Photography is like skateboarding

skateboarder photo

I have a confession to make:

I was a teenage skateboarder. I was probably more into skateboarding than photography. I read all the skateboarding magazines, and had tear sheets and posters of skateboarding plastered all over my bedroom walls. I practiced 360s (spinning around on the rear wheels) every spare moment, and had contests with my brothers on who could do the most 360s in a row.

I skated to junior high school, skated to the mall and skated to faraway parks full of smooth paved paths and hills. I loved the feel of the board under my feet. I built ramps with scraps from construction sites, and learned how to do kick turns on the ramps.

I took pictures of my brothers and friends boarding, and I even made a double feature 8mm movie of boarding tricks called Skateboard Madness with the neighborhood kids.


Shannon Bos makes me look better at this than I really am. That’s the mark of a good photographer!

So what has this got to do with photography?

Two things:  Passion and practice.

If you are reading this you are already very passionate about photography. You’ve probably read books, magazines and blogs on photography and maybe you’ve even taken some courses.

Like skateboarding, photography needs to be practiced again and again in order for you to become really good at it.

Practice using your camera in order to get the most from it. Find the menus, buttons and exposure settings that work in various lighting situations. Take at least 100 pictures a week. Study light and figure out how it affects your photographs. Look at all sorts of photos, other peoples’ photos, famous photos, and find the light in them.

Your camera is like my skateboard. I knew how it handled at the top of the ramp and how to maneuver it so I wouldn’t wipe out. I understood how to balance my body so that I could do three 360s without spinning out of control. My tools were board and body. In photography your tools are camera and light. Practice using both to capture your creative vision.

Marlene Hielema in the skate park

Let me tell you, riding in bowls takes a lot of practice.

I have recently taken up skateboarding again.

Yup, it’s true. I can still do a 360, and I’ve started going to skate parks for the first time in my life. Practice is still key to my skateboarding and my photography. (And here’s a secret, I’m over 50!)


Here’s a hybrid show of my moves and a challenge for you.



Some of you asked about my shoes. You can get them on! I’m wearing mine out. I think it’s time for a new pair.

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