Scouting seeds success. Check out this tale from one of the founders of our favorite online digital-photography course, Digital 1 to 1:
A Scout is…
I served as a Boy Scout until I moved away from the Bronx, NYC and took my last year of high school in Yorktown Heights, NY. A suburb in the county of Westchester one- hour north of the Bronx. For the first time in High School, there were girls. However I just say I was a Boy Scout, until I turned 18.
I made it to LIFE with 32 Merit Badges, two religious medals, Leadership Corps, Patrol Leader, Scribe and finally when as a scout FIRST CLASS, 9 weeks at summer camp, as a counselor in training or CIT. This is how a Bronx scout went to achieve LIFE.
Trustworthy is the first of twelve laws taught to me, and one to this day that defines me. I learned to trust one’s direction upon walking a trail I never walked before. Or to rely on another to carry my weight when I could no longer. This law kept its meaning and memory as I grew from a scout into a professional photographer. As a photographer, I’ve learned to trust my ideas and to trust those I professionally needed to complete these ideas. I found a team I knew I could trust, because I knew how.
That trust grew into loyalty, the second law, to learning what a scout meant. Photography is a career one must find true within themselves and to become loyal to that truth, not only within oneself, but also to those, in front of their camera. Loyalty is a part of creativity, but only when you gain trust.
Helpful became easy as a scout. Helpful found its way with determination to become aware of those in need, this was a given without even knowing the laws. Yet later on in my career, helpful to those who ask, meant taking time away from something else. But whether that help was to help another understand ways to take a better picture, or to be available to someone I’ve never met, I’ve kept true as a scout.
Friendly was not so easy to maintain as one’s hair was mangled with burrs, during a camping trips initiation. Yet scouting meant working together no matter the issue. In the end, burrs or not, friendly existed. Friendly is community. I never knew the true essence of the community merit badges, until later on in life. It came so natural to say hello and to talk to strangers. I’ve made quite a few acquaintances this way and some true friends. But as a photographer, friendly is key. Friendly means to say, “Smile for the camera.”
Courteous is the predecessor to friendly. Courteous as a scout meant to respect those around you and to respect the few who lead you. It taught me to allow others to have a chance to be heard, before making judgment, or protecting another from a situation of un-easiness. It meant to offer social peace, or to allow passage within conversation. As an adult well beyond my scouting years, courteous has shown me that life can be much easier when discussing one’s ideas on how to accomplish a project. Courteous offered a comfort to others creativity and for others to witness with example.
But being Kind taught me as a scout that courteous was just a mannerism; an act of kindness. Kind means to be thoughtful at all times and to prepare for harder times. Kind gave a scout a reason to wear the uniform; it embodied the very law. Photography can be cruel in how it can never show anything but the truth. A picture does not alter itself during the moment of capture. It stays true from the instant you see it, to the moment it becomes a binary code sitting within an SD card. Only if we alter this image later on, can we bend or even break the truth. But kindness can let one enhance truth rather then destroy it. Yes most images today are retouched and even completely altered by someone or some else. But kind as a photographer lies in the time when one can either post or not post an image that may harm another. Or not to record a scene as one is in need, but to put down the camera and offer a hand. There is a fine line to the art of truth, and being true as a scout. Kind as a photographer sometimes means to know when not to shoot.
Obedience was not one of my best traits and I suppose there can be many others like myself when it came to this scout law. Perhaps it was that my scouting years were embedded on concrete in the Bronx. Merit badges that had anything to do with Nature were completely held within a different box, in my head. But to be obedient as a scout kept the troop together. Laughter often shifted from one to another while trying to stand still or keeping quite during taps, but with one look from a scoutmaster, obedience took a very quick hold. I’m not sure how I was taught obedience, since so many adults had a hand in it. However an obedient scout knew when to stop laughing or not to continue the joke. In photography there is obedience within the craft. It comes in the continued quest to make a better picture and to better one’s techniques. Knowledge found its way to me through obedience because I obeyed by own laws to how I wanted to become a professional photographer. Without it, a destination can fade. And even a visual destination fades if one does not skillfully find solutions to a problem of an image to produce; when being hired to do so.
Cheerful as a scout, to me, meant spirit. Keeping up a team’s spirit brought a sense of closeness, a sense of hope to others. It made the troop work well and without delay. It was a willingness to become part of something outside you and to offer brightness when things felt dark. Cheerful found its way into many of my images during the 25 plus years shooting as a professional. Cheerful is photography, because without it, it offers nothing to see later on, and keeps as a negative. Cheerful develops; it shows us more of who we are and brings out our true colors and tones. It gives imagery meaning by becoming enlarged with in us.
