Photography – A Love-Hate Relationship

Whether you are a keen amateur or a professional photographer you love photography. Photography is easy to love and hate at the same time. Below are a few observations of the love-hate relationship most photographers have with photography at some point.

We love those images of early morning light but we hate setting our alarm clocks for 4am.

We love getting an image in our minds and hate the fact that it will take 27 layers and countless hours in to make it a reality.

We love the amazing images of the Milky Way but hate that there is so much light pollution that we can’t make those images in our backyard.

We love big sensors but hate the file sizes.

We love all the lenses and gadgets we buy but hate that we can’t afford a sherpa to carry it all.

We love going on vacation but hate that we have to bring our family.

We love the creative things we do as photographers and hate when someone says “You must have a great camera.”

We love buying new cameras and hate knowing that the next generation of camera is already in the final phase of development.

We love being out in the natural world but hate that there is no outlet to recharge a flat battery.

We love seeing a great sunset but we hate not being able to stop and park right when we see it.

We love images made in the vast wilderness and hate that a hotel is not within walking distance.

We love being creative and making images but we hate that things like work, family commitments and hunger get in the way.

We love finishing that image and hate is when we realize that the internet is down so we can’t upload it to several social media sites.

We love spending time getting an image to look just right in post processing but we hate that monument of realization that we haven’t saved our work in two hours just when the software decides it’s going to crash.

We love driving into the city to make images at night and we hate that the connector plate for our tripod is sitting on the desk at home.

We love all these things and so much more about photography but we hate that there is only one place that we can be at any given moment so get out when you can and know that a day with your camera beats a day in the office every time!

f8 and be there!

“f8 and be there!” Wegee (Arthur Fellig) and Galen Rowel both gave this advice about making great photographs. One was a press photographer New York City and the other climbed mountains to get his images but they both had the same philosophy, if you aren’t there you can’t make the photograph. Something similar has been used by different photographers for many years. “f11 and hold still” is the advice Walker Evans gave. It’s now different now then when any one of these great photographers said. Be there or you won’t get the photograph. So where does that leave each of us?

Well, it’s simple really, get out there! The more photographs you make the better you will get. You have to or you will give it up. I think that those who eventually give it up and stick to making snap shots are those that didn’t take the time to learn from their successes. They got bogged down in their mistakes. Learning from your mistakes can be easy, if the frame is dark then the exposure was wrong, simple enough. But what about those perfectly exposed happy accidents? We all have them but how many of us learn from them?

One of the great things about digital photography is Exif information. Your camera saves the data about how your camera was set up when you made that photograph. Unless you erase this information, and I don’t recommend you do, it is saved with your photos forever. Twenty years from now you can look back and see exactly what went right when you made that image. So I recommend that you not only learn from your mistakes but more importantly learn from your successes! You have all the Exif info you need from both! Get your camera, make some photo, good and bad, so you can learn to improve your photography skills.

f8 and be there… because if you aren’t there who is going to make that photograph?

I have never talked so much in my life!

Sunday, in the Hart Community Center in Fredericksburg, VA I talked for a little over six hours! I set up a series of seminars, six total, about different photography related subjects. The plan: start at 10 am end at 4 pm, each seminar would be 45 minutes (including questions and answers) with a 15 minute break. It sounded pretty good. I got started on time and one seminar run into another. At 1pm or so, I really don’t remember, I did take a short break, maybe 10 minutes, to have a drink and a granola bar. While I was having my snack I did talk to a few people but I let them do most of the talking. Then I was off again! Before long it was 4pm. Time to pack up and go home.

I guess it was good that time went by so quickly. There was a bit of a snag during one seminar about Photoshop Layers. As happens in live demonstrations, Photoshop didn’t want to work the way I wanted it to. Oh well, a quick change of course and everything worked out. There were a lot of questions and everyone seemed to enjoy the seminars. But talking for six straight hours? On the drive home my throat was sore and I felt dehydrated. I started thinking about it and I realized that I had talked just about non-stop.

You have to understand something. As a child I was the one who never asked to get up in front of the class. I did only when absolutely necessary and usually under severe duress! All the way through school, even in college, I did not want to stand out. I guess this shows what a turn around someone can make when they truly find something they love and want to talk about it.

I love photography and I love talking about it! I love teaching photography and I live for those “light bulb” moments when someone finally understands something that has been giving them fits as they tried to figure it out. I’m not sure if I will ever set up a day to talk about photography for six straight hours again. Now I know that I can but I’m not sure I will want to.

