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 08

It had been some time since I had been out shooting. On one of the final days of summer, just as Autumn was starting to roll out across the landscape, I found a ditch along the side of a road covered in yellow flowers.

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It was really windy that afternoon so I had to keep a fast shutter speed, which worked out okay because there was plenty of light to make up for it. At first I struggled to come up with an interesting composition, but I eventually found a few points of view that felt interesting.

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One thing that I got out of this session was using the zoom (crop factor) to get a narrower depth of field. Previously, I’d always just tried to have a wide open aperture for that effect. However, I discovered I’ve really been missing out by not using the lens to achieve blurred background/foregrounds. I’ll have to admit, I don’t entirely understand why it works that way, but it’s something new for me to use and do some reading on to better understand.

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I really like the bright, bold, yellow flowers on a fairly solid blue sky background. I wish I had gotten some more shots of the flowers with a mostly sky backdrop. They’re long gone now, but I’m hoping to get some autumn colors before the season changes yet again.P1060050a

A few more along with these are posted on flickr.

Resolution 06

I’ve never really been interested in taking wildlife or landscape photos. There are plenty of great photos of flowers and sunsets already out there. Plus, usually when I go out it’s around mid day with the sun directly overhead – which usually doesn’t make for an amazing sunset or anything too exciting on the horizon. Having started this project going into the winter, most of natures bright colors had left for the season and I’ve gotten tired of pictures with rather drab colors.

This day I was in luck because being in the middle of June, colors were back and in full bloom. I somewhat begrudgingly stopped at Noleridge Park and went to the flower gardens. I really didn’t want to take pictures of flowers, but it was what I found nearby that had what I was looking for – bright, bold colors.

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There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so the full sun gave me plenty of light to work with. It was very windy, though, which proved to be a bit of a challenge. Even being able to use fast shutter speeds sometimes wasn’t enough to keep my subjects from being a bit blurry.

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Click for larger image

A fun thing that happened when I was standing under a tree and felt something scratch my neck. I figured it was a leaf from the tree, but it turned out to be a very fuzzy caterpillar! I brushed it off my shirt onto a vine and started to take pictures of it. I ran into troubles here because the wind kept blowing the vine around and the caterpillar kept moving to places I couldn’t see it as well.

In the end I found quite a few more creative ideas than I thought I would and actually enjoyed doing nature photography. I even though of some ideas I’d like to try to try in the future.

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As always, these and more from this set can be found on my Flickr site.

Resolution 05

It’s been too long since I’ve been able to get some time in with my camera. I finally had a free lunch hour, and luckily a tripod I ordered came the day before. Being cloudy and overcast, it seemed like a perfect day to make use of a tripod for some longer exposure times.

My goal with camera gear – aside from good quality – is to be relatively light, compact, and easy to just grab and use. I’m always amazed when I see people with their DSLR’s (as opposed to mirrorless m43 systems) at how huge they are. Especially some lenses and the accompanying travel cases. When I went looking for a tripod, I wanted something that would compliment the minimalist size of my Panasonic G6. I ended up with a Manfrotto MKCOMPACTACN. It’s lightweight, compact, and very easy and quick to mount and unmount the camera. It’s also just as quick and easy to adjust where the camera is pointed.

I ended up at a park near the Cedar River and found a castle-looking pavilion that I thought might provide some interesting shots. Being in a shaded area on a cloudy day, I used the tripod to hold the camera still so I could keep a low ISO by using longer shutter speeds. I also wanted to focus on having a narrow depth of field.

Unfortunately, focus is what I really needed to focus on. I didn’t end up with anything very interesting or that I liked. The narrow depth of field just looked blurry and out of focus rather than creative and pushing your eye to the focused part of the image. That meant the river landscape in the background wasn’t clear to look at, and the stone walls of the pavilion that I was focused on didn’t really provide much too look at, either. The depth of field was too narrow to create much of a subject to look at on the stones.  Only part of a stone would be completely in focus, yet the composition felt like the whole rock should be sharp. It just isn’t clear what the point of these pictures are.

I did get something out of this, though. I was getting used to the tripod. I think next time I may look for my angles holding the camera by hand, then set up the tripod once I’ve found my shot. Also, I would like to try setting up a scene instead of trying to find something randomly to photograph. I’m going to try and find a couple of objects to take with me to use as subjects. That way I will have an object to clearly be the focus of the image, and I can build my composition around that.

These photos and more from earlier shoots are on my flickr site.

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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