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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Learning Photography I

Well, it's been snowing again today, and I'm tired of posting pictures of snowbanks and ski trails, so I'm going to try something different.  I'm going to share with you what I've learned and come to think is important about photography over the past two years or so.  I'm doing this partly for myself; I hope articulating what I've learned will help me remember it!  Today, 3 basic principles I've always thought are important.

'Take lots of pictures!'  I've probably taken thousands of pictures of woodlots over the years; frankly most of them turn out to be ordinary.  But every now and then there's one where the lighting and the picture itself is right, and I'm just really pleased.  This is a woodlot along the Bruce Trail, north of us. The more pictures you take, the more you learn, and the better chance of good photos.

At any special event, I find I need to take lots of pictures to get a few that are good.  You can't control the action here, so taking lots gives you a better chance of getting a few that are usable.  I must have shot 50 pictures of the horses at the fair last fall, to get 3 or 4 I thought were really great.

I've just started trying to shoot pictures of bugs of various sorts, with my macro lens, and found it was MUCH more difficult than I thought.  Out of perhaps 500 shots last summer, perhaps 5 were good!  But because with digital you can just delete the extras, and you can try different settings, you learn as you go.

'Be there when the lighting is right'.  Blue skies and sunshine are the best example of this.  All the equipment and technical training in the world won't get you great pictures as easily as just getting out there when the lighting is what you want.  I've recently found this especially true in winter; gray skies and white snow don't say much, but white snow and blue skies look good!

I've also shot thousands of flower pictures, always trying to capture something more than just 'ok'.  Here I shot into the light from a close angle, and I think I got a great picture.  The lighting through these petals gave them a much deeper colour than shooting from the other side with the light - but I was paying attention to the light I wanted.

You won't believe it, but this picture is a 40 year old slide, scanned to create a digital file.  It's along the Bruce Trail on the north end of the Bruce Peninsula.  As you can see, the light made all the difference to the colour in the water here.  And the water really does look like this on a sunny day in June.

'Think about what you're going to use your photos for'.  I tend to do this at the start, and go out taking pictures specifically for the purpose I have in mind - posting here, doing a blurb book, writing articles for local newsletters, or giving talks like the one I'm giving on the Niagara Escarpment in two weeks.  But there are lots of other things you can use photos for too.  You may get to this later on as you see the possibilities, but keeping it in mind gives a purpose to your photography, and gets you out shooting pictures more often.

So before I ever got beyond the automatic setting on my camera, I was improving my photography through these three ideas.  I did eventually get beyond the automatic setting, but that will come in a day or two.  Comments, corrections, and suggestions are welcome with these posts; that's one way to learn!


  1. Light is the most important part to me it can make or break a photo! I love the evening and early morning light. I step off automatic sometimes but not often enough...but I am not too old to I await your next post on photography:)

  2. For a point and shooter, your suggestions are great. However, I do like your winter photos ski trails and all.

  3. All your suggestions sound good to me and they must work because your pictures are beautiful!!

  4. Excellent tips!

    That really is great about digital pics, being able to take plenty and picking and choosing the ones that worrk.

  5. Thanks for the tips and suggestions.. I enjoyed your photos. Have a happy day!

  6. Thank you, excellent tips we can all employ. I am very much hit and miss, so thank goodness for digital cameras. That first shot of the woodlands is perfect and also the horses.

  7. I knew in an instant that last one was a scan of a slide. I've been doing a lot of those to use in programs. With digital I don't mind taking LOTS of pictures. With film, I was stingy. Very nice shots- all of them.

  8. Oh, and I've ventured off auto a few times, but I just can't seem to make the camera do what I think it should. Very annoying.

  9. Very nice photos you have taken! Keep up the good work.

  10. Good for you! Hard to wait patiently...
    (ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

  11. These are all beautiful shots. Thanks for sharing your tips. I am still learning things and appreciate bloggers who offer their ideas. I love that bee on the daisy!!