Thrifty seems obvious but as a scout it meant knowing how little to take with you. Surviving with only a few items and perhaps little food, thrifty was a special tool you could not see, like a pocketknife, but you knew it was there. It was like you could easily find an answer without thinking too hard because as a scout you had choices. This ideal did not change much as I found myself building all kinds of lighting accessories or finding ways to accomplish an idea with simplicity, during a shoot. It also became a way to keep things easy. Not all the time did thrifty work, there are times when being thrifty had to be kept as a special skill or tool. But thrifty also means to let others work by your side, allowing them to share their ideas and for me to incorporate them into mine.
Being brave perhaps meant to take a dare. But as scouts or rather as a scout, brave was holding out for the first time alone in the woods, without a tent and only with one pocketknife. Wilderness Survival was to be brave, yet it was not written within the requirements of the merit badge or the scout manual. I slept alone under a misshapen shelter in the rain, thinking how the noise outside my sleeping bag had a thing for me. I’m sure the critter I imagined was more afraid of me then I of it, but nonetheless, it taught me being brave meant to understand fright. And understanding the idea of what “not knowing” was, brave gave a push to the honor of sewing that badge onto my sash. But being brave as a photographer may mean to find yourself in the middle of harm while you’re holding a camera in your hands, or like I once photographed a park from atop a building with only an assistant keeping leverage with my legs while I bent over the side to take the shot. Somehow brave become braver when a lens was in front of me. Yet stupid is not brave. Stupid is stupid and this does not prepare well. As a professional one must know how to prepare and what to expect. Brave is going into the heart of a problem with preparedness. It also means this stays with you at all times. Being prepared to act or to take action at a given moment is also being brave. As a photographer, brave can also mean how you change from photographing landscapes to photographing people. This very step alters how you approach your new ideas and taking the steps to learn something new. A photographer must allow this openness of “not knowing”, when starting something different and knowing how to be brave within it, is in the scout in me.
Being a scout meant days without showers. Being dirty was worn like a badge at times. It painted the picture of accomplishment the first time one started a fire without matches. But being clean was more then just a bar of soap in an outdoor shower with only cold water. Clean was honest, even true. It meant that being a scout one had to know the freedom from lies or dishonesty. Clean gave a scout a conscience to be good and to have time to respect the place one camped or slept or ate. Clean is a scout law that goes deep into ones character and shows others how you shine. Clean as a photographer means to respect the tools of your profession. Seems rightfully so, since you want things to last… remember thrifty is always there with you. But clean as a photographer also shows others how safe it is to be photographed by you. It shows honesty and integrity to ones spirit and leads others with it. Think of how you may feel in front of a camera. It changes how you take pictures because it brings out what you hide or may want to hide. Photographs are true and if you’re in one, being honest in what you are and how you appear, will show. So to be this “behind the camera” must hold true as well as a professional photographer. Others will see you in as much detail, as you will of them, so being clean in heart and mind allows for openness to creation. They will want to be photographed by you.
Finally to be reverent, the last scout law, the one that felt aloft in the treetops during the long summer nights staring up at the stars while at camp. Reverence was something beyond a human being, like a place you were exalted by others. It felt far away for me as a scout at times, but came to mean more as I advanced to a higher-ranking scout. It also showed me how to treat the land and to let it be, to nurture it and to protect. This law was the way one looks back at the hard work, the teamwork, the projects and emergencies along the way; reverence showed me that I was not bigger then myself. Reverence as a photographer, keeps me in check with my ego. Ego can play tricks on you, if you think that you are more important. Keeping reverent allows you to respect and praise other’s works. Photographers show truths to others. We keep a kind of code within ourselves knowing we have the ability to alter how one feels about themselves. We are witnesses to life and we should keep a particular reverence to our craft and our visions. We may see things we hoped not to see, or be there to capture life itself in all its glory. There are many reverent points to express within our images, but to keep reverent to myself is why I made photography a life’s path, and within the steps of achieving the rank of a LIFE scout.
I suppose achieving my goals, producing large budget shoots, knowing others trust me with their visual promotions etc, will not ever let me have the honor of becoming an Eagle scout, but I hope that within my service to the photographic community with my online educational site about photography I created with my partner; I have taken the steps to what it means to live as one. But regardless of any honor or rank I have achieved as a Boy Scout, to live the laws as one, certainly did make a difference in my life and my achievements.