Reaching Up from the Shoulders of an Expert

clip_image001A few days ago over in the great blog A Northeast Ohio Garden, the gardener wrote about needing to learn to use a camera. I had written earlier about learning more about my camera while on a photo shoot with my daughter Faith. I thought it might be time to update that post.

Faith has the benefit of a BFA in photography from the Hartford Art School, in addition to the artistic talent that got her accepted into that program and an uncanny eye for just the right shot. I have the benefit of being able to tag along with her from time to time. I could write a couple of posts about learning at her side, but these are the first things that I came to realize about photography while working with Faith

Patience – We’ve all seen photographs where we have thought that the photographer was lucky to have been in the “right place at the right time.” Well, I can tell you, it usually isn’t luck. There’s research involved. You have to know the best time of day, the most interesting time of year or the best vantage point, and then you have to wait. Sometimes you are waiting for the absolute right light, sometimes you wait for people to enter the shot and sometimes you wait until all the people are gone. Sometimes you wait for something to make a splash but sometimes you wait for the waters to rest quiet so you can get the perfect reflection.







Composition – I’ve been on photo-shoots with Faith where I have taken a picture of the same thing from roughly the same place but we get radically different results. A friend once told me: clip_image003

You take good pictures; she takes photographs” (like the winter scene at the right).

That is why I love digital cameras because I can review my composition with Faith or my wife, and get immediate feedback. Then, if the conditions are still right, I can retake the shot or I can take a bunch of shots and have my wife help me choose the best one later. I understand some of the “rules” of composition; they are similar to the “rules” for making good furniture but sometimes I try to capture too much into the frame.

Effort – Photography isn’t a contact sport, but it isn’t always easy. When I get clip_image007close enough to the thing I want to photograph, it seems there’s always a better place to shoot from. Fortunately I am pretty bold about going “near the water”, “near the edge”, or figuring out how to get “over there” but the effort often conjures up thoughts like: “why didn’t I wear boots?”, “Why didn’t I buy that walking stick?”, “What happens if I fall?” In addition, I tend to be a “feet on the ground” photographer. My wife will suggest that I should “get down on the ground for that shot” and although she’s no fan of danger, I’ve seen her go up a ladder, hang over an edge and step into a stream for the right picture. Faith inherited her mother’s willingness to work for the shot and my limited fear quotient, which is a dangerous combination. Ironically, I think what ultimately keeps her safe is the all-encompassing concern she has about her equipment.

Knowledge – That sounds obvious, but there are features on my camera that I don’t really understand. I know what the results are, having fiddled with settings and compared shots, but I need to learn more about how all these things work together. I know I can change ISO, aperture or shutter speed to compensate for lighting conditions, but when do I want to turn what dial? When do I want to combine them, how do they work together and what the heck is White Balance anyway? Those are things I still have to learn. The photo at the top is one of my favorites and not just because of the subject. I have 25 versions of that photo, most with swatches of glaring snow and a dark silhouette of Faith. As I was taking and complaining about each one, she offered suggestions from her perch below. She explained how I was going to have to “over expose the snow” and how I should “try not to get a lot of bright snow in the picture”. She asked “what ISO are you using?” and looked woeful when I said “Auto.” She corrected that and then suggested specific speed and aperture settings to further my command over my camera; I think you’ll agree, it was worth the effort.

If you have the opportunity to take photographs with an expert, or to do anything you enjoy with an expert in that field, take advantage of that opportunity, you won’t be sorry.


  1. Pictures – At the top is my daughter Faith freezing on an outgcrop overlooking Buttermilk Falls in North Central CT.

    I took the sunset from Sand Key Beach near Tampa, FL and the reflection shot is of the Windsor Locks Canal.

    Faith’s winter scene is at a park in Windsor, CT on the bank of the CT River.

    The bottom picture is Faith, dangerously close to Wadsworth Falls and standing on a 2″ thick ice coating on a foot of snow. Her comment to me was “if I fall, rescue my camera first.”


  2. This is a very informative post. Thank you very much for sharing some of what you’ve learned from Faith. I like taking photos, but I’m just a point and shoot picture taker:-) I have to learn more about composition, cultivate my patience, and become knowledgeable about my camera.


  3. I agree that you have to get in the right position for a shot. I thought that I had taught you that at Niagara! As you know, taking sunset shots from our balcony and taking shots of scale models both require manual overrides. In fact, they pretty much require full manual control. Just remember that you can see what is happening with digital. One last comment – get your sunset technique solid because sunsets change by the second and you don’t ever get a 2nd chance.


    • Standing in the middle of traffic isn’t my idea of “getting the right shot.” I have tired to get pictures of models here (the ones you sent) and I admire your ability to get those right. The sunset from Tampa is mine, and I was waiting for the right light and for the birds. I don’t know how many images I have, but I felt lucky to get that one. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.


  4. Bless your daughter and my brother for their skills. Personaly I have given up the idea of making art with my photos at this point I just want to tell a story and make people smile….. love the Sunset


  5. My sister went to school for photography and I learned a lot from her. Now she just does mom pictures, but I hope she will get back to it as art. Now I have a friend who is a photographer and I am astonished at his ability, and the risks he sometimes takes.

    You offer absolutely spot on advice at the end.


    • The earlier ‘thanks’ was supposed to be a comment, but I was using my phone and hit ‘reply’ which sneds the comment. I guess photography isn’t the only thing that requires knowledge. A good photographer has the ability to to amaze us. Lots of people take good pictures, but there are a special few who actually create art with a camea. I hope your sister finds the time to do that again. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment.


      • Oh these phones… From your fingers… We’ve been gently trying to get her back to it off and on for years. She had a wonderful eye – I have two of her paintings on my walls and keep some of her photos too. We need art – from another blogger – “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” ~Pablo Picasso


    • Thanks for the comment. I like that post ( I thought about adding ‘alot’ just to get you frazzled) very much. I have added it to the list of now four posts or websites that offer explanations in a way that I can understand them. I struggle with grammar. I usually have my wife proofread my blog posts, but I can’t blame her for the mistakes, they are mine. By the way, you may be a visual artist. Good stories help us to imagine a scene.


      • Thanks for the follow and likes, Dan. And an even bigger thanks for swallowing the “alot.” ;) You were the first photographer to explain your art to me with all the dimensions that make it so rich. Diana


      • Thanks – BTW, I would have to qualify your comment and say “photography student.” I tried to explain what Faith knows and what I am trying to remember. I took some pictures today, and I forgot to change the setting on my camera…still much to learn.


  6. Now I don’t feel so bad. I am with Faith about my camera. I’ve had visions of me tumbling in water only to have me underwater with my hand in the air holding my camera above water. My camera is sacred to me! LOL (((HUGS))) Amy


  7. I came here from Jill’s blog – and what a great post!!! thanks – I am bookmarking it to come back to agin later this week so I can soak it up fully. thanks for linking it on Jill’s blog –

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dan, thanks for leaving me the link to this post. Patience, Composition, Effort, and Knowledge is now my photography mantra. The top photo of your daughter looks deceptively straightforward – like all great art.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Jill. I had actually written that post on a training blog and it was one of my favorite posts from that ill-fated blog. Faith has been a very patient instructor when we’ve been on photo-shoots together. My effort still pales by comparison to hers, but mine is much improved since working on these things. Your photos that I’ve seen are really good. I look forward to seeing them going forward.

      Liked by 2 people

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