www.pointofutterance.com

Inspiration in a bundle

Here's a book that can inspire you to build a relationship with other creative people through a blog. If you get inspired, you need to pass it on. More »

www.pointofutterance.com

The Heart of a Hobbyist

The camera should be an extension of the mind. And the mind of a hobbyist is different from the working photographer. More »

IMG_0175

10 Things I Learned in 2012

If I had to give beginning photographer one piece of advice, it would be this: welcome discontent with your craft. It means you are about to experience change, and improvement. More »

mermaids digital manipulation composite photo copyright Aloha Lavina 2012.

Creativity, Camera, and Photoshop

Do you like photography and Photoshop? Digital imagery is not just about one or the other. The trick is to maintain your balance. More »

macro with iPhone copyright Aloha Lavina

Why I Love iPhone Photography

Just a couple days ago, I traveled without a dSLR. And fell in love with photography all over again. Find out why the iPhone is one of the handiest cameras around. More »

Category Archives: Photography

Inspiration in a bundle

www.pointofutterance.com

Inspiration surrounds you. Music, good light, a technique, and sometimes even insights from a non-photography topic such as golf might offer some inspiration.

I like books.

One book that offers a lot of inspiration is Robin Houghton’s Blogging for Creatives; How designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success. The long title says it all; this is a practical book, one that has specific advice on how to start, maintain, and use a blog to reach others, build a business, and get somewhat famous.

www.pointofutterance.com

Blogging for Creatives by Robin Houghton (ILEX, 2012).

Inspiration from Blogging for Creatives

User-Friendly Design

Some books providing inspiration are large, hardbound tomes that we can’t carry around in a regular tote bag. Blogging for Creatives comes in paperback, much smaller than the standard coffee table book, so it’s light and easy to carry around. It’s the kind of book that you can bring on a photo walk and enjoy during a coffee break.

The color palette is scrumptious. Find your brain jumping with excitement every time you turn a page; each page is in color, and demonstrates how you can make content stand out with a simple decision like using color palettes to enhance your content.

Content

Every facet of blogging for creatives is addressed in this book. From tools and technique, what makes great content, how to promote your ideas, and making connections with your social and business networks, the topics covered in the text make it easy to understand what blogging can mean to someone who creates for a living. It also makes it easy to understand how to turn content and community into cash for someone who uses a blog as a platform for their business.

Houghton’s got valuable insight into how creatives might view the business side of their public expression, because “unless you are a business person, the monetary value of your own work may not be a major consideration” (page 152). A few paragraphs down she bullet points some things a food blogger can do to turn talent into income:

  • Write books
  • Write recipes
  • Write reviews and articles in print magazines
  • Create artworks
  • Teach courses
  • Speak at conferences
  • License their photos

Practical advice

The tips in the book are practical and are things you can do as soon as you finish reading a page. I’ve tried just two tips from the Chapter Nine and both increased my income as well as online equity as a creative. I even got invitations to speak at a creativity conference and landed several publications credits.

Examples, Lots of examples!

Every single piece of advice in this book has an illustrated, real life example. Houghton’s done a fabulous job of pulling in screen captures of real blogs and other online tools to show you how to execute every tip. Rather than delay understanding through a lot of text, she lets the illustrations do the job of teaching you exactly how a process looks like.

The blogs that populate the pages are inspiration in themselves. I often go to pages 64-65 to drool over the Tumblelogs on those pages. If I had tons of extra time, I’d start a Tumblr blog just because this book inspires with the beautiful examples.

Non-linear utility

Unlike some other how-to-blog books, this one is non-linear. You can skip around depending on the information you need at any given time, and the organization of the contents makes it easy for you.

Why would an aspiring photographer need a book like this?

Every creative person needs an audience. There is a relationship between the maker of a work and the audience who participates in the beauty of that work.

