Mastery | July 2019

    Mastery can seem effortless.

    When seeing a good photo, you might conclude that birds pose. Or maybe they wait in the air. Or they cooperate – somehow.

    Actually, mastery requires perfecting the following three qualities (listed in order of increasing challenge).

    SK Allens Hummingbird

    Allen’s Hummingbird, Adult Female (Left) and Juvenile (Right) 

    1) Mechanics

    Mastery begins with mechanics, which includes:


    Certainly good equipment helps you achieve better results: It works better, contains more features, and takes better photos.


    Technique is the sequence of actions taken to achieve a result.

    And thus, good technique matters because it’s impossible to achieve success with bad technique.

    You learn good technique by studying and then imitating success.

    So read books, attend classes, and observe experts.

    Note: Imitation is the highest form of efficiency.


    Skill is the effective application of good technique. And this comes from continual practice and learning.

    Ideally, your skill works at an organic level, thus leaving you to concentrate on optimization instead of on implementation.

    SK Downy Woodpecker

    Downy Woodpecker, Male

    2) Attitude

    Birds ignore directions, miss appointments, and fly away, which could be frustrating.

    So, I manage attitude with the following:


    I believe that there will always be some success, even if it’s unexpected.

    So I’m never disappointed.


    This begins with kindness from within.

    So out of respect for myself, I never become angry, frustrated, or discouraged.

    And then I’m kind to the birds.

    For example, when a bird leaves, I say, “Good bird. Be well, stay safe.”


    I work really hard (play, actually) at taking photos.

    Once I was taking photos of Sanderlings while they ran back and forth with the waves.

    After more than an hour I had 500 bad photos.

    I stopped, set my tripod, raised a fist in the air, and announced, “I’m not leaving this beach until I have 1,000 photos! And I want a few good ones!”

    This pause helped me evaluate and adjust my technique.

    Then I went back to work (play). And over the next two hours I took more than 1,200 photos, which included many good ones.


    Instead of being a master, I’m a student, working on the life-long quest of mastery.


    Every good photo is a gift.

    SK Sanderling Running

    Sanderling, Running After a Wave

    3) Intent

    Your intention becomes a signature that identifies everything you do.

    My intention is to inspire respect for Nature. So I strive to take photos that celebrate the extraordinary beauty in the natural world.

    Thus, your intention defines the direction of your mastery.

    And then it tells you where to be, what to do, and how to act.

    SK Great Egret Flying

    Great Egret

     Some questions to ponder:

    How well does your technique serve you?

    How would you describe your attitude?

    And how do your intentions compare with your results?

    Much success,

    Steve Kaye
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