Sea Blue Lens


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Learning How I Learn

DSC_0001

My next lesson in Find Your Eye: Journey of Fascination is about how to learn a new technique. Kat has asked us to think about new photographic techniques we’ve been wanting to try, and to consider how we learn best.  Then we’re to choose the new technique we’re most interested in learning right now, and apply our best learning methods to it.

I have a long list of techniques I’m interested in learning, some written down in actual notes and some just mental notes. Some, like HDR,  are brand new to me, and others, like controlling depth of field, I’m familiar with but not as skilled or comfortable as I’d like to be.

When I’m learning something I’m interested in, I’m usually intense and focused. I like classroom learning, especially if it involves hands-on practice and the opportunity to ask questions and get feedback. But I tend to become impatient with off-topic discussions, or having to wait for everyone to catch up. I love the Internet for the wealth of information about any topic you can think of, and that it’s available whenever I want it.

I’ve learned many new photographic techniques through online classes and from fellow bloggers. When I’m interested in a specific topic, I start with an online search, read articles and watch videos, go back to my camera reference books for further details, and try the technique myself. I’ve recently found videos to be very helpful for me, because I can pause them to try each step with my own camera or software. I also take detailed notes, because writing it down not only helps it sink in, but gives me something to refer back to later if needed.

The specific technique I chose to work on for this lesson is hyperfocal distance focusing. It’s a technique useful for taking photos that are in clear focus from foreground all the way to the horizon. It can be complicated! (There’s a more detailed explanation here.)  It can also be controversial.

I used to be able to use the hyperfocal technique pretty successfully when I shot film. It’s been a problem ever since I got my dSLR, because my digital lenses don’t have the helpful focus zone markings that my old lenses did. The result was images like these:

DSC_0113Foreground sharp; distance fuzzy

DSC_0114Distance sharp; foreground fuzzy

After doing some online research, studying some hyperfocal distance charts, reading my aftermarket camera guide, and playing with my camera controls, I headed out to take some photos. The image at the top of this post and the one below were taken using the information I gathered.

DSC_0004Foreground fence sharp; mid-range shrubbery sharp; distant mountains sharp(ish)

I’m not completely satisfied yet, but I think I have a grasp of the principles and I’ll keep working on it. It feels good to be making progress toward mastery of (or at least competence with) a useful technique that should help improve my landscape photos.


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Fun with Photoshop

I have been having the best time! The lovely Kim Klassen offered a free, 10-day mini-Photoshop class and I took her up on her generosity. It’s very, very basic — like how to use layers and layer masks and other such elementary things — but it’s been a revelation to me. And this despite my having used PS (self-taught) for nearly a dozen years at my work.

Somehow I always managed to get the job done, even though I knew I wasn’t really doing it “right.” I know this sounds like a shameless plug for Kim’s classes, but I have been truly impressed. I was learning new stuff from the very first lesson. It’s mostly the same things I was already doing in my own muddling way, but oh, so much easier now.

I’ve even tried textures. And while I still don’t totally get the texture thing, I have to admit it was fun and I can see its occasional usefulness. (I have a friend who’s probably laughing her head off right now. You know who you are.)

Here are a few samples of my “homework”:

I have so much more to learn. But I really enjoy Kim’s teaching style, so I’ve signed up for more. Her voice is calm and somehow comforting, and she makes it all seem so simple. She doesn’t even know me, but she tells me I can do this and I believe her.


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Laudholm Lessons

Laudholm Morning

Last weekend I went on a photo walk with my friend Susan. We visited the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, a historic saltwater farm on the coast of southern Maine. It’s a beautiful property that, shortly after sunrise on a Sunday morning, we had all to ourselves. Light frost covered the ground and lingered in the shade, but soon vanished wherever the sun touched.

Cold Clover

At first, I found myself so caught up in just being there that I kept forgetting to take photographs. I just walked around, looking, breathing, occasionally snapping the shutter.

We “worked” the old farmhouse and barn, a field full of weeds, and a frost-covered rail fence.

The Yellow House

Big Tree, Little Tree

Barn

Boundary

We followed a path that skirted a marsh and led to the beach.

Blue Marsh

Relics

Relics

On the way back, we detoured along a boardwalk that passed through a wood, trees winter-bare against the sky.

Standing Out in the Crowd

Surrounded

It was fun to be out with a friend on a beautiful day, companionably each doing our own thing. I think we both learned things about our own photography. It was interesting to observe how we could stand practically side-by-side yet be photographing very different subjects. Or be photographing the same subject, but in very different ways. Susan was captivated by things I didn’t even notice, and vice versa.

Susan, illuminated

It was a great day! Then…I went home and downloaded my pictures. And I didn’t like them. Any of them. At all. I had a sense of “been there, done that” too many times before. It might have been a new place, but they felt like the same old images.

Several days later, the immediacy of the experience having passed, I was able to review them again, weed out the obvious mistakes, pick out a few favorites, and edit them to some satisfaction. The lesson learned from that is to cut myself some slack, wait a bit, and don’t make too-hasty judgements.

Still . . . I really do want to figure out a fresh approach to my old familiar subjects. I love grasses, trees, flowers, vistas, water. I will continue to photograph them, but I want to seek out new angles and perspectives, something to make them special. Something that better captures what I felt that drew me to the subject in the first place.

To do that, I need to get out more. Shoot more. Get more comfortable with my camera. Practice, practice, practice! Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I’m looking forward to it.

Treeline

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