Five Ways Summer Intensive Transformed Me. And My Life.
It took me 56 years and a forced layoff from my job to jump into photography with both feet and sign up for RMSP’s Summer Intensive (SI) back in 2009 – and it changed my life. No, I did not become a pro. I did not become famous or make a lot of money from it. The change was more subtle and long-lasting and happened inside of me, which, like many of my fellow graduates whom I have since followed on social media, translated into a more satisfying, fulfilling and competent photography life on the outside. Here’s how Summer Intensive helped me:
1. I gained confidence.
Before SI, I took pictures; after SI, I was a photographer. I experienced a fundamental shift in how I saw myself and how others saw me. I entered (and even won) a few local photography contests, had an image chosen to be made into a 40-foot banner displayed on the side of our local art museum, became the designated photographer for a non-profit project in rural Nicaragua, shot wedding candids at friends’ weddings, and so on. Each of these experiences enhanced my life and none of them would have happened had I not developed the skill and confidence to take them on. This phenomenon is by no means unique based on what I see other graduates doing with photography in their lives, but it is everything to me.
2. I learned to learn.
In the grand scheme of things I just scratched the surface in SI with all there is to know about photography. But thanks to the foundation that was established there, I have the tools and understanding to keep on learning as my interests evolve. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, composition, post-processing, printing, quality of light, setting exposure, studio work, and on and on – all of it has helped me find my way in the photography worlds I most enjoy (for now), including macro, wildlife, documentary and event shooting.
3. I got humbled.
Being around so many other photographers and instructors, many of whom knew more or were more creative than me, was humbling. But in such a supportive environment as SI, I learned the value of learning what I don’t know and how to go after it myself. This lesson holds true every single time I get “beat” in a photography contest by a better photograph or come across spectacular work by others – it just becomes something more to reach for.
4. I developed a gentle inner critic.
RMSP is well-known for its “learn, shoot, critique” method of teaching in its workshops and in SI. What they may not tell you is that subtly one begins to internalize the supportive critiques and become more skilled at self-judging one’s own work, which is exactly what happened to me. My internal critiques channel my instructors’ feedback and guide everything from my shot selection and camera settings to post-processing decisions to choosing which images to keep/post/enter.
5. I became more consistent.
One of my goals in SI was to learn to shoot more intuitively and consistently. Imagine my disappointment when my shooting actually regressed as I was forced to slow down and think a different way before snapping the shutter button. Ugh. That was hard! But the habits I was “forced” to learn have become second nature now and sure enough, more intuitive and consistent. This old dog learned new and better tricks, but it took total immersion to do it.
Nobody asked or paid me to write this. But given the huge impact RMSP’s Summer Intensive course has had on my life and the approaching opportunity in June for others to partake, I felt compelled to share my experience. For me it was the gift I gave to myself that keeps on giving almost eight years later … and counting!