The Underwater Photographer's Fear of Failure

Author: Martin Edge

We all have a tendency to resist to change! I know that I do. To accept change for ourselves is to concede that our previous held beliefs and ways of doing things were wrong. In underwater photography resistance to change encourages us to proceed along a familiar road and the more we travel that same road the more comfortable we become with it. In our everyday lives we embrace routine and are often reluctant to challenge our routine and the comfortable, secure lifestyle that many of us lead.

We resist and fight the slightest notion of failure and this fear of failure impacts on our underwater photography. We see and photograph underwater subjects already approved as photogenic in diving magazines and books.

In the past I was guilty of repeating a photographic success again and again. I would go and repeat images and ideas I had achieved on previous photo trips. Not in order to practice my skills or develop my potential but simply to avoid the chance of a failed attempt at a brand new idea. I found myself repeating the same technique on the same subject using the same composition and the same lighting angle. The only difference was the location, which could have been thousands of miles away from the previous. I gave myself a pat-on-the-back and silent encouragement for achieving an almost identical picture for the second time around.

I could not purge myself of this attitude, particularly with my wide-angle work no matter how hard I tried. I would get into the water with camera in hand determined to break all the rules but my mind would go blank which triggered a peculiar kind of anxiety deep inside me. I was losing my confidence and doubting my ability. I became very creative at making excuses to my self to take the same old stuff and stick to what I knew and forget my desire to obtain some creative images until another day!

I looked at my behaviour and with the help of a colleague, began to understand that I was not developing my full potential as an underwater photographer because of the Fear of Failure. I was working in an underwater photographic rut or comfort zone! I had this misguided belief that I had to produce a competent roll of 36 pictures with some keepers in order to satisfy everyone. I had the notion that I had to produce results.

Our entire culture disapproves and looks down on failure. Most of all, none of us want to be thought of as a failure. So we repeat our successful shots time over and over. Rather than experiment with ideas and exposure we tend to opt for an easy way that will be acceptable to others.

Does the fear of failure enter into your underwater photography?

Do you find yourself repeating successful shots on other photo-trips?

If the answer is yes, there is a solution!

Free Your Mind and dare to photograph underwater in a way that others may consider to be bizarre.

Take pride in your failures; show your failures to others. They will not reject your efforts but will admire your passion, creativity and willingness to experiment and shake loose of familiarity. Failure means you are developing, learning, visualising and imagining.

Experimentation without fear of failure indicates that you are thinking and seeking to perform at that mystical stage where co-ordination between hand and eye meets and compliments heart and soul.

So what if a shot doesn’t work or someone thinks your ideas are crazy. What do you suffer? A little bit of space on a memory card or one frame on a film. Remember, its okay to feel apprehensive when you experiment. However, it is not okay to remain apprehensive!

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