We don’t create to hide our images in a hard drive (do we?). When we share our imagery, we create dialog between our inspiration and the inspiration that stems from what our audience perceives. A blog facilitates this dialog and has the potential to originate conversations around a piece of work.

Simply put, if you are inspired, you need to pass it on.

The Heart of a Hobbyist

www.pointofutterance.com

My friend Ugyen told me the other day he borrowed someone’s Nikon D80 to try it out, and he can’t wait to take photos. I’m excited for him. In many ways I envy him the beginning of his photography journey.

A certain nostalgia hits me when I hear of someone excited with their start in photography. Thinking about this led to my questions: why is it so attractive to be a hobbist? What makes it so good to go back to basics, even after publication and all the hundreds of thousands of images of people and places? Why is the hobbist approach so important right now?

I’m tempted sometimes to scroll through the scores of gigabytes of unprocessed shots in the hard drive. Sort of like a pat in the back for having seen them, and captured them. But this I know is not photography. Photography isn’t the past; it’s the present.

The reason I want to go back to basics has more to do with my mind than my camera.

The camera should be an extension of the mind. And the mind of a hobbyist is different from the working photographer.

Part of my lifelong inquiry is about creativity—about what inspires people, how they get insired, and the sustainability of passion that stems from a sense of wonder.

I find hobbyists have a great potential for creativity.

www.pointofutterance.com

Light on fallen leaves at temple, Siem Reap.

Hobbyists are fearless.

Humans learn to fear, and it’s a product of our own creation. We fear not “doing it right” and of others’ reactions to our decisions. As a working photographer I’ve faced clients whose creative ideas differed from mine; I’ve also faced photography contest judges who slammed creative decisions because they did not fulfill technical interpretations.

But the hobbyist isn’t making images to please a client or judge. He is free to use whatever skills he has to make something that only he can see. This leads to a lot of freedom.

www.pointofutterance.com

Dappled light on ruins, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.

Expectations can kill creativity.

The nature of a hobby is that the expectations are internal. The urge to make something beautiful or fresh out of the daily ordinary can be a professional urge, yes, but in the hobbyist it is unfettered by expectations from someone else.

Experimentation is part of the hobbyist’s freedom.

The freedom to try something just for the heck of it is in the power of a hobbyist. She can make a thousand images just because of something she wondered, or is trying to figure out. This freedom to follow the lines of a “what if…” gives the hobbyist the perfect platform to innovate and experiment.

www.pointofutterance.com

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.

Passion fuels creativity.

The best part about being a hobbyist is the absence of creativity killers and large doses of passion. Ultimately, this is the ‘high’ a photographer gets from his or her hobby. Passion carries the craft through the difficult learning that we must engage in to become technically and artistically mature in the art.

I wish Ugyen, and others who are starting out on their photography journey, a long and happy love affair with light.

It’s a wish I would gladly receive, too.

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

10 Things I Learned in 2012

IMG_0175

10. When real life is so compelling, the virtual life quite suffers.

Since July (the last time I updated this blog) I’ve been traveling at least once, sometimes twice a month. I was too busy even to update the calendar on my website. But like the Mayan doomsday theory, when I unplugged from social media and the internet, nothing really, really bad happened.incense hands

9. One camera and one lens is all you really need.

I had one trip where it was not all business. The photos on this post are from that trip. I borrowed my friend’s G11 and put it on manual. I didn’t change lenses. I just waited for beauty to cross the frame, and made sure my hands were ready.

8. Technicality can be learned, but creativity is harder to pursue.

We should warn all beginning photographers: there will be a time in your photography life that you will never be satisfied with any photo you take. I had my first winter of discontent with photography in 2008; I might be having another one now. Somehow, although the technical details come to me easily, I miss the imagination that ran my early days with the shutter. I think this is what I’d like to tell a beginning photographer: Welcome the discontent. It means you are about to pursue improvement.light

7. Letting go is easier than I thought it would be.

I said no to a bunch of photography clients. I said yes to a lot of other non-photography jobs. It was not painful. I am no longer earning minimum wage and no longer working 18 hour days processing photos.

