Thursday, December 31, 2009

Photography In 2009: Part I


What happened in 2009 photographically? I have gained a great deal of experience, much of it was learning new techniques, in order to take better photos. Gear wise, I have used a lot of equipment in the last year, and some times I wonder if some of it was worth while, in the end, I would say yes. Sometimes the only way to learn what you do and do not like is to use the tool. My photo library expanded by at least 10,000 photos, which led me to upgrade my notebooks internal hard drive, which was not yet full, but was starting to feel cramped. I also got my first 8x10 prints from digital photos, which was a good experience.

Photo Taking Experience:
During 2009, I was able to practice many different types of photography, from bugs on a flower, birds soaring over calm ocean waves, to mist covered mountains in the Cascades, and the rolling hills of the Cariboo region of British Columbia. The majority of my shooting was in the Greater Vancouver area of BC, with my primary subjects being birds, and landscapes. I also learned a lot about flash photography, and how to best combine natural and artificial light, after I purchased a Nikon SB-800 in late January. As time went by, I started to get a good idea of what kind of shutter speeds I would be shooting at, or what ISO I needed to achieve the results I wanted, without even looking at the meter on my camera, which helped me improve indoor, natural light photography.

One of the most important things I learned about taking photos this year was the importance of finding good locations to shoot at. There are a few places within a short distance of my home that a great locations for walking, or biking, but they did not prove to be the most interesting places for taking photos. Living in an suburban area can be a little boring, photographically, because there are not very many interesting buildings to photography, or wide open spaces for landscape photos. As a result, most of my photos are taken 50km or more away from home, which does add the expense of travel, to my photography. The George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Operated by the British Columbia Waterfowl Society) became one of my primary shooting locations. Other shooting locations included, Boundary Bay Regional Park, and a few other coastal parks on the migration path. Most of these locations are ideal, due to the open areas, which provides plenty of natural light on sunny days, even late in the afternoon during winter. The locations you shoot at the most will likely reflect that type of subjects you enjoy photographing, and in some ways define who you are as a photographer. Sometimes the most challenging thing to do is to keep shooting at the same location repeatedly, but the results of doing so will help you progress and grow.

In some ways, much of what I learned has to do with camera settings. My ability to compose "good" photos has been improving as well, but sometimes that is not enough. If you do not know how to get the exposure you want for a given scene, then having the best compositional techniques in the world will not help you. I learned to use spot metering in situations that matrix metering would not give me the results that I wanted, and doing so can make a dramatic difference in how your photos turn out. To date, I have not found a use for centre-weighted metering, it does not seem to work very well for the types of photography that I do. Learning what does and does not work for you will affect the way that you as a photographer work, and can make your job a lot easier. Why take 10 shots of the same thing, when you can take one or two and still end up with better results? Take time to think about your shot, in situations where doing so is possible.

In Part II tomorrow I'll talk about the gear I used in 2009.