Learning by description

It’s entirely possible that this lesson in the Find Your Eye photography course is one that is having the greatest impact on me.  Learning to describe what is going on in a photo that I really like , whether it is mine or not, is like learning the basics of photography all over again.  A greatly needed refresher course…

In light of all that, I have two examples from my archives, photos taken in the same setting almost a year ago, that I think demonstrate what I have learned in this lesson. 

trees in the park

Here is my first example. A view of some trees, not yet fully leafed out, on a lovely evening at the park. 

Where does your eye go when you look at this? Does it find something to focus on, or just kind of wander from the tree shadow to that building on the far right behind some other trees?  And then there is the light pole over there, too.

It’s not that this is an unpleasant image, because there are beautiful greens, and some yellow dandelions.  Nothing is really in sharp focus, but the overall scene is peaceful.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love trees, as many of you do, too. Yet…this is just a photo of a group of trees.  Nothing really stands out.  

This image has no story to tell. 

During this same evening, exploring the beautiful signs of spring, the little ponds here and there, and just taking in the view, I took several other photos.  This one below is my favorite.  After doing the work of this exercise I now understand more about why I like it so much. 

Riding through the park

The format is horizontal rather than vertical which suits this view much better.  The light, the colors, the soft shadows from the trees are similar to those in the first.  

The main difference that I see is that there is a subject now. There are people in the park; a girl in pink on the little bridge, and a man on a bike.  The path they are on becomes the line that your eye follows through the image.  

This image has dynamic balance.  The main subject is not dead center, but slightly below the mid line and off to the right a bit.  You get the sense of the movement of the girl and the man, and that, in my mind, leads you to follow that path they are on, wondering where it goes.  

There is a story here.  It’s a spring evening in a lovely park in a residential area, and there are people walking and riding there, enjoying the beauty.   

Though I have not touched on all the technical aspects of these two images, I think you get the idea.  

If you have a photo or two that are your favorites, take a good look at those, then compare them to photos you have that just kind of leave you “blah”.   What is the difference?  

Now, how can you take what you have learned and apply it to your next time out with your camera?   

Have fun!

Moments of magic and intuition

Intuition and photography do work together.  

Kat says, “When you can connect with your intuition in your photography, you can more easily find the subjects and situations that speak to your heart. You can, without effort, create powerful images that connect with heart and soul.”   

The real challenge is to understand when your intuition is kicking in.

I know that it happens for me but I find it hard to describe exactly what it feels like.  I can tell you that in my mind or even out loud I hear myself saying “oh!” when a subject before me is speaking to my heart.  

Here are a couple of examples:

lotus blossom

I have photographed my favorite pond in one of our city parks many times. Last summer while walking around and getting photos of these lotus blossoms and leaves I saw this one.  It was the light on those petals that got me.  And the bloom reaching toward the light, ready to open. 

Many times this kind of thing happens when I’m about to stop taking photos and head for home. One last look around, or a final walk around the pond, and there will be something I missed, something that I need to see.  That’s when I hear that “oh!”. 

Old man in the tree

Earlier this winter I had been at another park, walking around in the snow, actually headed back to the car.  I happened to look up at this grand old oak tree and saw what I call the old man in the tree.  I hope you can see him…the snow is his beard.   

It was a moment of magic.  

This tree image has stayed in my mind since then, reminding me of the trees in one of the Lord of the Rings stories, the trees in the forest in the Wizard of Oz.  There is a story that this old man in the tree wants to tell.

This intuitive impulse does not happen each time I take photos.  Many times I just take way too many images, an old habit that seems to not want to go away.  True, some good images come from those days, too, but not like those that seek me out, draw my attention and speak to my heart. 

Getting a better focus

Getting sharper images is something I have been pursuing, but have not made much progress…until just this week.  When I said something to one of my photo buddies she recommended that I try selecting the auto focus point before shooting.  This was something I had heard of before, and had not really tried.   

And I confess, I had a bit of “focus envy” because my friend always gets images that are so nicely clear and sharp.  Maybe it would sound better to say her images inspire me to do better.