6. Time is more valuable than money.

Now that I am no longer processing photos past midnight, I have more time to learn other things. I don’t feel burned out; my eyes don’t have dark circles. Smiles come more easily, and I laugh a lot these days.reflection

5. Like riding a bike, the memory of using a camera comes back easily.

But sometimes I do pick up a camera, and I close my eyes and feel the dials and buttons, cradle the lens. And I know I can see a shot, and I can feel my way into making the shot without looking at the machine.

4. Having a camera without being able to control light is no fun.

Just yesterday though, an old workhorse decided to retire. I was getting ready to take the family on a day trip and decided to take the D3 with me. But sad to say, it would no longer let me change the aperture or the shutter speed on Manual mode. It wouldn’t even change modes any more.

3. Shooting with left brain interference should be avoided at all cost.

My real job has to do with sequences and words. When my job dominates, my left brain is on overdrive. When this happens, and I handle a camera, the shots come out boring as hell. I’ve learned that for everything there is a time and a place. And when your left brain dominates, don’t shoot. Wait until the right brain can take over. Then there is more freedom to just let the light speak.mountainlight

2. Travel photography needs the investment of time.

2013 resolution: work hard, but leave time to invest in travel just for photography.fern

1. Hobbyists have it good.

2013 resolution # 2: be a hobbyist. Love for the craft, the art, whatever you call it, has no price. But the rewards are so much better.

Creativity, Camera, and Photoshop

mermaids digital manipulation composite photo copyright Aloha Lavina 2012.

Which net would you use to catch a butterfly?

Many photographers argue that getting an image right in camera is the real deal—if you’re going to call yourself a photographer, you better learn your exposure and technical stuff, and compose beauty in the frame.

With the rise of digital photography, however, now you can take your images into a whole new realm of manipulation. Highly stylized images have grown in popularity along with the advances in digital cameras and software for processing digital photos. Photoshop is arguably the giant in the post processing world, so much so that people now use the name of the software as a verb. As in, “Was this photo Photoshopped?”

Purists, or people who scoff at Photoshop artists as hacks, don’t like overly manipulated photos. Indeed, a lot of contests out there specify the minimal adjustments that the entrant can make to their entry to the contest. Still, the world is not made of purists. At the other end of the spectrum are the—for lack of an official term—digital artists, who style their photos with scores of layers, stacking special effect upon special effect, and not apologizing for it.

In between are you and me.

Every week, I have a group of hobbyist photographers who make images because we like it. We call ourselves a Tribe. It’s a lot of fun now that we kind of know each other, and we sometimes chat briefly on Facebook about photography. And when I asked the Tribe if they wanted weekly modules with a Photoshop twist, I got an overwhelmingly positive response. So I can anecdotallyconclude that in my Tribe at least, we like improving our skills with the camera and we like to learn new Photoshop tricks, too.

mermaid manipulated photo in Photoshop copyright Aloha Lavina 2012.

Do you think I overdid this one, my first attempt at a total composite? I thought the fire ball tipped the scale.

Photoshop is a complicated software that is the industry standard; it takes a long time to master its tools. But it is somewhat accessible to the emerging hobbyist, as long as he or she is patient and doesn’t get overwhelmed.

But it’s not fair to photography if the shooter shoots thinking that Photoshop will fix everything.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my forays into the world of digital manipulation using Photoshop.

1. You still have to light the image right.

Photography is still capturing light, no matter what you can do to create light in Photoshop. A well lit image can be enhanced beautifully in Photoshop, but you cannot create light where there is none in the software. Yes, people argue that with tools like Shadow/Highlight control, or painting with light technique, you can paint light with a Photoshop brush easily. But you still get unnatural effects when you do this, like nasty noise in the underexposed areas you tried to bump up, or discoloration. Nothing works like a photo where light is where it should be, in the first place, as you capture it in camera. So yes, learn to manipulate light in Photoshop, but first learn to light.

