My photography is a journey of curiosity and passion, not a professional level endeavor.
But I am smitten.
And I’m also bored.
I’ve always said:
“If you’re bored, it’s because you’re becoming boring.”
And boring just isn’t part of my life plan.
On a photographic front, I am bored because the early techniques I learned have served me well, but now I need more.
My pictures tend toward the pretty. Beauty is always a part of the way I see the world, and the power of beauty is substantial. In beauty, I find truth and transcendence.
But I’m also looking for punch. For connection. For that je ne sai quoi.
So in a quest to elevate my photo skills, I’m doing a few things.
I recently came across a number of photographers who have books and/or YouTube videos that I especially like. There are hundreds of such options out there and I’ve barely begun to explore, so consider this a starting list, not a comprehensive one. I also follow numerous people on Instagram. On social media, I look for what moves me, not what is popular. Popularity and my preferences often seem to go in disparate directions.
On Instagram, I keep an eye on Don Toothaker, the photography instructor I met in Bosque del Apache. He doesn’t post often, but his posts have heart and soul. I look and I learn. I follow @NatGeo, @Natgeotravel, @natgeoyourhshot and a number of other quality photographers. I feel that so much of that photography is just over my head, but the more I look, the more I read, the more I see.
And then I must do. Because all the book knowledge in the world does not translate into a photograph.
To help build my skills, I recently came across David duChemin. He has a number of books. Of them, I purchased The Visual Toolbox which is an excellent read and resource. He asks the types of questions I need to ask myself, to move ahead. They’re not always easy, but they have the potential to yield a path forward out of my current photographic malaise.
One question he asks is what is your vision? As I review my own photographs, I realize that my vision involves adventure, a sense of endless horizon (which I see as possibility), and beauty. And, I hope, a bit of fun and reflection.
I think what I may need to layer into that vision is all the emotion that falls in between, because adventure always involves challenge. I hope I’ve captured at least one or two shots along these lines in this photo gallery above.
On the learning front, YouTube has so much photography info that it’s a mind blowing resource. For artistry, I love Attilio Ruffo. He’s fun and funny; kind; and generous with his knowledge. Tony and Chelsea Northrup offer good solid advice. Among many other topics, they have an hour long video on the D500 that was incredibly helpful to me when my camera arrived.
On the equipment front, I’ve gotten a number of questions on social media. Right now I am using a Nikon D500. I have a 35-300mm Nikon zoom lens; a 10-22mm Nikon wide angle; and a 150-600mm Tamron lens. That’s it for the moment. At some point I may add a prime, but I know that I need to focus (no pun intended) on my skills, not on equipment.
The trip to the Central Coast was helpful in that I was in a marine environment, which meant water, some fog and great sunsets. I played with a neutral density filter, graduated filters and some timed shots.
I’ve come to realize that on my photographic forays (which is all my travel), I either need to travel alone, or with people who are equally interested in photography. I can’t expect someone not into photography to understand why they must stop the car NOW so I can run into the park as the sun turns golden behind a moored sailboat, or why I’d like spend my time going from camera to computer to understand the effects of a particular filter.
I have actually been called a nerd. Can you imagine?
But I love the silence and the challenge of being unto myself, in my journey for a photograph. I love the possibility of my camera in my hand, waiting, watching for the world to unfold. I love the continual learning process of expression.
Photography By The Numbers
I’ve been guilty of taking too many shots, with the hope that something will turn out. But it’s the nuance of a picture that can make all the difference. And the world moves, often quickly, and it may be that one extra shot that has just the right focus or a better perspective on the subject.
So I go for numbers.
And then there’s the post production aspect that I’m just beginning to learn. There’s so many elements, and so many unknowns. The organizational methodology of Lightroom totally eludes me. Since chemo, my brain just doesn’t function well with linear topics. I know that I can search for tutorials, but the entire topic is a total yawn. So I tend to find workarounds that work for me, but I’m sure are not optimal.
And what’s optimal? What is a good shot? What did I do well or not so well? What do I like? What can I use, and where? Pinterest needs a vertical format; Instagram crops my photos; only on the website can I show them as I’d like.
Here’s an example of just one view, shot again and again with different focal lengths and settings, all processed differently:
The light early in the evening was impossibly golden. So golden it didn’t look real. Do I show it as I saw it? How much do I edit it? RAW files need some editing…how much?
I also couldn’t decide what focal length worked. I should have fussed more with the aperture, but with the diminishing day, it was a source of light and I prefer an open aperture setting. But perhaps I should have played more with ISO.
With these questions in mind, next time, I’d set up more of a methodology for each shot, to play with the various elements, to see the differences. But then I tend to get wrapped up in the moment. And my perfect methodology can fall by the wayside.
Here’s another series. What would you choose?
Golden? Blue? Black and white? Or perhaps something totally different?
As I look at my approach to photography, it shares certain elements with my approach to flying. Flying, I’d often turn off my audio varios and just fly by the seat of my pants. (An audio variometer measures your rate of movement up and down in the air. It beeps optimistically in rising air, and drones dreadfully when the air, and you in your plane, start to sink.)
At the end of the flying day, back on the airfield, so many of my fellow pilots were wrapped up in the numbers and math of their flight. My recollection of the flight usually centered on the joy of it all.
Being present at 16,000 feet or so, dashing along the mountain spines of the earth; witnessing the incredible fall colors of the Appalachian ridge just under your wing; or just basking in the sun at altitude, lost in a blue sky, was what soaring was about for me. And the same for photography. It’s an immersive experience, one that I get lost in.
“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.”
And listen I shall. While simultaneously working on my technical skills to navigate this new adventure.
So to the path ahead! To experience, to learning, and to creating. And to CancerRoadTrip for others.
May 2019 be a good year for all of us.
More Reading on the Soul of Travel
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