Those incomprehensible skills

There are many, many skills that I don’t possess. Ask my daughter of my drawing skills, and she’ll probably vouch for them being comparable to hers. (And she’d be about right, although she can draw a flower that would put mine to shame.) My observational skills could do with some work. And my abilities as a salesman are, at best, limited. (This list of my non-skills is by no means exhaustive, btw.)

But for most skills that I don’t possess, I comprehend them. My brother, for example, has spent a good few hours more than I have carelessly sketching in notepads, and his artistic skills reflect this. He is a fabulous artist. My wife is a phenomenal influencer, and can use her interpersonal skills to secure the right outcome in the workplace.

I know coders that can put together sublime websites in a heartbeat; and technicians that can support those websites without you knowing they’re there. (They’re the best types, btw.)

These skills I get. I understand that practice makes perfect, and that you can hone these skills over time.

But there are some skills that I just don’t get. One in particular is photography.

Anyone can take photographs. Here’s my daughter’s first Flickr set, for example. But few can take phenomenal photographs. Even fewer can do this consistently. And yet fewer can do this even when faced with what might seem like mundane subject matter.

Paul Clarke is one of those people. Over and over, he brings subject matters to life, complements a photo’s subject with a violent sky or a beautifully-lit street. And I have no idea how.

Sometimes, naively, I think that maybe he’s blessed with skies and lighting that are unavailable to the likes of me. At other times, I think that he reels off furlongs of proverbial film to get to the shot of choice.

While point two no doubt has an element of truth, the primary reasons for the skill are training and experience—just as is the case with the vast majority of skills.

But the immediacy of photography to me makes the skill stand out far more than other skills. Modesty aside for one second, I can rock a spreadsheet. And give me a document to proofread and I’ll guarantee that the result will be stellar. But both of those activities allow me to play, review, delete, undo, redo before giving you the output. Photography doesn’t appear to allow that luxury. And that is perhaps what I admire the most.

Here are just a few of my favourites.


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