The other day, I decided to sit down and watch one of the many online classes offered by Kelby Training: A Day With Jay Maisel.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jay Maisel, he is a world renown photographer based out of New York City who has a way of capturing light, colour and people in a way that is mesmerizing.  Maisel is one of my personal favourites, probably because I gravitate to many of the same subjects as he does both as a designer and a photographer.

Maisel is in his 70’s and no longer does commercial work – he works only on personal projects.  The course was fascinating because it was literally a day of Scott Kelby and a film crew wandering the streets of New York watching and listening as this master went about a day of work – him, his camera and his city.

Yes.  It was that simple.  This renowned photographer was out on the street with one camera and one lens.  No filters or lens hoods.  No tripod, no assistant.  He shoots at ISO 1600 and he uses an ordinary Nikon 70-300 lens.  And he takes remarkable photographs.

When Kelby questioned him on the high ISO, his response was:

“I’m more interested in the picture quality than the pixel quality.”

And well… there you have it.

How often do we make excuses for not creating because of our tools or technology?  Or our lack of?

I know this is a theme I keep going back to but there’s a reason for that.  It’s so easy for artists to get sidetracked by anything that stops us from creating.

Here’s a man who’s figured it out: get outside, keep it simple and get it done.  Don’t take so much stuff with you because it’s a nuisance and makes you less likely to want to go. Stop fidgeting and tinkering because while you’re doing that, you’re missing stuff.  The good stuff.  Life.  Right there, when, as Maisel says, you were “chimping” about with your camera display, you missed it.  That.   That shadow.  That expression.  That split second that you could have captured.  But you didn’t.  Because you weren’t paying attention.  You weren’t seeing it.

Open your eyes to what’s happening around you.  Do your visual pushups every day (another Maisel gem).  Practice seeing.  And capture it with your camera, your pencil, your sketchpad.  Even if you’re not a photographer.  Snap it with your phone.  Take it to your studio, create something from it.  Don’t worry about how you do it or what gadget you use.  Just do it.  Refine it later.

The entire class was full of gems from Maisel and while I learned very little on how to improve my actual technical skills, I learned so much about how to see.  Sometimes, that’s the most important lesson.