2. You still have to get a good exposure.

We could say this is like Tip Number 1, but it’s a little different. This is about balancing the way your camera becomes sensitive to the light (ISO), choosing the right amount of light to enter the lens (Aperture), and rendering the captured image in the right amount of time (Shutter Speed) to get an image that has a good dynamic range. A good dynamic range in plain English is when the highlights and shadows have good detail just like the midtones. Now you can ‘recover’ shadows and highlights using Photoshop, but the resulting image is not as detailed as you would like it to be in a good exposure. You still have to learn to make a good exposure, no matter how high powered the latest version of PS is.

3. You still have to compose the image.

You can crop in Photoshop, and move the elements around. You can even composite different images, add things, clone things out, flip or transform or warp the image.

Manipulating every single image like this, to create a composition you really like, takes a lot of time.

And you’re not really sure about the compatibility of the elements. For instance, what if the lighting isn’t similar in the items you choose to composite? And what if you plunked a cow that is clearly not proportionally matched with a model in the original photo? Ooops. Visually, some things do not work composed in Photoshop. You still have to learn to compose in your camera.

mermaids digital manipulation composite photo copyright Aloha Lavina 2012.

This was better. The light was right, the framing was deliberate. And then the whole slew of layers.

4. The rules of optics still apply.

We see with a maximum aperture of f/2.1 in the dark, and a minimum aperture of f/8.3 in bright light. But another thing happens with us in our three dimensional world: we see in planes. That means that things that are on the same plane have the same sharpness for our eyes.  Why is this important for Photoshop? It means that we can’t blur the hell out of things we don’t want to see clearly in the image when those things are on the same plane as the things we want sharp. It just doesn’t compute in our brains.

But this is called artistic license. Skillfully done, you could still make a beautiful image with unnatural optical composition.

5. Photoshop is almost like painting.

Painters have the luxury of composing their pictures exactly as they imagined. Photographers have to find that composition and then interpret it with skill and technicality. Photoshop gives the photographer the advantage of adding or subtracting things that are in the frame, just like a painter does. But if the shooter doesn’t have skills in Tips 1 to 4, it may not work as well.

So in conclusion, there has to be balance in the way we use our camera skills and the way we manipulate the resulting photos. Ignoring one for the other seems unwise when the beauty you could make with both is boundless.

And that’s why if you want to catch this butterfly, make sure your net is big enough.

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! Even if you don’t like what’s on the blog, leave a comment any way, but please keep it nice. :) To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide
Why You Should Shoot Like Johnny Depp
Sell an Experience, Not Just Photos
Nine Things Rupert Murdoch can Teach Photographers

 

Why I Love iPhone Photography

macro with iPhone copyright Aloha Lavina

I love point and shoot cameras.

They’re light, non-invasive, and they force you to think about the image before you make it.

But a step up is the smart phone with a camera that doubles up as a point and shoot. You can use it to make calls, connect in so many different ways, and if you’re the type who likes stylized photos—well, there’s an app for that.

When my old iPhone 3s died after I dropped it smack on its face, I ordered the iPhone 4s. As a smart phone user, I only ever used the iPhone to keep connected through Twitter and to check email while on the go, take visual notes, that sort of thing. It wasn’t until I read this great article about iPhone photography that I was convinced the iPhone was a great camera, too.

The first weekend I had the 4s, I took it out to an island off the coast of Pattaya on Thailand’s Eastern seaboard. But the phone was kind of a second string camera.

iPhone photo copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

Fish out of water, Koh Sark Thailand

I had a dSLR with me, so I mostly used that. But I did discover that Instagram had these nifty actions that could make images grungy, stylized pictures with a lot of atmosphere.

A week later, I left my dSLR at home as I traveled Northeast, and brought just the iPhone. The audacity of leaving my main camera behind felt funny. I always travel with the camera bag and its kilos of stuff. Now, I had a rectangular thingee in my pocket.

