Conscious Incompetence

This week I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the issue of whether it might be better to live in blissful ignorance. This has been prompted by the whole online photography course thing, and realising that, before I took part, I happily went out into my garden and snapped away with my iphone, and felt really pleased with the results. And now I’ve come over all professional, and I’m thinking about backgrounds and where the light is coming from and which lens to use….


So I can’t help thinking about how – before I started looking into all of this stuff, finding out about apertures and exposures and f-stops and such – I was perfectly content, and looked at my photos with a sense of pride and pleasure which at the moment is escaping me. Because now it feels like much more of a challenge, and I’m aware of how much I don’t know, and I’m frustrated by how much there is to learn. And would it have been better if I hadn’t started the whole thing in the first place?

Breathe Jane, breathe…

Because, of course ignorance isn’t bliss. And I’m conveniently forgetting that I signed up to do the course because I wanted to get more proficient at something I really care about, which is taking better photos of the plants and garden I love. And the better I get at it, the more pleasure I will get from it.

My sister told me this interesting thing about the four stages of competence. You may know of it already. It goes like this:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
    This is the stage when we don’t know how to do something, and either don’t know or don’t care that we don’t know how to do it. In order to move on to the next stage we have to recognise we can’t do the thing and realise that it’s a useful thing to be able to do. Otherwise we just sit in blissful (or not!) ignorance. 
  2. Conscious incompetence
    This is where we realise that we can’t do something and recognise that we really want to. This stage is often all about making mistakes and realising that there’s much more to the thing than we realised when we started. Which makes it the most painful stage. Which is where I am on the photography  front (and lots of other fronts) right now!
  3. Conscious competence
    This is where we are beginning to understand and know how to do something. However, doing it takes a lot of hard work and concentration. It doesn’t come naturally or easily. Phew!
  4. Unconscious competence                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Hurrah! This is where we all want to be!! We’re so adept at the skill that it                        becomes second nature and we do it without thinking.

But do we ever get there?!?

Well ,of course we do. But you know what they say about practicing making perfect. And I have to keep on reminding myself that getting there is as much part of the experience as the arriving. (Which reminds me of one of my favourite poems by C.P. Cavafy introduced to me by one of my daughters – click here if you want to read it.)

All of which is a very long lead into the purpose of this post which is to give you my (slightly late) weekly update on what is happening in the garden. As is so often the case with the wayward month of March, last week we enjoyed days of blissful spring mixed in with days of murky gloom. Blissful spring saw me out in the garden with the macro lens taking a photo of what I have learnt from Steve at Glebehouse Garden is Crocus Pickwick.


Crocus Pickwick


It also saw me potting up my dahlia tubers, having gone a bit mad on the ordering front this year after falling in love with Otto’s Thrill and Cafe au Lait and Chat Noir and… and… and… You get the picture? (What would I do without Peter Nyssen, bulb and plant supplier of the very very best kind!) And let’s not forget Jescott Julie and the Bishop of Llandaff, who have been tucked up in newspaper together under the stairs for the winter!!


And there are viola glowing in the sunshine. And winter flowering honeysuckle – Lonicera fragrantissima – whose scent spills out of its corner behind the garage in waves, and whose scent also fills my entrance hall, but who drops its flowers in an infuriatingly negligent manner which makes me slightly lose patience with it.


And last but very much not least are the goldfish on the bird table. (Forgive the poor photo but taken through the window with the iphone in a state of great excitement.) I’ve had a seed feeder hanging ignored in the tree for months with absolutely no interest shown in it by any bird apart from those using it to queue for the peanuts and fat balls in the other feeders. I was on the phone to my daughter a few days ago when out of nowhere two… yes that’s two!… goldfinch (finches? finchii?) turned up.

I know – but they really are goldfinch I promise!

Shows the level of excitement in my kitchen. So incoherent am I that my daughter thinks I’m telling her that there are goldfish on the feeder! Now to her that does sound exciting!! She’s a little disappointed when I explain. But not me. I am thrilled!



9 thoughts on “Conscious Incompetence

  1. I’m a bit the same with my Digital SLR; most of the time I just hate it and I DID take better pictures most of the time with my point and shoot. On another front, I’m trying not to read all the news headlines; ignorance of what is happening in the world does make me a happier person.


  2. I’m doing exactly the same! Where the world is concerned it is such a challenge to stay connected without feeling full of despair. But I do worry that I might be missing out on the good stuff as well as the bad. It’s out there somewhere!


  3. I know just how you feel, Jane! I am in photography school at the moment and it is so hard! There is so much to learn. I didn’t even know how much I didn’t know. It’s amazing, I have been taking pictures with my DSLR for so long and I didn’t know what I was doing. You will get there! It might take a while 😉

    So funny, I ordered from Peter Nyssen too, mostly daffodils and allium. Won’t be long untill they bloom.


    1. It feels like such a big mountain to climb that sometimes I’m tempted to stop trying – so thank you so much for your words of encouragement! And great minds clearly think alike when it comes to bulb suppliers too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. smallsunnygarden

    But I’m loving your photographs, Jane! I was lucky to have a long, relaxed initial learning process, thanks to some very, very kind photographers on social media – not sure I would have even gotten my own DSLR otherwise! So I think you are brave jumping in with both feet!
    Your “Pickwick” is beautiful; it’s funny to think that I’m often unsure about stripes and such on flowers, but they certainly do seem appropriate on a crocus 😉


    1. Thanks so much for your support, Amy! It means a lot, particularly from you with your great photos!! And now you mention it I’m not a big fan of ‘stripes and such’ on flowers either, but there are some – the crocus and some tulips and a rose or two – where it can work.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh good! You’ve done a course so you know what it’s all about. I’ve moved up another step in the camera ladder from my Canon G12, which I’m told is a “compact”, to a Panasonic Lumix, which I’m told is a “bridge”. Which means I enter the land of changeable lenses, addable filters, reduced bank balance, and a hernia-inducingly-heavy accessories bag. But I know where to come for advice.


  6. I meant to get over here a looooong time ago Jane but time seems to have run away with me again…I’m sure you can relate! I loved this post as it summed up exactly how I feel about photography myself. I used to happily snap away and then when I took a photography course I think, in a way, it caused me to photograph less or at least to discard so many photographs that I did not have enough to use. I need to get over this! Lol! Anyway you are doing a fabulous job and I really enjoy seeing your beautiful garden transition into spring! So lovely.
    – Kate xx


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