Failing Forward and The Ultimate Photo Challenge: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


Failure is something that we all have to deal with, it’s just a part of life, but the nice thing is if we learn how to use failure to our advantage, well we can master just about anything. In this episode, I’m inviting you to join me on an epic photo challenge that spanning several weeks, and two different countries, in the heart of Patagonia. I’m going to be pulling back the curtain and showing you how I learn from my failures, and I’m going to ask you to help me overcome those failures… That’s right, I’m asking you to teach me over the next few episodes, it’s gonna get really interactive, I’ve got a lot to unpack so let’s get started right now. Hi everybody welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography right here on AdoramaTV, I’m Mark Wallace hanging out in Santi, Santiago Chile, enjoying a nice cortado, that’s a coffee here, and I’m preparing to go down to Patagonia, get to that in a little bit, but I just want to ask you for permission to make a video that’s a little bit different this time, normally when I’m making an AdoramaTV video and I’ve been doing this for about 10 years now, I just come on here and I show you one specific thing, one principal photography, I’ll give you a tip, some advice, and it looks just fine, but one of the things that you don’t see, are all the mistakes that I make along the way, and those mistakes, those failures, are very important, because that’s how you learn things, now if you’ve been watching AdoramaTV for a while, you’ll see my say it, myself, or David Bergman, or Daniel Norton, or Seth, or Vanessa Joy, or Gavin Hoey, whoever it is, we just sort of show up, show you how to do something. It works perfectly, every single time, but what you don’t see is, all the days weeks and months of preparation that it takes to make those videos, to learn how to do all of that stuff, and that is something that is very, very important, for every photographer because every single successful photographer has one thing in common, and that is they know how to learn from their mistakes, and I have a principle called failing forward. If there’s only one thing that you learn from me this year, I hope it’s this – it’s the concept of failing forward. So I want to teach that to you in this video and then I want to ask you for some help. Some help that you can give me interactively over the next few weeks, so first let’s talk about what it means to fail forward, failing forward is a process for learning new things, let’s begin by looking at three skill levels, we’re competent at some things, we know what we’re doing, and we know why we’re doing them, we’ve honed our skills so that we can repeat our success almost every time. We’re incompetent at some things, we know a little bit about what we’re doing, but most of the knowledge we need is unknown. We have some of the skills we need, but we need a lot of practice, sometimes we succeed, but we don’t necessarily know why, and it’s difficult to repeat our success. We’re capable of these, we just need knowledge and practice to become competent, and we fail at some things, we don’t know what we’re doing. we don’t have the knowledge experience or skills to succeed in these things. The key to failing forward is, to regularly work at the next level of incompetence. Zane is a young high school student who is beginning a new job at a fast-food restaurant, one day he hopes to become the manager. Zane is competent at a few things, he can mop the floor take out the trash and clean the dining room. Zane is incompetent at other things, he knows what a cash register is, but he just doesn’t know how to operate one, and Zane would fail at more advanced things. He’d love to manage the store, but this is his first day on the job. He’s got a lot to learn before he’s the manager. After a few days at work, Zane’s manager pairs him with a fellow employee, so he can learn how to use the cash register. Zane is now working at his next level of incompetence, he makes a few mistakes but, he learns from them, after a week or two, he is now competent on the cash register. He’s done a great job, and so his manager moves him to the kitchen to start making burritos. It’s a skill he’ll need before he can manage the store once again Zane is working at his next level of incompetence. He’s making a few mistakes, he’s even failing once in a while, but he’s failing forward. The key to improving our photography skills is to dive into those areas where we are incompetent, by working in these areas we can master them, and then move on to our next level of incompetence, and by repeating this process we will eventually become an expert in our area of photography. All right, well the concept of failing forward is pretty cool, but how do we actually put that into practice, well that’s where the photo challenge comes into play. Now if you’re not familiar with the photo challenge, let me give you a brief history. I created a 60-minute photo challenge, I don’t know, seven or eight years ago on Adorama TV. Then when Gavin Hoey joined us as a host he started doing 15-minute photo which I later learned that he’d been doing that for years, way before I started doing my photo challenges, and Gavin and I have been doing these on and off for a long time. So we’ve done some photo challenges in his home studio in England. We did some stuff where we did a