Here are some things I love about photography with the iPhone and the apps I bought last week.

1. It holds on to highlights and shadows really well. Amazingly, I was able to shoot complex, high contrast exposures.

iPhone photo in complex lighting copyright Aloha Lavina

Complex lighting? Piece of cake for the iPhone 4s.

2. I can do multiple exposures using an app called Pro HDR. This app allows you to take two exposures, but you have to hold very, very still while it does that. I was able to take a photo at night, and a man walking across the frame was captured twice.

iPhone photo multiple exposure copyright Aloha Lavina

Multiple exposure using the Pro HDR app.

3. The Pro HDR app also allowed me to take a long exposure of water. Because water was moving while the camera took two exposures, the water had that blur effect of a slow shutter.

iPhone photo slow shutter effect copyright Aloha Lavina

Slow shutter effect using the Pro HDR app.

4. To increase dynamic range, I used Snapseed. Snapseed imports your photo from the Library and has actions that can reveal shadows and highlights in great detail. I love this app for textured subjects.

IPhone photo shadows and highlights with textured subject copyright Aloha Lavina

Using Snapseed to get those shadows and highlights. Seedless. Juicy.

5. Moody images with vignette and grunge happen in Snapseed, too. Using the action for “Grunge” puts a vignette around the photo and adds texture. You can adjust how much of the effect you want.

iPhone photo using Snapseed to add Grunge copyright Aloha Lavina

Grunge using Snapseed.

Like all new toys, I couldn’t put the phone down. Everything became a potential image. The great thing about it was, I was no longer thinking of settings and lens selection. I was just thinking about how to make a good image with what I had.

And that was the most valuable thing I learned. I loved being an image maker again. Not having to worry about the settings and lens selection really freed me up to just think of the composition, color, and light.

macro with iPhone copyright Aloha Lavina

And it works with closeups!

Would I give up the dSLR for just the iPhone? Probably not. But now wherever I am, I’ve got a ready point and shoot ready to use.

And it takes calls, too.

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Using the Background Effectively in Your Portraits
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer

Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that Make a Big Difference in Your Photos

Editor’s Picks Module 6 Heart Shaped Shadow

Imagine That Photography Tribe

A simple thing can be tremendously creative.

That’s the only thing I can say with last week 6’s module “Heart Shaped Shadow.” The limits of the assignment–fixed lighting, fixed set up–did not deter the Tribe from producing some poetic images of hearts.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Ker GL 2012.

My heart aches when I look at this image. Ker used an unusually shaped ring, producing concentric shadows.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Einstein wins creative lighting award of the week with his rendering of this assignment. He used a flashlight, itself having a circular light, to make a heart shaped light haloing the shadow heart.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Schalk is beginning to show a signature in his images–he abstracts the background with the undulations of the edge of the book he used, contrasting the lines pages of the diary.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

Finally, Cynthia uses the page of the book to balance her composition.

 If you want to join in making weekly photography projects with some cool people in 2012, (and learn lots of things), head on over to our new Facebook page (and like us!), where you can participate in project modules, get some feedback, talk photography, and have your photography featured in a monthly roundup!

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

Tips and Tricks from Module 5 Editor’s Picks: “Time”

Imagine That Photography Tribe

The camera can be told to take a picture of time.

That’s what the Imagine That Photography Tribe proved this week with their images. The assignment was to use shutter speed to create photos of motion, implying the passing of time. We used the techniques of panning and slow shutter exposures to make our images.

Here are the highlights of what we learned.

1. Panning can be done in bright light, with some adjustments.

 

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

These two photos, above and below, show some shadows, and the shadows indicate where the light is coming from.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright David Ng Soon Thong

The first photo shows a shadow directly below the subject, so this photo was taken during the middle of the day, when the light is brightest.  In the second photo, the shadows are in the foreground, telling us that the light is directly in front of the camera, behind the panned subjects.

