18. July 2015 · Comments Off on In Naiveness all things look simple; even in photography · Categories: Mental Process, Philosophy, Practice, Preparation · Tags: , , , ,
Random chaos & order - It was my naiveness that let me do fall colors the first time without a place to stay

Random chaos & order

Sunset, Moon rise. Planning, not naiveness let's us be at the right place at the right timeAs a kid, I read Tom Swift books.  In these he invented all sorts of very reasonable sounding incredible inventions.  I kept wondering if he could do them in the books, why were they not actually invented yet, seemed simple enough in the books…  The naiveness of a child.  How does my naiveness show up today, or where or when do I choose not to be prepared?

Over the years, I have learned, that if things looked simple and had not yet been done, that I was probably naive.  It would be a call for me to dig into what was the reality.

The mass marketing of photography plays to this. ‘It is simple to get a great photo,  just buy the latest technology and hold your finger down on the button until the great photo shows up.’   True, higher end stores like Keeble & Shuchat have a book section, but even many of these seem to promise ‘if only you did this’ you would have great photos.

But the truth is, there is a lot to consistently (as opposed to an occasional lucky shot) getting good (and sometimes great) photos.  Yes, lucky is good, but ” Chance favors only the prepared mind” is still true today, otherwise it is just random chance.

What is the ‘prepared mind’? what do we need to do for ourselves to improve our photos?  Let’s look at some of the things that go into a typical good photo.

  • The photo is sharp (not usually fuzzy).  So technology can help here, if it is used appropriately.
    •  We can use a tripod
    • We can use image stabilization
    • We can use faster shutter speed (what are we trading off for this?)
    •  Do we have the picture focused on the right thing, or are we focusing on the wrong point…?
  • Is the image lit correctly? Do I have the correct exposure?
    • Cameras today have built in exposure systems that are very good at generating snapshot like images.  However, if you want a dramatic image, then you might have to understand lighting; low angle light vs overhead light, or flat even light vs. hard light, or the color of the light (before or after sunrise, or mid day).
  • Composition – There are so many things here, and there is not nearly the help from technology that there are for sharpness and exposure.
    • Do I really want the subject dead center, or do I want it some place else?
    • Remember rule of thirds
    • Don’t put the horizon on the mid line
    • Make sure that there is not ‘extra’ in the photo
      • No strong lines coming out of someone’s head
      • No extraneous lines that are not contributing (twigs, branches, arms…)
      • Make sure that borders and corners are clean and are not distracting
    • Are you or can you frame the photo?
    • Do the lines lead you into the photo?
    • Is the expression on the face  the expression you want? (or is their mouth open?)
    • … and the list goes on ….

And if you can do all of the above in the 2 seconds that you bring the camera to your eye and snap, you are a better person than I.

What is a prepared mind with regard to photography?  For me, and folks that I work with it means that we practice evaluating photos to see what works and what doesn’t work in photos.  We practice enough that looking at a photo on the screen or in the camera or in magazines, until it is second nature to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.  Where does naiveness show up in your photography?

So, we can try and practice with our own photos, but I have found that usually doesn’t work very well, particularly for learning in the beginning.  What I have found works much better is to practice with other people’s photos.   I strongly recommend that you get yourself an account on 500px .  Then force yourself to write reviews of photos.  Having to write a review forces you to evaluate the photo and what works and does not work in it.   After a few hundred reviews you will understand what sorts of things work in photos and what does not.  This is the practice that creates the prepared mind.  And now, taking good photos is not so naively simple.

Oh, and remember,




27. June 2015 · Comments Off on When I get to the pearly gates, St. Peter … · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, Practice, Preparation · Tags: ,
At the end of the chess match, the black pieces and white pieces go into the same box- Russian Proverb
Shooting the photographer

Lower Antelope Canyon. Slot canyons are a great opportunity to practice composition and see what you learn

Dragon in the town of Joseph

Dragon in the town of Joseph

St. Peter will not ask ‘Did I shoot with Nikon, or Canon?’   My friends were teasing me and said, no he will ask ‘if you shot with Hasselblad?’, or Leica.  Or will he ask, ‘Have you been the best photographer you could be?’

There have been times in my life when I have been badly infected with ‘lens lust’; that is the belief that the next lens, gadget, techno wizzy thing will help me have the perfect photo !  It will won’t it?

And on the flip side is;

No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.- Edward Steichen

I suspect that Steichen was correct, that at best we might get 80% out of our camera.  I remember my sister-in-law getting incredible shots with her instamatic camera.  And yet it is naïve to say that technology doesn’t enable us to take photos we couldn’t have taken otherwise.

As much as I love new toys and new gizzies, I know in my heart that quality, stunning photos come from the photographer, not from the camera.  There is a What the Duck cartoon with a person saying to the photographer, ‘Wow your camera really takes nice pictures’ and the Photographer responds with ‘and your lips make nice noises’. This Link is to a humorous article that covers this affliction in detail. And we learn from humor as well…

So, how do I continue my learning to become an ever better photographer?  I read, and I practice.  As I practice, I have to continually review and see what works and what does not work and figure out why that is so.  Here are some of the areas that I practice and learn  in:

  • Camera setup and manipulation; for each of the lens what is the ‘best’ way to change the lens, how do I set the camera up for a time delay shot, how do I choose focus points, how do I do things in the dark?   I was at Bryce Canyon standing on top of a soon to be hoodoo spire of rock that was barely big enough for the tripod legs and trying to change lens. The lens was attached to the tripod (third hand) and in one hand was the new lens, and the other the body when the tripod blew over, lens hits camera & cracks the back, and I nearly go over the edge… a learning opportunity…
  • How do I compose a shot? do I check my corners?  What exposure do I really want? did I get it?  The pic below is an early pic.  It could have been much stronger if the branch were on a diagonal and the pine cone in the bottom right. The white sky background doesn’t really do much for me either.  So, what can I learn? Pay more attention to diagonals, don’t use the sky as a background.  And the start of composition is built, as guidance rather than hard fast rules.

    Pine Cone

    Pine Cone

  • What works for work flow, what better ways could I do something
  • Do I like the feeling in the photograph?  If not, what don’t I like and why?  The pic below has both the rear and the head of the buck, it would have been a better photo head on without the rear.  Additionally the pic is too contrasty for my tastes.

    Butt Head

    Butt Head

  • As I learn new techniques, how would I use them, where would I use them?

There are always opportunities to continue to improve, and yes, some may involve a new toy or gizzy, but the real photographer is me.  Similarly, how do I approach my life, am I learning, or do I hope that the next something out there will magically strike me wonderful?

To see more of my photos visit .