full day photo challenge with a prime lens, which is really really one of my favorite things we’ve ever done. We did some pointless photo challenges we even did a live photo challenge at Inspire in New York City on a stage in front of an audience, where we did some things like trying to take a portrait using nothing but the LED lights on little cameras from our audience and well – Gavin won that challenge hands-down. Well no matter what you’re doing in a photo challenge there are three things that we try to do, we have a set challenge, so for example shoot one full day with the prime lens and nothing else to see if it improves your photography, that’s the challenge, or try to take a portrait using nothing but the lights from the studio audience, that was what we did in New York City, or try to see if you can take a photo while running Full Tilt, something like that, so there’s a specific challenge, then there’s specific gear, so you can only use a specific amount of gear, and so in the prime lens challenge it was our camera, and one lens, nothing else in New York City, it was just the stuff that we could get from the audience, and so there’s that kind of a limitation, and then the third thing with any photo challenge is a specific set amount of time, so it could be one hour 15 minutes, or a day, whatever that is, so a specific challenge, specific gear, specific amount of time. So what I want to do, and the help that I need from you is, I’m going to try to do some things in Patagonia that I don’t know how to do. Specifically I want to do some astrophotography, taking pictures of the Milky Way, do some wildlife photography, some light painting, and then maybe some stuff like shooting some video, using some advanced techniques, like S log shooting, doing some drone videos with some auto pilot stuff, things that I’m just not familiar with, but I know a lot of you are, and so here’s how this is going to work, follow me on instagram, also follow Adorama TV, I’m going to be posting the things that I need help from you, and then what I want you to do is to give me advice either in the comments in this video below, or sending me direct messages on Instagram or in the comments on the stories that I post, and I’ll be asking you for help on specific topics. The first one is astrophotography. How can i shoot the milky way at night, what tips and pointers do you have for me, and the way you can do this is post your best photo of the Milky Way that you shot at night, tag me @JMarkWallace and @Adorama TV in that photo, and then give me your tips – use this lens with this shutter speed… shoot at this time of day… or whatever that you have, post that to me, and then I will take those tips put them together and I’ll make a video trying the things that you have taught me. We’re going to do this for all of the different videos, so wildlife photography and nature photography, etc. So make sure you follow me on Instagram and look at the comments in this video below, to see where the next challenge is coming for you and for me, and then what I want you to do is, as a community, I want us all to do these photo challenges together, so when we do the astrophotography stuff, I want you to go to your backyard or outside of your city or whatever and then make a photo, and post it, and let’s do it, and see how we do, how well we do as a community, and let’s grow together, that’s the challenge for us, so we’re gonna fail forward, I’m gonna show you all the failures that I make, and then we’re going to grow as a community, posting our successes, and I think it’s going to be a wonderful time. Well thank you so much for joining me, for this video. I know is a little bit different than our normal video, but I really want to do this. I want to see how we can learn together. So make sure you follow me on Instagram so you can stay in the loop, and see exactly what’s happening, because this is all going to happen in real time. Make sure you follow Adorama TV on Instagram and subscribe here to the Adorama TV channel. Make sure you click on the bell, so you get notifications and then I will see you in our next video and the first photo challenge from Patagonia.

11 Replies to “Failing Forward and The Ultimate Photo Challenge: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace”

  1. One of my favorite quotes: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried” – Stephen McCranie

  2. Hey Mark, nice to see you in the most beautiful country in the galaxy. Are you going to travel through Chile? Tell us where are you so we can say hello in person! Cheers.

  3. Considering the current weather forecast for my area, plus the amount of ambient light pollution in the mid-atlantic region, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the comments and hopefully learn a thing or two. I know on my first attempt at shooting the Milky Way Galaxy, I used too long of an exposure and the stars were not as sharp as I would have liked. One piece of advice is to find infinity ahead of time on the lens you are going to be using. Trying to focus in pitch black on stars is a bit difficult.

  4. I just happened to take a Night Sky/Milkyway Photography Workshop this last Fall and we did light painting at the same time. How about that for a coincidence? 🙂

  5. Well I am definitely incompetent! lol Very much the beginner but looks like an Amazing photo challenge! Great idea.

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