Panning during the middle of the day might result in a photo with blown out highlights. The slow shutter allows so much light in, since the shutter is left open longer, that the highlights are able to reflect too much light into the lens.

How could we use the panning in the middle of the day? To reduce the light coming into the lens, we can do these things:

  • Use a Neutral Density filter to block out some of the light, resulting in a better exposure.
  • Use a polarizing filter, which has the same effect, except the filter is blue instead of gray.
  • Convert the photo to a black and white, to hide the blown out highlights.

2. Water is hard to expose with a slow shutter, except when you can control light.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

These two slow shutter shots were taken when the light was still bright. We can see that the cameras had a bit of trouble holding on to detail in the whites or highlights. This is also because the shutter is left open for longer, allowing more light in, resulting in the whites in the scene reflecting too much light.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

The solutions would be to use Neutral Density filters, a small aperture (f/22 if possible), and a tripod.

3. Panning can be done in a non- linear motion.

Cynthia made a comment about her photo of the skater, How could she have panned this shot when the motion was not linear?

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

Vincent gave us the answer to Cynthia’s question. Changing the point of view and using a slow shutter for the same motion as the subject can result in a non-linear technique.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

4. Different shutter speeds are necessary for panning different moving objects.

In the Module, it was suggested that all things being equal, walking people usually render sharp in the image at around 1/15s, and motorbikes or slow moving cars around 1/30s. Schalk’s photo of a fast moving car is a little blurred because probably the shutter speed was a little slow for the subject. This teaches us to experiment with different shutter speeds for different subjects, to make the subject sharp in the photo using panning technique.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

 

Sarah’s photo of the swinging boy shows us that she focused on his face as she panned back and forth. The boy’s face is the sharpest part of the photo.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Sarah Darr 2012.

5. Panning and slow shutter make colors pop in low light.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Vincent’s photo of a parade at night is bursting with color. The slow shutter allowed the night lights to blend in the blur as he panned the people.

6. Change the lens, change the image.

Finally, we learn that a particular focal length can change the image. This photo of star trails (during a very cold night!) was shot with a zoom at the long end. The long lens caused an effect that seems to ‘flatten’ the elements in the frame.  Had Sarah chosen a wider frame by using a different lens, she might have got a different effect in the photo.

 

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Sarah Darr 2012.

What I learned from the Tribe from Module 5 is to constantly experiment with techniques and equipment, to get different results. Then, learn from the results. Yay to the Tribe! I hope you will continue to practice your slow shutter technique and panning, and have fun with your interpretations of motion and time.

How would you like to learn photography one module at a time? Head over to our Facebook page and Like us so you can be updated every time a module is posted. Share your photos and get some feedback. And get a chance to have your photos featured in Editor’s Picks posts and a monthly wrap up of lessons!

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
10 Online Resources for Photography Enthusiasts

The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity

 

How to Teach Yourself to Improve Your Photography

salt farm samut sakhon thailand sunset copyright Aloha Lavina

You may not have to spend too much to get better at your hobby.

Photography is an expensive hobby. Aside from equipment expenses which you may be tempted to do after a new super duper camera or lens enters the market, you might also consider learning through a workshop or a course. But these things cost money, and there’s so much to learn.

If you are like many of photography hobbyists who would like to learn photography techniques but also need to pay bills and eat, there is a way you can take the learning opportunities available for free, and embark on a planned, effective learning path.

But how do you begin? And what sort of habits should you practice to improve your photography systematically?

The answer might be in applying a systematic, strategic plan that involves something as simple as directing your brain to start learning.

salt farm samut sakhon thailand sunset copyright Aloha Lavina

I told myself if I drove past this salt farm and the light was right, I would stop to photograph it. And I did.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, wrote recently in Edutopia about a strategy that you can apply to your photography and improve skills.

