Knowledge and Knowing

I am living and breathing photography and raptors in the most surreal way this week.  In the moments I haven’t been doing my day job, I have been preparing for a workshop I’m giving on Sunday to raise money for an organization I volunteer for.  We’re calling it:  Raptography, a Personal Encounter with Birds of Prey and Photography Workshop.

My partner in this workshop, Dale, the bird expert extraordinaire from Wings to Soar, came up with the name as a joke, but I really liked it.  It sums up the workshop well–assuming you know that the family name for birds of prey is Raptors.

Preparing for a workshop involves taking my material, running through it, reorganizing it, supplementing it, researching participants’ cameras to figure out what features and settings will apply for them, and practicing what I want to say to see if I can actually get it all in in the allotted time.

While this is all fun for me, the surreal aspect comes in that I am preparing to teach by reading, writing, creating charts, and finding example images to use.  One would think the way to prepare for teaching photography and bird handling would be to do photography and bird handling.

This leads me to think about the balance of learning something in your head and knowing it in your body.  For example, if you asked me to show you which button I use to focus, I’d have to hold my camera up and start focusing, then look at which button my thumb is pressing (I use a different button to focus from the shutter button) to tell you.  I know this in my body, but I’ve forgotten it in my head because once I knew it in my thumb, I no longer needed to be able to recall that information verbally.

However, in order to teach someone else how to use that same button for focus, I suddenly have to be able to verbalize what my thumb has learned to do instinctively.  The process of breaking down what you know in your body into an organizational structure that can be verbalized and explained to others is fascinating to me.  For one, it forces me to actually know what choices I make and then articulate why I’m making them.  In the process, I’ve discovered some things I wanted to do differently from what I was actually doing.

I have often pondered the old insult, “those who can’t do teach.”  I have wondered if perhaps this is a truer version:  “those who are spending their time figuring out what they are doing to the extent that they can explain it to someone else are spending less time actually doing it.”

In spending less time doing something, the end result is having less knowing-in -your-body and more knowledge in your head compared to someone who just does it.  The question is:  how much of each do you need to be really good at what you do?

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One response to “Knowledge and Knowing

  1. Your words and pictures are inspiring. And, whoever said that phrase–didn’t know what he or she was talking about…in my opinion. 😀 Have a great week–the birds are beautiful! 🙂

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