Camera: Nikon D3100 - Lens: 18-200 VR - Focal Length: 18mm - ISO: 200 - Aperture: f/3.5 - Shutter: 1/3 (hand held)
Everyone who has a camera, and takes pictures, is a photographer. It is not some elite club for the few rather it is open to anyone. If you like to take pictures, you are a photographer just like people who like to paint are painters. These articles are about taking what you enjoy doing and becoming better at it.
Also please understand I am writing this for the novice who desires to become more astute at their new craft but these principles will help anyone who is wanting to improve on what they already know.
The first thing you should do when wanting to become a better photographer is take your camera everywhere. I'll say that last bit again. Take your camera everywhere. I am still learning how to do this myself because when I say everywhere I mean everywhere. Take it to work meetings, the mall, haircuts, dentist, gas station, taking out the trash, from room to room at home. Treat your camera as if it is your cell phone - always available if you need it.
In the month of June, I challenged myself to do this to the extreme. For the most part I succeeded. It went with me to work, church, my haircut, and grocery shopping. The only problem was I left it at the restaurant at one point. Not good. But after this month I realized this task was really easy to do and I took several really cool photos because of it. Here is what you will get out of doing the exercise.
While doing this, you will begin to see things that you would otherwise gloss over. Did you know that the walls of your workplace are full of texture? Did you notice the bench down the street looks like fiery orange when the street light shines on it at night? Everywhere you go has a photo opportunity waiting for you. The trees next to your house are waiting to be captured in the evening. Every picture in this article was taken while I was living my life doing what I always do in the month of June. I did not go searching for the picture, I just noticed it and exploited the opportunity to capture the image. Some of these pictures are among my favorites such as the rotunda at church pictured above. I never realized boardgames were so interesting through a lens. Or the fact that the bulk food section at the grocery store had a lot of interesting color. (See the photos below). The point is, you will begin to see things around your everyday life that you would not notice otherwise. Having the camera around helps your eyes see.
Camera: Nikon D3100 - Lens: 18-200 VR - Focal Length: 70mm - ISO: 100 - Aperture: f/4.8 - Shutter: 1/100
This leads me to the next point - you are always ready when your camera is with you. I cannot tell you how many times I am driving home in the evening and I see the sky has lit up only to wish my camera was with me. A beautiful sunset is always changing and every minute counts. So what do I do? I rush home to get the camera and the opportunity is gone. That, or I go home and laziness sets in. It is so easy to get to your destination only to realize you are too tired to go back to that spot and take that photo. A different post will be about laziness and how it stops people from becoming better at their craft. The next paragraph is all I am going to devote to the topic.
You cannot replicate a photo opportunity. What I mean is this - if the mountain looks really cool and picturesque as the clouds are puffed around it and the sunlight is low enough to bring out the ridges on the side, take the photo. It will not be there again. Take a lesson from me, in the world of photos, tomorrow will never come and all we have is now.
There is a big obstacle between taking your camera with you and actually taking the picture. Actions speak louder than words and talk is cheap. You have to actually take the photo when you see it. Even if that means you stick out of the crowd. You need to stop caring about what people will think of you when you are crouched over the decorative plant in the office or laying on the ground in the middle of the sidewalk while walking your dog.
I am talking about not caring - I had to learn this one and it was not easy because I did not want to be "that guy". Or at least I felt like that guy. It was awkward at times. I felt like the dude wearing his sandals on top of his the shin high socks leading up to his thigh high jean shorts toped off with a fanny pack. It was clear that I was doing some things that were not normal for most peoples' everyday routine. My wife pointed out that seeing a flash go off in the grocery store was kind of out of place. To her credit I agreed. But honestly, I didn't care and neither should you. Because after a minute or two of being "that guy" people just ignored me and left me alone to do my thing.
Embrace what you are - a photographer. The photos you take that are unique will make you stand out. Everyone can take the picture of the bridge, and most do. It is going to be your picture of the different fabric layers at the fabric store that will make people comment on the coolness of your photography.
Camera: Nikon D3100 - Lens: 18-200 VR - Focal Length: 34mm - ISO: 100 - Aperture: f/4.2 - Shutter: 1/20
Seeing the tool:
You will begin to see your camera as a tool, not a toy. The more you use the tool, the more you will understand its limits. My first camera was the Nikon D70. It was great for its time but as time progressed it started showing its age. I did not care about that because it was my tool. I had used it so much that I knew everything about it. I knew that ISO 800 what horrible so I stayed away from it. I could operate all the buttons by feel while doing night photography. I learned its in and outs and because of it I could manipulate it to do what I needed it to do. Most of the pictures on this site are from that camera.
Ultimately this is what taking your camera everywhere will do for you. The more you use your camera, the more you will see the tool. This ability to see the tool is what allows me to rest my camera on wet dirty rocks to get low pictures of water rising down a stream or pressing it against a wall for added stability. Its purpose is to take great photos, but it will only do that if you know it well enough to massage the picture out of it. So for the rest of this month and next month take your camera everywhere and see what cool pictures are awaiting you.
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