I found my book that I purchased for my camera, a “Magic Lantern Guide” by Michael Guncheon, plus I looked on YouTube for a few videos.  Turns out that the book had the best instructions for me, and one of the online videos sort of supplemented what I read.  

Then I spent the last couple of evenings practicing…a lot.  Isn’t it great that we can just delete the images we don’t like?  

Here are the best examples from my trials that show the difference.

Camer decides what to focus on

 Using my 50mm lens I let the camera choose where to auto focus.  That is, after all, what auto focus is.  You don’t do it manually by moving the focus ring.  The camera decides.  (The shutter speed here was 1/60, and there was no camera shake.)   Prior to this week, I would have thought that this focus was pretty good.  But… now I don’t like how the camera chooses where to focus.  Those little red lights in the view finder kind of do their own thing and I don’t understand their logic.

There is hope, however.  

You can choose the auto focus point yourself.  I’m not going into the details here about how this works on my Canon camera.  If this is something you want to look into please check the manual that came with your camera or check online for a tutorial.  You will want to try this, trust me.  This next image shows why.

I chose the auto focus point.

I chose a point that was at the top of the diamond of little red lights in my view finder and set that as my auto focus point.  Then this camera did just what I wanted and I really like the results.  I hope that you can see the difference, too.  If you look at my Flickr photo stream link to the right of this post, there is a picture of some marbles and some tea cups that I took doing this same thing. 

Learning a new skill is something I enjoy.  When someone I know gives me a tip on what to do differently, sometimes I can pick it up right away.  Other times I need to read up on it and get to understand the why’s and wherefore’s.   But that P word…practice…is what usually does it, and I kind of need some time to myself for that to work.

If you enjoy taking photos and want to improve your skills and really dig into some of those why’s and wherefore’s…please check into Kat’s classes.  Click on the link below to learn more!

Ribbons and trophies and contests, oh my!

contests

In a container tucked away in a closet are some bits and pieces of memorabilia from my childhood and my adult life, things that I chose to keep to remind me of some good things.  There are some old letters, handmade cards from my kids, my 4-H folder with ribbons earned on projects, and even a photo of a Sweet Adeline Chorus I was in…taken when we had won a “Small Chorus Award” in the early 1980’s.  Each of these things represent contests, opportunities to “make the best better” as the 4-H motto once read.  

Just keep that in mind while I go in a different direction now.

For this assignment in Kat’s Find Your Eye Course, entitled “Stop Apologizing”,  I had to define what I think a photographer is.  Here is what I wrote down:

“A real photographer takes photos full time, for pay; knows all the numbers of every possible thing on their camera and can say them; sells their photos; gets asked to do special projects; may have written a book on photography; owns multiple cameras and lots of accessories; enters lots and lots of contests and wins.”

Then I had to look at how I stack up to my own definition of photographer. Ouch.

It’s my hobby and I don’t get paid. I struggle with the numbers thing about exposure and stuff like that and I really don’t care. I have one camera I use. I’ve never sold an image.  I did get asked once to take a quick photo of a group.  I have written a novel, still in rough draft, and I will tell you there is a woman photographer in it.  And the camera collection I have….none of them work.

By my own definition I’m not a photographer.   

And the one area I apologize for is that I don’t enter contests.  Because somewhere I have picked up that idea that photographers, real ones, enter contests.  *Disclaimer: I have nothing against contests or those who do participate….these events are just not for me at this point in my journey.

Why do I take photos? You can read my earlier post about that here.  That answer still holds.  And since that is still true, here is how I have redefined what a “real photographer” is, focusing on the kind of photographer I want to be:

A real photographer uses photographic images to express their art, their creativity, their insight into life;  they are not limited by the equipment they use, no matter if it is a film camera, a point and shoot, a DSLR, or an iPhone.  What matters to them is what the expression of this art does for them and for others.  This real photographer is not concerned with awards.  They are willing to share what they know about their craft so they can help others along their journey. 

That is the kind of photographer I want to be.

Contests and awards?  I see them as an opportunity to grow, to learn more, to do better, much like the 4-H days from long ago.  Maybe there will be a place in my future for photographic competition, but for now I choose to concentrate on learning other things.