A 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.
“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 close 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.