Mastering Photography

By Karl Sandell | Senior Photographer

“Orangutan in the Rain” took first place in Sony’s Indonesia National Award category. Photographer: Andrew Suryono

When I was 16 or 17, I had a music teacher explain to me how to play an improvised solo. He said, “First you have to master your instrument. Then, you have to master music theory. Then, you have to forget that sh*& and play.” He went on to explain that if you’ve truly mastered your instrument and theory, your head won’t get in the way of a great solo. You will instinctively know what notes to play and how to play them. The beauty of this is that it applies to almost anything in almost any part of your life. Even as I type this, I’m reminded that I haven’t mastered my keyboard.

Andrew Suryono’s Orangutan photo is amazing on many levels. Some would say Andrew was lucky. To that I would say he was lucky to see such an amazing sight, but he had to be prepared to capture it. This image couldn’t have been easy to make. Of course, he was shooting in the rain, but choosing an aperture with the right depth of field, a shutter speed that gave the right amount of blur to the falling rain, an ISO that allowed it all to work, composing the image, all while capturing the shot before it was gone… that required skill. This is obviously a photographer who has mastered his instrument and has a great grasp on the theory behind photography.

I’m in my 50s now and have been a professional photographer for well over 30 years, and I truly believe that what my music teacher, Mr. Kost, said that day may have been the most important and useful lesson I’ve ever learned. There is always a new “instrument” to master and more theory to learn.

You can see more of Andrew’s photos at the link below.

Obviously, he’s a lot more than lucky.