Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Direction, also known as where do I go from here

I started this blog some time ago as a means to make myself work to become a better photographer. Judging from the timespan between posts it is obvious it didn't work as well as I had planned. Why is that? I think it is fair to say I enjoy creating images since I have gone to great lengths in order to improve my craftsmanship. Yes when it comes down to it, I always find something else to focus my efforts on. Even if I can work on photography it is rarely the same thing. One week it is my NYIP classes (which I owe a ton of money to), the next I am reading on how to better use Lightroom. This week I am making Macro photos of water. In some cases the 'Jack-of-all-Trades' approcah would work well. Right now I feel lost and overwhelmed with no idea where to start. Perhaps if I air out the pros and cons here I can shed a little light on whhere to turn.

NYIP: I signed up for the course in order to improve my overall quality of photography. What better way to become a better photographer than to have an industry leader teach you the fundamentals, how to apply them and when. The price is steep but I believe it will be well worth it in the end. I cannot honestly answer why I do not sit down and work on the assignments. I read all of chapter one, took the online exam, watched the DVD for unit one, and even took my first picture for submission to NYIP. I have two more images I must capture to complete unit one, yet I just have not made the time to capture them. I guess I am afraid of what will be said in response of my submission. It is simply time to push thru and take my constructive criticism.

Lightroom Training: I love Lightroom, or at least the idea of what Lightroom can do. I watch tutorials on before and after touch ups and the simple tweaks are amazing. I have access to a Lightroom training book which again teaches the fundamentals of using Lightroom and how to apply them. I have several issues with proceeding with this form of training. First of all, what good does photomanipulation do if it is simply a bad photo. So honestly I should learn to take better pictures BEFORE I edit them. Lastly, I have thousands of pictures I have taken from around the world. I could spend months simply editing them and organizing them. It is a daunting task and I am afraid to even start this massive undertaking.

Practice: I stumbled across a macro image of a water drop and instantly became inspired to pull out my camera. It was the first time in a very long time I even turned on my camera. I had a great time shooting these images, but I didn't capture perfect images. The time I spent shooting these images could have been better spent completing unit one and proceeding to unit two. However, it was fun. Isn't that what this should be about? Is it still a hobby if you do not enjoy the time you spend working on it?

Yes, this has been a bizarre post. Blogs are not supposed to be amazing insights into the future. It is simply a way for me to organize my thoughts and hold myself accountable for it. I know what I need to do, and this puts it in my face and hopefully gives me the drive to do it.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Wow, six months.

Has it really been six months since my last post? I wish there were some wonderful story behind why I have been MIA for so long, but frankly it is laziness. I simply have not pulled out my camera for months. I made a New Years Resolution to finish my NYIP photo class, and become a better overall photographer. Even then, it still took another month for me to feel inspired and grab my camera. To the right here you see my first successful try at water droplet photography. I had a ton of fun with this. No matter how well prepared you are, no matter how much effort is put in to get 'that shot', it still comes down to luck and persistence. I took hundreds of photos, and each one there was a sense of excitement wondering what would be revealed when the shutter snapped. I think I captured a dozen keepers. Most others were either out of focus, poorly lit, or simply nothing there. However, when one looked good I smiled and could not wait to see it on a monitor. The one here is what I feel is the best of the bunch and I am pretty proud, and more importantly i am most inspired by.

The setup for this shot was fairly easy. I watched a short video (I think it was strobist.com) and followed those ideas fairly closely. I had a spare tripod so I attached a metal yardstick to it and supported the other end to make a square 'arc' for lack of a better term. From this I duct taped a Ziploc bag of water. I partially filled a clear glass Pyrex dish (the bigger the better) and placed it under the baggie (about two feet difference). Behind the setup I had a simple three fold cardboard stand, just like the one for a school project. For the camera setup I had a speedlite (Vivitar 283) off camera attached by a four foot spiral tether cord. This was the biggest hassle of the entire project. I should have spent a little more for a wireless setup, but it wasn't available at the store I went to and I wanted to work on the project over the weekend. If you do this I highly recommend spending the extra $20 and go wireless. For my camera setup, my only macro lens was a 75-300mm lens. So my camera was about four feet back from the setup. My speedlite was clamped so it flashed on the three fold cardboard and NOT the water itself. I set my Rebel XT to ISO 100, 6.3 aperture, and shutter speed of 1/200 (the fastest my camera and flash combination allowed).

With everything in place, I used a safety pin to punch a hole in the corner of the bag and allowed the water to get to a constant rate. I chose a dish that was too small so it was difficult to get an area where I did not have either an edge of the dish or the logo on the bottom of the dish in my image. Once everything was positioned and I had an idea of where I wanted to focus, I set my camera to focus only on the center of the screen instead of the entire area. Since i could not focus on the clear water, I had my wife hold a pen in the area I wanted to focus on, auto focused on that, then switched my camera to manual focus. Do not focus on where the water lands, but about the mid point of the splash. Looking back I should have used a wider aperture in order to allow more of the image to be in focus. A majority of my images were out of focus in part of the image ruining the entire shot.

So now the camera, lighting, and props are all set. The camera is focused, now simply fire away! There is no real way to anticipate the results, and that is part of the fun. Simply keep shooting, and check early and often to make sure the area you are shooting is in focus. Nothing is more disappointing than feeling like you captured the perfect image only to see part of the image out of focus on a larger monitor.

Well, I would like to tell you that I have more to follow. My short term goal is to finish the NYIP course chapter one photo requirements. I will post more often than the current six month interval, that is for certain.

Thank you for reading.