So that’s a wrap. My thirty days of photography are over. I’m packing up my camera and never taking a picture ever again.
In all seriousness, my Thirty Days project, inspired by SouleMama‘s 30 Days of the Everyday, has been a terrific experience. I’d like to talk about some of the things that I’ve learned over the past thirty days.
I’ve been doing a lot of photography related reading, listening, and researching. I follow a number of photography podcasts and blogs, and I’ve also read some books. Here’s a sampling:
* Ansel Adams’ The Negative (his other two books, The Camera and The Print, weren’t available at our library at the time).
* Tips From The Top Floor photography podcast with Chris Marquardt.
* The Digital Story photography podcast with Derrick Story.
* Ken Rockwell, a sharply-opinionated, Nikon-shooting photographer and writer.
* Nikonians, an online resource for Nikon shooters. I listen to some of their podcasts (I especially like The Image Doctors), and read their forums. There’s a subgroup, the “Bokonians,” a group of Boston-area Nikonians. I hope to get together with them some time soon for some shooting, socializing, and learning.
Becoming one with the camera
Maybe it sounds like one of those Zen clichÃ©s, but it’s true. I feel like I’m moving toward becoming “one” with the camera. What I mean is that I’m becoming more familiar with the controls, with the weight and the feel of the camera, with how it responds. It enables me to take pictures more quickly and precisely, and spend less time messing around with settings. As long as I’ve got my camera out and at the ready, I feel like I can capture exactly the shot I’m looking for. I still have a ways to go – there are still some settings that I haven’t learned to change by touch, but overall I’m feeling very comfortable with the camera and its lenses.
Getting it right the first time
One of the things I’ve picked up from reading Ken Rockwell is the concept of getting it right the first time, or at least getting it right in-camera. While I think Ken’s opinions are a bit harsh in some areas, I definitely appreciate where he’s coming from. The digital SLR camera is a sophisticated tool for creating images, and through careful technique and practice, one can usually capture the image they’re looking for right when they press the shutter button. Other schools of thought teach that you can just fire away on your camera in RAW mode, and then fix any mistakes or miscalculations on the computer at a later time. Beyond that, many folks go over the top with image enhancements and manipulation in Photoshop or other applications. I suppose it’s really two different talents. Either you’re a great photographer, or you’re a great image manipulator. I guess some people could be both, though I feel that one area would suffer in favor of the other. In any case, I’ve come to realize that I’m definitely in the Photographer school. Sure, I may occasionally make a few changes in iPhoto to correct color and exposure, or crop out extraneous objects that I missed when shooting, but for the most part I just try to capture the best photos that I can in the camera itself.
Post processing / workflow
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not much for image manipulation. That being said, putting photos on the computer and doing things with them does involve some post processing and workflow. Taking photos, uploading them, and blogging them every day for the past thirty days has definitely given me practice in that workflow. Generally, I’d connect my camera to my Mac mini late in the evening, and offload all of the day’s photos. Some days, when the time had arrived to do this, I hadn’t yet taken a photo! So I had to get creative. Once the photos were offloaded, I quickly scanned through them in iPhoto, removing anything with an unusable exposure, unwanted blur, or otherwise unsuitable characteristics. I then scanned through the remaining photos to pick my favorite. Finally, I gave it a bit of color and exposure correction, if necessary. I exported each photo to a folder on my hard drive, and used Gallery‘s form-based image uploader to upload them to the Thirty Days gallery. In the past I’ve used Zach Wily‘s excellent iPhotoToGallery plugin, but I’ve come to discover that it uses a rather poor level of JPEG compression, making the photos I uploaded with it look nowhere near as good as they did on the Mac. Uploading directly with Gallery, although slightly more complicated, produces much better looking images for the web. After uploading to the Gallery, the final task was to write up a blog entry. Thankfully, WordPress makes that very easy with its quick, simple interface.
Photographic style and vision
During these thirty days, one thing I’ve been trying to do is develop a sense of my photographic style and/or vision. This is the thing that distinguishes one photographer from any other photographer. I’m still not sure I could put it into a concise phrase, but I do have some thoughts. I like to take photos of people. I like interactions, facial expressions, and humorous situations. I like to portray the dramatic, the contemplative, the active. I also like to capture things: the objects, buildings, food, clothing, and other widgets and gadgets that surround us every day. Architecture and landscapes are also interesting to me, but over the past thirty days, I haven’t had much opportunity to photograph those sorts of things. Hence my focus on the people (Catherine and Rebecca) and places (home) I spend the most time with. In the future, I’d like to be more deliberate about getting out and photographing new and different things. But this Thirty Day project was really about taking pictures of the everyday, so I didn’t go out of my way to photograph things I might not normally see or do.
Heightened visual awareness
Upon some recent introspection, I’ve realized that I am developing a heightened sense of visual awareness. This can come in many forms; for example: noticing that a person’s clothing might contrast nicely with a nearby object or wall, seeing a scar or dimple that I had previously missed on a person I know well, quickly visualizing a scene that I want to capture in my camera, or recognizing that something is out of place or extraneous to a shot. Now this isn’t to say that I’m super-observant, or that I’ll never trip on my own shoelaces ever again. More that in the photographic sense, I’m able to more quickly recognize things.
One interesting but unintended consequence of this project was a hiatus from any other blogging for the duration. Rebecca and I never discussed an official hiatus, but a little over a week into the project, she mentioned that she wasn’t sure she wanted to post something, for fear that it might break up the flow of the Thirty Days. We didn’t really decide not to post anything else, but that’s just the way it ended up. It will be interesting to see what effect this hiatus has on our blogging habits after it is over. I’ve certainly developed a good habit for writing up a daily (albeit brief) blog entry. I’m not making any promises, but I hope that it becomes a more frequent thing. 🙂
So, what’s next? Well, I’ve got plenty of things that I’d like to blog about, now that the “hiatus” is over. So I’m going to start working on those. I’m still going to keep at the photography, and in fact I’d like to do more of it. I’m looking into various Boston-area photography meetups to help me learn more, meet some other photographers, and go on interesting excursions. And I’m also considering taking in some classes, workshops, or conferences related to photography.
In addition, I’m thinking about starting a separate website dedicated to my photography. Over the past few years, a number of people have mentioned that I should “do something” with photography, and some have even expressed an interest in having me take photos for them. I’d like to design a site that I can easily send people to so that they can see examples of my work and find out how to contact me. I did my first ‘official’ shoot last September, and I did the portraits for the Dane Street Church staff page. I don’t want to go into “professional” photography, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort advertising my services. However, I do enjoy photography, and if a project is interesting or relevant enough to me, I’d be glad to help people out. So hopefully that site will be up soon, and I’ll post about it here. In the meantime, feel free to spread the word if you need a photographer or know someone who does.
So that wraps up my Thirty Days. I hope you have all enjoyed it. I may do other “Thirty Day” projects in the future, for things other than photography. And I may do more photography projects, as well. As always, you know that you’ll hear about them here at World Wide Wood.
As Chris Marquardt would say: happy shooting!