While the pursuit of photography requires learning on many levels, my perspective is that it's really all about just two things: learning to see, and learning to see the light.
Learning to see the photographic possibilities really does take practice. In some settings, I am almost overwhelmed by the possibilities. In others, I come up surprising short on inspiration.
A daytrip I just spent in the Russian River Valley wine country offers a case in point. I went with a long list of photographic objectives in mind. I imagined fun images of people winetasting, winery shots, bottles, vineyards, the incredible blooming mustard fields, equipment and more. But things didn't quite turn out that way. We were there at the brightest part of the day. The large storage rooms that had been opened for the big weekend offered little ambiance. The shots that I did "see" seemed trite. They'd all been done a million times.
I am trying to train my eye to see beyond these obvious problems, to make lemonade of lemons. It isn't easy, and it can be frustrating. I find that meetup groups are a great help in this regard. There's nothing like going to an interesting shooting site with 30 or 40 other photographers - most recently I met up with a group at the Golden Gate Bridge - and then following up later to see what images others have captured.
The experience generally amazes me. After all, I was right there with everyone else, and yet I failed to see some of the terrific scenes that others turned into memorable images. How could I have been so blind?
Part of it, of course, is that each of us does have a unique vision. That's the good thing. Part of it is, indeed, learning to truly see the world around us, and the beauty of all its dimensions. I am practicing, sometimes staring at things around me almost comically. Other times - well, what was looking like a pretty dry day suddenly flings something at me that just . . . . seems right. That's how it happened for me in the Russian River, and the photo below is the result. It's always interesting to know what others think. But personally, I thought it at least worth sharing.