Monday, January 30, 2017

Are you Unconsciously Competent?


Where are you at?

I came across something today that brings back my old days in management. I haven't thought about it for years and not until just now in connection with my photography. It bears repeating.
The Hierarchy of Competence
(graphic © faczen)

Whenever you learn a new skill you follow this path (quoted from Wikipedia):

  1. Unconscious incompetence
    The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
  2. Conscious incompetence
    Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
  3. Conscious competence
    The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
  4. Unconscious competence
    The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become "second nature" and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

This applies to all kinds of skills. Business and work skills, life skills, personal relationships.
When I think about it, I wonder if I've ever really reached a pure stage 4 in any discipline. I'm pretty close to it but I still have to consciously think about it sometimes. I'm often at that level shooting landscape and travel photography, or post-processing with Lightroom and Photoshop. Many years ago I also used to be at that level playing racquetball and pistol shooting. Maybe writing. Before that, in mathematics and theoretical physics. Maybe not the last one, because those aren't right-brained activities.
I've never broken level 3 skiing and motorcycling, except on rare occasions. My computer skills are there too. I've never exceeded level 1 or 2 when I'm painting or drawing or playing keyboard or guitar.
So why do I think this is important? Knowing where I am is essential before I know where I want to be and what I'm capable of reaching. For instance, I admit that I will never be a competent musician. It makes me think about where I should expend my energy. What's important to me and what I can logically accomplish in the time I have left. Eye opening.

So where are you? What do you do well? What do you want to do well? What do you have fun doing but you'll never be good at it?

If you want to learn more about it, Google is your friend...

If you haven't gone yet...

You have until February 12th to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario's "Mystical Landscapes" exhibit. Go.

I'm not a museum person. And as my friends know, I abhor cities and it's a stretch for me to venture "south of the 401". But I really wanted to see this exhibit. It featured original paintings by Monet, Georgia O'Keeffe, van Gogh, Gaugin, Edvard Munch and even Fred Varley!

I'm trying to be brief here, but I can't. I have to explain that I had the same appreciation that I did when I went to Kleinburg and saw the Ansel Adams exhibit. Or looked at the Group of Seven originals. Speaking of the Group of Seven, the AGO has a Huge exhibit. In fact the whole place is Huge (no, my real name isn't Donald). I spent 3 hours there. I wish I had 3 days. By the way, the lighting and the presentation was exquisite. Sometimes you'd look at a painting and say, "that positively GLOWS!".

I was going to buy the catalogue book at the shop at the exit. I didn't. I should have, because I would have liked to read some of the analysis and history behind the paintings but I didn't because looking at paintings in a book and seeing the real thing are completely different things. When I look at a painting and see how the artist varied the brush strokes and chose the colours, it gives me an appreciation for why the artist made those choices. Looking at a printed picture (or even a full-size art print), you don't get that. You can appreciate the compositional choices, maybe get a feel for the overall tone, but not the blood and sweat that went into the making of the painting.
Two interesting side thoughts. When I was there (mid-week, afternoon) it wasn't busy but there were still many people there. I overheard conversations that I didn't understand at all ("see the expression of loneliness in this image? It's a result of the shape of that curve on the left and the way he toned the colours of the sky into the water...", or "Lismer should have known better. He should have used the darker cadmium yellow at the top and blended it into the pale colour at the bottom. What was he thinking?") LOL. I have no clue. 
But the second thought was this: I think part of the reason I appreciate looking at the originals vs. prints is that the detail appeals to my left brain. The more I think about it, the more I realize how I haven't really left that behind. I know I shouldn't, but I'm thinking about the mechanics of making this art and not the concepts and expressions. I have a long way to go. Besides, the artist him/herself is virtually standing there right beside you looking at how much you appreciate their picture. There's this 'aura'.
I've never appreciated the works of Lawren Harris or Arthur Lismer or Emily Carr until now. I liked Tom Thomson, A.Y. Jackson, Kreighoff is not my style, but seeing their work in real life... damn, I wish I were younger and could spend more time studying these masters.

Refer back to my "Unconscious Competence" article at the top. I can't paint or draw. But I sure am going to keep trying because I really want to. Harvey, I'll be back.

So GO. Even if you miss this exhibit, the AGO is a phenomenal place. So is the McMichael in Kleinburg. Make the time.

another peeve... people misusing words. I frequently read "I love bokeh", when they mean "I love how the photographer used a shallow depth of field so that there are out of focus points in the image".

Folks, bokeh means the way a lens renders out-of-focus points of light. You can't "love bokeh". You can say, "I love how the bokeh looks in this picture...". There's good bokeh and there's bad bokeh. Good bokeh is an even, fuzzy circle. Bad bokeh can look like a donut. Generally speaking, the quality of the bokeh is directly related to how much you spent on the lens!

Like saying, "it was so fun" (it was so MUCH fun. Fun is a noun. It can be used as an adjective but not a predicate adjective, it needs to be modified!). I guess it's something being added to the vernacular. Can you use "Photoshop" as a verb? Or "Google"? "Let me Google that for you!"

I've gone to the Dark Side.

My laptop died. OK, not strictly true, the video card or something in the computer died. Here's what the screen looks like:

Yeah, that dark band in the middle shouldn't be there. And the colour balancing is gone.

