Often I am asked this question: how long have you been taken photographs? Literally it's less than a week, if you only count the time of the shutter actuations. Yes I shot film for a while, and had several images published (including two sports images). However, other things took priority and consumed my time. I first began photography in 1987 with the venerable K1000 and learned everything the old school way - digital SLR cameras didn't exist back then.
Fast forward to July of 2006: I've now been shooting seriously for less than 18 months. I took a 7 month hiatus from photography just prior to the VLF competition for various reasons. Some people are surprised with my answer. So how did I end up here, at the point of being published in a nature conservation book?
Learning as much as possible is the key to improving your image success rate (aka "keepers"). I've always adhered to old school values when it comes to photography:
1. study, read and learn often - it's a lifelong journey
2. master your tools
3. critique your work well
4. practice, practice, practice
5. learn from your mistakes
From this, you can start to master light! Generally I am my worst critic. Of course many of the subjects are often not compliant, so you make due with the situation. Sharing is the key in all of this - by sharing with others, you learn from them, no matter what their experience level. Everyone has something to offer me: from the newest to the most seasoned professional.
I also believe that learning only one or two kinds of photography is a disservice to yourself as a photographer. You can learn something from every kind of photography. I am always inspired by others, their work, as well as the people/places around me to learn more.