Friday, October 19, 2012

Photographically speaking

One thing I like to do, especially this time of year, is take our camera with me whenever I happen to be walking around somewhere.  It's sometimes a bit of a hassle, given that the body is rather large and conspicuous, but having a camera makes me look at things a little differently.  Carrying a clunky DSLR often causes me to think consciously of different ways to look at the world around me, and think about what objects and designs would make good photographs.  Not that I am a good photographer by any means, and certainly far from it by any objective measurement.  But the secret to becoming a good photographer, like any skill or trade, is simply doing it repeatedly and refining your technique over time.  One thing I am not very good at is finding things that would make for interesting pictures, though, which brings me back to the original point of this post: forcing myself to look for these opportunities.  Rarely will a good scene just appear before my eyes, gift-wrapped and labeled as a Good Picture Opportunity.  Instead, I have found that these times must be sought out and pursued, and even then the picture itself must be evaluated, planned, and composed. Of course there are exceptions to this, and many great photographers have taken many great photographs simply by being in the right place at the right time, but for me this is something that I have to continue to learn and refine by repeated practicing.  Take this photo, for instance:

(click to view full-size)
I was pushing my son in his stroller a week ago, and we were just walking through the neighborhood when I spotted this patch of flower buds next to a mailbox.  It's the kind of thing that, normally, I would have not even noticed and simply passed by.  But because I had my camera with me and was actively seeking photograph opportunities, I decided to park the stroller, sit down on the street, and snap a couple pictures.  I didn't adjust anything in Photoshop, though perhaps I could have cropped it a little, but overall I am pleased with this picture.  I like the shallow depth of field (I think it was taken at f/2.8) and the bits of purple that contrast nicely with the overall green and brown tones.  I also like that the setting discernible but not distracting.  There's a bunch of things wrong with the picture too, and I think I could have found a more interesting angle from which to photograph it, but these are the kinds of things that, hopefully, will continue to improve over time.

A few days later I happened to have my camera on campus with me during a bit of a rain shower.  It wasn't a downpour, but there was enough water to make things interesting and the clouds were creating just enough of an overcast sky to allow for decent picture-taking.  My boss and I were coming in to the building and she casually said "Hey, you should get a picture of the dogwood tree."  She meant the whole tree, but with my 50mm lens there was no way I could have fit the entire thing in frame.  So I went for the opposite approach and decided to try getting just a part of the tree instead:
(click to view full-size)
I have taken other pictures of tree leaves and things like this, but I think the overcast sky and the wet leaves made for a slightly more interesting photo opportunity than what otherwise might have been.  The drips on the leaf bring out the colors, and I like the way the tip is turning brown too.  It's kind of a reminder that time is passing, and even beautiful things like this tree will fade over time.  The curly leaf on the left side of the photo is kind of cool too, and like the previous picture I did not adjust anything in Photoshop though I did crop it just a bit. Originally there was part of a leaf on the right side, which kind of ruined the composition, so I just cropped the picture until it was gone.  This photo could be improved in many ways too, and I'm not throwing it up here to showcase any type of photographic talent or skill.  I just think it's fun to share pictures like this, and I also see myself getting better at this kind of thing over time.

I also enjoy learning more about my camera and lens through photography also, and finding ways to tame the awesome powers of the 50mm lens.  But I also like hearing from other photographers too.  It's my favorite way of learning more about photography and do any of you have tips or tricks to recommend?  Or how about photos to share?  Let me know in the comments!


Steve said...

I agree with you about carrying a camera with you... it changes how you looks at things (and makes you appreciate the little things that are easy to overlook if you rush around to make deadlines). Most of my favorite picture are accidental finds. But I went the other route: I found the smallest, most compact camera that would fit easily in my pocket (but could still print 8.5x11"). I would rather ALWAYS have it easily at hand than be able to blow pictures up or zoom really close.

Simon Ringsmuth said...

I would do this more often, if we had a small camera. We used to have a really nice Canon pocket camera, but lost it about a year ago on a trip. Way bummer. But life goes on, and for those times when I do want to take a picture but don't have an actual camera, my phone tends to suffice. You're right though, in that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you :)

Julie said...

Both of these are very nice shots, Simon. I like them a lot. I have recently had to try and reacquaint myself with my camera because Rachael was getting tired of me using hers all the time for my garden photography. Neither of us have anything fancy in the way of cameras, but I'm finding that I don't like mine quite as well as hers. :(