Thank you to all who came out Sunday! I hope you enjoyed the day. But I have one request… don’t let me talk for six hours anytime soon!

Misinformation

I read about photography, a lot. I can read a book or magazine about photography or photo processing from cover to cover with no problem. With most any other genre of books I tend to get bored and put them down half way through, never to open them again. Books by Stephen King have been the notable exception. While I was leafing through a magazine yesterday, I came across an article about photography so I skimmed through it. It had some good information in it until I got to one line. I had to read that one line three times. You see this article was written by a well know author of photography books and was targeted at “new photographers.”

This part of the article listed three ways to help you hold your camera still in low light situations. The three tips listed are spot on. Here is the part I had to read three times:  “If you have tried all three and you’re still getting blurry photos, raise your camera’s ISO setting, which increases your camera’s shutter speed, until your photos look nice and sharp.” Can you spot the reason I had to read it three times? On the surface it sounds like good information but it is not, it is misleading, especially for a new photographer.

Here’s the problem, ISO never has and never will “increase your camera’s shutter speed.” ISO does one thing and one thing only. ISO controls how sensitive the camera’s sensor it to light. That is all it does. This was true with film and it is also true with digital cameras. Changing the ISO on a digital camera or putting a different ISO film into a film camera will not change the camera’s shutter speed. Shutter speed and ISO are two completely different parts of the exposure triangle. ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture make up the three parts of the exposure triangle. If you change one, you have to change one or both of the others if the lighting conditions stay the same and you want the overall exposure to stay the same.

Automatic modes on today’s cameras are great. I use aperture priority mode 95% of the time when I’m not working in a studio. In aperture priority mode, when I change the ISO does the shutter speed change? Yes it does. Did the ISO change the Shutter Speed? No it did not. There is a big difference! The shutter speed changes because the camera was forced to choose a new shutter speed based on the camera’s light meter and the fact that the camera is set to aperture priority and the lighting conditions did not change. If the camera is set to manual mode does changing the ISO change the shutter speed? No, you have to change the shutter speed based on what the camera’s light meter tells you if you want a similar exposure.

You might be thinking that I’m splitting hairs here and that’s fine. What is important here in this is very basic information all photographers should know. ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture control three very different things. Each one is completely independent of the others and changing one does not change another. Changing one changes the overall exposure of the image. That is all it will do. I have been wondering why, when talking about ISO in the classes I teach, there is this confusion about the ISO changing the shutter speed. Now, I guess I know.

Soft Boiled Eggs

This morning I thought I’d have some soft boiled eggs. I haven’t had them in a while so I looked up cook times and followed the suggestions. Commenting on the photos used with the post about cooking soft boiled eggs, the person posting the recipe said to remove the shells before serving, something that I thought was a bit off. You see, my wife is British and every time I’ve had soft boiled eggs they have been served in an egg cup. I like egg cups! No need to fully remove the shell before serving just use a small sugar spoon, remove enough to get going and dig right in!
Boiling Eggs
While I was eating my first egg the sun was coming in through the sliding glass door to our deck. The nice direct sunlight made the yellow of the egg yolk burst into color. It helped that the plate that the eggcup was on was a nice bright blue so the yellow of the yolk really popped. What a sight to see when you are enjoying your breakfast! Then a cloud pass in front of the sun and softened the light and brought out details on the egg, shell, eggcup and plate that were not as easy to see in the harsh direct light.

After seeing this I remembered what someone once said at a class I was teaching. “I read online that food should be shot on a white background to show off the food.” Mind you that class was walkabout class in DC and had nothing to do with photographing food. My initial thought was how boring. My second thought was, that I could not remember one time, in 18 months of working is a studio where we did a lot of food photography, had we ever shot food on a white background. Here at our house our countertops are mostly black with white and grey flecks of color. The plate is bright blue. The eggcup has a gold rim and a print of a dutch boy riding a bike on a white background. The wheat toast was a bunch of nice warm brown tones. Nothing I was looking at was white except for the eggshell, the egg white and the background of the eggcup.

My point here is this, in food photography, as in other photography let the light do the work for you. Change the quality of the light and the feel of the image changes. Use props and backgrounds to help tell the story you want to tell. Don’t get stuck thinking you have to shoot this subject this way because someone online said you have to. Play around! Besides, playing around is one of the big reasons we fell in love with photography in the first place?

For those of you who are thinking “where are the photos of what you saw?” Well, I was paying attention to the light. Storing the look and feel of the light in my memory banks for future use. Besides, I hate cold soft boiled eggs!

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