My desktop has been exhibiting signs of failure for a long time. I was going to replace it but that would leave me without a functioning laptop. So I decided to use the laptop as a desktop (an external monitor plugged into it works fine) and buy a new laptop. I bit the bullet and got a Mac.

So my new laptop is a 2014 MacBook Pro 15" Retina with a 2.8 GHz i7 quad processor turbo boosted to 3.7 GHz, 16Gb of RAM, 1 Tb SSD and a Nvidia GT750 video card with 2Gb of VRAM. It's screaming fast and will run anything I can throw at it. This computer will be my dedicated Photoshop and Lightroom machine, with an attached 27" monitor, external keyboard, Wacom tablet and external hard drives. 

It fits nicely on the roll-top desk I inherited. The external drives are safe in the cubby holes. Cables aren't run properly yet, there's a way to snake them through the desk. The editing setup will sit on a large pine table off camera right. I'm just waiting for a USB hub that should arrive on Monday to hook everything up. 

The new 2016 MacBooks are one step better but they're at least $1000 more and they come without any directly usable ports! There are two 'USB-C' ports and you're supposed to buy dongles to connect stuff, adding even more cost and complexity (there's a hysterically funny video on YouTube, here). And your apps show up on a touchbar above the keyboard instead of docked at the bottom of the screen. So if you use it with external monitor and keyboard, now what?


I can't do a blog post without pictures, right? I haven't shot much, because I've been trying to configure the new computer. I did head out to try to shoot the Pond Hockey Championships this afternoon: who's ever heard of a two-day event that was on Friday/Saturday and not Sunday? So I headed over to the ice races in Minden. Here are a few images, edited on the new Mac (but without the big monitor. I have to admit that Retina screen is awesome!)

I like shooting the start of a race with a long lens straight downrange from the starting line. They're all lined up in two neat rows then it's as if you had a cockroach infestation and suddenly turned on the lights! They all spread out, jostling for position. I had been approached by the driver of #185 before the race: she told me that her husband was driving car #128 and they were one and two on the starting grid and hoped I would get a picture of them together. I'm not sure but I think #128 won the race in the end. 

The spinning tires of the cars on the ice throw up a mist of ice particles, so it's hard to see any cars other than the leaders. It's also hard for the drivers to see, so windshield wipers are constantly going and every car has a bright light in its rear window. In this case, the cars are shod with rubber only – no studded tires.

The "DeHaze Filter" tool in Lightroom CC is MADE for this. Other than tweaking the black levels (the DeHaze filter fills in the blacks too much), that's the only difference between these two pictures. 

Drivers swap tires before each heat. Sometimes they're allowed to use studs, sometimes just rubber. In previous years they were allowed 'racing studs' in certain races but they rip up the track too badly, so they've been banned now. In the past, a weekend of racing would eat through a foot of ice surface. With this year's mild weather, I doubt there was much more than half that thickness on the track. 

One lap in, the cars are starting to spread out. See the ice fog I'm talking about? 

#128 is starting to build a lead, but #117 is still right there with him off camera at the left. 

In Ice Racing, cars get into and out of all kinds of crazy positions as they spin, slide and drift around the corners. The 'rubber only' races seem a bit sedate, but heats with studded tires have cars screaming into corners at over 100 kph! You can tell which cars have been at this for a while — they're all beat up! 

And sometimes they don't make it! Here car #11 drove halfway up the embankment in turn 8 just before the start/finish straight. If a car gets stuck, the driver stays in the vehicle until the end of the race. A caution flag goes up for that corner but the racers are free to do their thing after they clear the obstacle. 

Ice racing happens every Saturday and Sunday in Minden in the winter. It can be cold, so dress warmly! It's free for spectators and if you make friends with the drivers, you may even get to ride in the passenger seat of a race car during a race (you have to have a DOT/SNELL approved helmet. My motorcycle helmet isn't SNELL approved so I've never managed to get a ridealong).

As I said, I haven't shot a lot of pictures this week, with a trip to Toronto to go to the AGO and pick up my new computer, a day at the dentist (Dr. Ron's back from Antarctica. Let's see if I can get him to give me a sample picture to use in an upcoming post). Then all that 'chair' time getting the computer set up. I have to give it a name, by the way. My old laptop was called "LilGuy" but I'd like to find a more creative name for this one. Suggestions? Hit me with them in the comments!

It's been too warm to shoot freezing soap bubbles. It snowed a little bit but the snowflakes weren't too photogenic. Most of them were just featureless little spots or clumps, but occasionally you could find one that showed its unique crystal structure. 

I messed with this one using Topaz Glow and Star Effects. I didn't get the real crisp focus I was looking for but as long as it keeps snowing, I'll keep trying! 

OK, I lied. Well not really... I woke up this morning to -16°C and thought, "Hmmm. Soap bubbles." They're pretty easy although getting one to survive anywhere except on the tie wrap has eluded me so far.  Watching the crystals grow inside is cool!

Unprocessed. Not even cropped, except I added a touch of DeHaze to bring up the blacks and contrast. 

And here's the same shot with a touch of Topaz Glow and Star Effects! A 5 minute edit. 

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