Thornton and Adams and all the other folks that I have learned so much from and still haven't figured it all out. But when I do ...... hell will freeze over and you all will be the first to know! Thanks for this exchange of ideas - well worth the time and energy! It is a very worthwhile journey.