Halverson writes that most of us have a problem with transitioning from an idea, for example “I want to learn how to use a slow shutter to show motion” to action, which is actually doing it.

The author has written about a productive strategy called “if-then planning.” This strategy is designed to get you acting on a goal using the natural inclination of your brain.

The if-then planning goes like this.

First, you decide what you’re going to do, in advance, and try to name the action as specifically as you can. For example, say your goal is “Learn how to use a slow shutter to show motion in an image.” You can break down the goal into actions, for example:

• Use shutter speed priority on my camera to find out the shutter speeds that will keep walking people sharp.

• Use panning technique with slow shutter speed (learned in the practice session above) to create images.

Then, you schedule when you’re going to do these things, in advance. For example, you can schedule the shutter speed practice this way: “If I finish work on Tuesday or Wednesday and it’s already almost sunset, I will find a street where there are pedestrians and practice using shutter speed priority to photograph people walking.”

The way the strategy works is, if you set the conditions for the action, your brain will automatically push you to act upon it when the conditions you set are right. That means if you leave work just before sunset on Tuesday and the weather is right, you will be more likely to go to a street corner and practice making photos of people walking in shutter speed priority mode.

This is a tried-and-true strategy that actually has a pretty high success rate. Instead of wondering if you should go shoot on any given day, the if-then planning will push you to actually go ahead and do it.

And that decisive action could spell the difference between intention and actual results.

If you want to journey with me as I rekindle my love for all kinds of photography in 2012, and learn lots of things along the way, head on over to our Imagine That Photography Tribe Facebook page (and like us!), where you can participate in project modules, get some feedback, talk photography, and have your photography featured in a monthly roundup!

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Composition and the Use of Color
Hey Photographer! Who are You and What do You Believe?
Using Background Effectively in Your Portraits
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide

6 Things that Can Change the Way You See in Photography

Huntington Beach early morning copyright Aloha Lavina.

The way you see is often more important than what you photograph.

When we look at photos of extraordinary subjects we oooh and ahhh because we are amazed at images of things outside our realm of experience.

But often the beauty in an image isn’t in what it’s about. For example, Van Gogh’s Starry Night is an ordinary scene—a city and a sky with stars. But it’s the kind of painting that we can stare at for a long, long time. It’s enjoyable to look at. The studied way that painters like Van Gogh created pictures is something that people who coax beauty out of pixels instead of paint, can learn.

1. Get to know color.

Huntington Beach early morning copyright Aloha Lavina.

A limited color palette can emphasize shapes, or give atmosphere.

Color is one of the basic elements of any composition. Deciding whether to limit the colors of an image or to let it burst into a kaleidoscope is a choice that could change the impact of the photograph. Using a limited color palette can serve to accentuate shape in a photo, and give it atmosphere.

Singapore and Marina Bay Pool swimmers at night copyright Aloha Lavina.

Using complementary colors can help declutter an image.

Similarly, controlling the color palette can give the image story. The above photo, if you look at it as a whole, is broken into two complementary colors—orange-red and green. The simplicity of these two blocks of color help the image bind the composition together, even though there are lots and lots of smaller shapes that could potentially be distracting. It’s the colors that help give it balance.

2. Get to know texture.

Texture is another element that make up the ‘bare bones’ of an image. Texture helps to give depth; when light falls on a texture, the shadows and highlights help to define the object’s shape.

Batanes Boulder Beach and storm approaching copyright Aloha Lavina.

Texture helps to define shape and can add to a composition.

3. Get to know contrast.

Contrast is useful because it is what gives our world edges. Our eyes perceive shape because things around us have edges. Contrast, which happens when something light is next to something dark, can help to define shapes through their edges.

Nepalese woman praying at Swayambunath Pagoda Kathmandu copyright Aloha Lavina.

Contrast gives us the edges of things we see, and help define their shape.

 4. Get to know shape.

Texture and contrast both give things shape. Shape, whether it is solid or implied through lines, help us to recognize patterns in a composition.

