The greatest limitation for a photographer is being unwilling to go out there and try new things.

In the moment, learning can often be a trying experience. I mean, who really wants to get up at four in the morning to go takes pictures of sunrises and fog drifting across a still pond?

Of course, when you are behind your camera, capturing an incredible moment and learning so much more than you could have learned from sleeping for another 45 minutes, it becomes worth it.

It’s amazing how, over time, you acquire knowledge and new skills without really being aware of it. You often can’t go back and pinpoint the exact moment that you learned each individual factor of your shot, but over time it all become natural.

Now, without even realizing it, I have a mental checklist that I’m running through almost constantly while I am taking pictures. I do my best to look relatively calm, but there is a storm of analysis going on and taking in every detail: What are my angles? How will the background interact with the subject? Are there any places where the light is falling better? Are there any natural reflectors that can be used, or that are reflecting an unnatural colour tone on my subject?

And the list goes on…

It certainly didn’t start this way. The first time I picked up a camera, the process wasn’t any more complicated than 1. Point it towards thing, 2. Take picture of thing.

A photographer who doesn’t want to go out and experiment is limiting their own progress. Skill doesn’t come by buying a better camera. I’ve always felt that being plagued by limitations is the greatest way to learn, because you are always adapting, always improvising.

Would I like to have two assistants dragging around several thousand dollars worth of lighting equipment so that I can control the power and softness of each and every ray of light in my shot? Sure, that would be nice.

Actually, that would be really nice.

I totally forgot my point there.

Oh, right – learning through limitations. Learning through experimentation. Learning by getting up early, even when you don’t want to.

Over time, it all comes together.

Then, when someone asks me for a picture, the machine roars to life, gears spinning and generators humming.

It’s pretty fun.