Penk. Penk. Penk. The hollow metallic twang of aluminum bat to baseball. Every year, in the schoolyard out back, spring is announced by penk... penk... penk.
To my ear, aluminum sticks are soulless dead things, utilitarian, one step removed from metal fenceposts. Kids out there playing in the makeshift diamond have no idea how awful they are.
Until they hear the real thing.
Pock. Pock. Pock.
The solid rebound of a wooden bat - now there's a fine sound, ash on leather, percussive poetry, American swing, the harbinger of spring training.
Spring training. After the winter we've endured, we're ready to shake off the malaise and put our backs into some good workout basics - push-ups, squats, sprints, planks, up-and-downs, fielding drills, healthy nutrition, and the like.
Photographically speaking, of course.
Some of us still have the blahs. Maybe we've barely logged a shutter release since Thanksgiving. Remember all those aperture numbers and why they run in reverse? How your flash works? How to freeze a fastball? Not to mention the difficulty of coming up with a new idea or two.
Spring training can solve all that.
Practice workouts may start like this: equipment and sensor cleaning, battery replacement, lens alignment, aperture and shutter speed drills, focusing methods, composition and balance, psychology and attitude adjustments - even before we release a shutter. Just getting our equipment in hand and spread across a table can get us re-engaged.
When it comes time to click the shutter, spring training rescues us there too, one exercise at a time. Our brains gets rewired a little bit each time our bodies and spirits repeat a skill, until they no longer need prompting. Before we know it, we're out there shooting again for the sheer joy of it.
Spring training is the season to practice with no pressure; to strengthen the things that work, and experiment with the things that resist.
So for the next two weeks, we'll build our own spring training programs. What do you need most? Exercise that muscle repeatedly. Create your own exercises, do them daily, and keep the photos you come home with. Compare what you shoot in week two with the first ones in week one. Keep your workouts simple; the basics will never fail. Vary your workout between different topics, but do only one at a time. Pay attention, take notes, embrace the freedom to fail. Photography is not a contest in spite of the host of voices that try to convince you otherwise.
If you do the work, spring training will eliminate the penk from your life and replace it with pock. Just say no to penk. Just pock it. Smile when you hear it.
As you post your work, tell us what you're working on, how you are training yourself, and what muscles hurt the most. Someone else may pick up your thread and put it to work themselves. Spring training is contagious like that.
SPRING TRAINING will run two weeks, from March 27 through April 9. Happy pocking!