NOTE: The embedded video is Flash. If you prefer, you can access the .
I treated myself to a rare, few days off early this month. I went to Vegas and spent time racing at two different tracks.
Most of the time I was at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In addition to the famed Super Speedway, there are nine other tracks at LVMS. I was privileged to get time on four of the 10 tracks in a variety of cars.
One day, I attended the “SRT Experience” sponsored by Dodge. This trip actually came as part of my new car purchase. When I bought the 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8, the track experience was part of the deal. But I didn’t want to go all the way to Vegas just to race one day. So I arranged my own track time and I also had a chance to drive a new Shelby Mustang and a beautiful Lamborghini Murcilago, as well as a few NASCAR-capable machines provided by some friends.
There’s a photography lesson coming here – I promise.
So while I was driving, I was in the moment. I had little choice. I had to pay attention to what I was doing. When you’re traveling at speeds exceeding 140 miles per hour, mistakes can cost you a bunch.
I didn’t think about it while on the track, but later I realize I never once looked at my rear view mirror, my side mirrors or my speedometer. I was just constantly looking forward. I was tuned in – focused on what was in front of me. I didn’t have the luxury of being distracted.
In today’s online 24/7 go-go-go world, most of us suffer from attentional blindness. We’re overwhelmed with opportunity, information and the ability to experience in a month what our parents did in a year. It’s easy to go attention-blind.
When I was racing, I had no choice. I had to focus on one thing. Talking with the pros – folks who drive race cars for a living, the one thing I’ve heard over and over from them is that focus is the key to victory lane. They have to shut out everything. The crowd, the roar of the engines, the pomp and circumstance…they have to drive – period.
As photographers, we suffer from the same distractions as anyone else. It’s often easy to miss our focus. I’m not talking about camera focus. I’m talking about our artistic focus. Our ability to be open and honest and transparent with our image making. To be true to our own vision, we can’t be distracted by the visions of others around us.
Now I went to the extreme step of driving race cars at break-neck speeds to get to a place where I could totally focus on something other than work. When I am shooting, I want to do the opposite. So how do you do that?
Remove distractions. When you’re working on your photographs in iPhoto or Lightroom or Photoshop or Aperture or whatever, shut off your email account. Turn the TV off. Silence your cell phone. Concentrate on one thing. When you’re in the field, don’t pay attention to the other person’s gear or what they’re shooting. Stick with your own vision. The notion that we all have to multitask is ruining our ability to create the highest quality work we can.
Try to focus exclusively on your own photography and your photographic vision. Get rid of the distractions. And oh yeah, if you want to have a great time, rent some track time and put the hammer down.
(A few notes about the video. I made this for fun. It’s not the highest quality. Mostly shot with inexpensive tools and edited with the free iMovie that came with my computer. I didn’t make the video to demonstrate my skills as a filmmaker. I shot this just for fun so anyone who is interested could see what it was like. I hope you can enjoy it with the spirit I intended.)