My 2015 Resolutions

About a year ago, I challenged myself to learn more about photography and how to use my camera (Resolution 01). I have learned quite a bit and am much more comfortable with my camera, but I’ve also discovered there is a lot more to understand.

My initial goals were to:

  • learn all of the features of my camera.
  • get comfortable with the controls and settings.
  • understand better how to control depth of field.
  • work on composition.find interesting points of view.

While the are still many features of my camera that I haven’t even touched upon yet, I have gotten to know the camera pretty well. I still end up setting it to full auto quite often when just trying to get snapshots of moments or when I need to get a photo quick and don’t have time to fuss with settings. I’d like to get quicker with finding the right settings so in the future I can have more control over how images turn out in the “get it before the moment is gone” situations.

I feel like I understand well enough how to get the desired depth of field that I want. My composition has improved, as well. The first few “resolutions” I did a lot of cropping during editing. I’ve gotten a lot better at “cropping in the lens” and getting a better composition from the get go.

Looking back, I’ve noticed that I don’t always have much of a subject in many of my photos. Going forward, I want to focus more on really bringing out a clear defined subject to focus on. I’ve also noticed that inevitably I end up taking pictures of my Saab.

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My favorite photos from the last year tend to be ones that have bright, bold colors. Vintage, faded, washed out, looking images are really cool, but whenever I was editing mine I was always drawn more towards heavier color saturation.

All of the photos are on Flickr, but here are some of my favorites from 2015:

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Resolution 02

Since my first post, Resolution 01, I’ve been on two more photo excursions. I feel like each time I’m starting to get a better handle on how to set the camera and remembering what buttons and dials are designated for. One problem I’ve noticed is I don’t have a very clear idea of what I’m trying to create as I’m taking these pictures. I find something that might look cool and try to get an interesting view of it – but don’t really have an idea of what I want out of it.

I’ve been learning a lot from looking at the images on the computer and editing them. Through cropping, often times I find a small part of the image makes a better picture than the whole. That means I’m throwing away much of my available resolution and detail. So focusing more on an idea or concept is something I’m going to try and keep in mind when shooting in the future.

The Log

The first set is from the end of January before we had the big snow. I often drive along Ellis road on my lunch breaks and had seen someone taking pictures of this log a few days earlier. I figured I might as well make that my next stop. It wasn’t until I started getting closeups of the log that I found my pictures getting interesting. As I mentioned above, I ended up cropping these quite a bit.

This day, my focus was on trying to get the depth of field low enough to blur the background. Once I looked at them on a big screen, the details in the wood were quite interesting and I wish I had paid a bit more attention to that. It was very muddy and cold out, so I called it quits pretty quickly this day.

The second set is from yesterday, after the weekend of heavy snow. I went to a small park down by the Cedar river, across from the Ellis boat harbor. Surprisingly, the parking lot and roads were well-plowed already. There was a road at the end of the park that I hadn’t remembered being there, so naturally I went down it. Turns out it was a utility access road, and it ran along the river for quite a ways. It was quite enjoyable to drive around on the twists and turns in the road, especially knowing there would be no traffic. Eventually I stopped horsing around and got out to take some pictures (including some of my Saab in it’s natural habitat).

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It was nice to have a bright, sunny day so I could use a fast shutter speed and have decent exposure. I got to play around with the crystal-like ice on trees and the sunlight beaming through branches. I had a hard time seeing the LCD on the camera, though, because it was so bright out. Later on I realized I could have just looked through the viewfinder (seems obvious, right?). So, that’s another thing to add to my list of what I’ve learned from doing this project.

These and a few others are up on my Flickr site.

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Resolution 01

No, this is not really a post about a resolution for the new year. “Resolution” is in reference to image resolution, and an ongoing learning project I have started for myself. “01” refers to this being the first installment of it.

Several months ago, I bought a Panasonic Lumix G6 camera. It’s a micro four-thirds format interchangeable lens system – basically a DSLR without the mirror mechanism. This makes for a much lighter, smaller camera body and lenses – among other things beneficial to me. A friend had turned me towards the m43 format, and I’m glad he did. Because the camera was small and felt unobtrusive, I felt comfortable taking it with me around the hospital when my son, Harvey, was born. I’m glad I have those pictures.

drdadBefore Harvey was born, I hadn’t gotten completely comfortable with the camera yet, and I still don’t completely understand the science of photography. Luckily, there is a pretty good (and quick to turn on) fully automatic setting on the camera. I used this most of the time at the hospital.  It was even easy enough to be able to pass off the camera to someone else. For the most part, given the conditions, the pictures turned out great. However, there were quite a few where the focus wasn’t on what was wanted, and a lot of grainy, blurry images from the low light in the room.

More or less, I understand the basic concepts of how to use the aperture, shutter speeds, and ISO settings. It takes me a bit too long to remember which button does what when the dial is set on what mode, and how to use the combination of things to achieve the image I want. I read up on these things and start to get a better understanding of them, however, it’s just real-world experience that does the most help.

That’s why I’ve started a bit of my own “challenge.” Because I didn’t like making a photo collection called “Practice,” I’ve decided to refer to this project as “Resolution.” The goals I am setting out to achieve are:

  • learn all of the features of my camera.
  • get comfortable with the controls and settings.
  • understand better how to control depth of field.
  • work on composition.
  • find interesting points of view.

My plan is to take my camera out with me once every week or so and find someplace to take some pictures. I’ve already done this a couple of times on my lunch breaks. I’ve found it can be kind of hard to find something interesting to take pictures of by just picking a random spot in a park. Part of the challenge, though, is to find an interesting way to look at everyday things.

One afternoon I was parked on the street along a park and planned to go walk along a creek. The snow was deeper than I anticipated, so I ended up just looking around on the side of the road. It was all pretty boring. About the only thing I saw that could be interesting was the full bright sun, high up in the sky without a cloud to be seen. So I took some pictures of the sun peaking around the side of a telephone pole. Still, not very interesting. It did give me a chance to experiment with the exposure, though.

Street ShadowI finally realized, the interesting part wasn’t the sun or the pole, but rather the shadow created by them both. I got down low and actually had the camera on the ground. I tried a few different things, and eventually packed up feeling underwhelmed.

Once I got back to my computer, and after a bit of cropping, I ended up with an image I actually enjoy. Which made me realize I need to focus more on my framing and composition. That’s all it took to make a relatively boring scene into something interesting.

As I continue with this project, I’ll be posting my results to my flickr account as well as writing updates here – hopefully with what I’ve learned!