Singapore city lights skyline from Marina Bay copyright Aloha Lavina.

Shapes can be formed by light as well as actual geometric objects.

 

Shapes also help us to judge scale and depth in an image. Shapes that appear larger give us the sense of being closer; smaller shapes might make us think they are farther.

5. Get to know balance.

Balance often suggests equal weight, as in the balance in a weighing scale happens when two objects, one on each side, are equal in weight and do not tip the scale one way or the other.

But in artistic composition, balance is something that doesn’t necessarily happen between two symmetrical shapes. You could make a composition that is totally symmetrical; but unfortunately this is something the brain finds totally boring. So we have to find balance in asymmetry. Asymmetry, apparently, is super exciting for the human brain.

Old rusty car in Bodie, California copyright Aloha Lavina.

Assymetry is artistic balance.

 6. Get to know light.

Finally, light—that element our camera craves most—is definitely something you need to pay attention to. Light gives us tones. If we only paid attention to values of light and dark, we would see differently.

Marina Bay Singapore just after sunrise copyright Aloha Lavina.

Learning to see values of light and dark helps simplify a composition.

If we spent a lot of time looking at paintings and effective photographs, we would begin to see a few really important things that painters and photographers do.  In the journey to improving your photography, focusing on basic artistic skill can help change the way you see. Changing the way you visualize an image can help you refine your photographic vision.

For our good friend Van Gogh, art was not an accident but a series of well-thought out choices.

What choices will you learn to make this week?

 

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Week 4 Module Looking for Light
10 Things that will Transform Your Photographic Composition
Editor’s Picks Week 2 “Backlit Beauty”
Week 2 Module Backlit Beauty
10 Small Things that Make a Big Difference in Your Photos

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things About Light that will Make Your Photos Pop

sunset at Huntington Beach California copyright Aloha Lavina

In a completely dark room, you can take a 24-hour exposure and get this photo:

 

Your camera needs light, no matter how little, to make an exposure.

So knowing that light is the most important ingredient for you to cook up your photo, it’s important to know some things about the behavior of light. You can learn to see how light affects your subject, and use that knowledge to make your photos pop. Here are ten things about light that can help you see the light and make your photos pop.

1. Light on a subject can be direct.

Light from a source directly shining on your subject is called direct light. Say you make your subject face the sun. The whole subject will be lit, creating no shadows.

2. Light on a subject can be reflected light.

You can also have reflected light on a subject. This is when the light source hits a surface which does not allow the light to pass through it. That light will bounce off the surface and hit the subject.

Quality of light copyright Aloha Lavina illustration about light source and how it lights a subject

Light can be direct or reflected back to the subject.

 3. Light is directional.

Light is like water in that it spreads as far as the space it hits. But if the light source moves, that light will also move. You can choose different light directions for a subject depending on the effect you want to achieve. Sometimes, you might want backlit photos. Other times, you might want side lighting, where the light is coming from one side of the subject.

4. Light produces shadows when it hits a solid object.

If you use a light source that is shining on one side of your subject, that side lighting will create shadows on the opposite side of the subject if your subject is solid.

surfers and shadows copyright Aloha Lavina

Light from the sun produces shadows when it hits the surfers.

5. Shadows produced by light define your subject’s shape.

Shadows create the illusion of shape in a two-dimensional photograph because shadows help to define shape. Without a contrast between light and shadow, all you’ve got is something like this:

A flat image, two dimensional to our eyes. No shadows define the shape.

6. Light is softer when it’s from a bigger source.

Light that is from a big source is softer because it loses intensity as it moves through space to hit the subject. (There’s a mathematical way to compute how size affects the intensity of the light, but that’s another tutorial for a whole different blog.)

portrait in natural light copyright Aloha Lavina

Light on the model's forehead is directly from the window and is harsher than the softer reflected light on the blue part of the scarf.

7. Light is harsh when small.

When the light is focused around a small space, its intensity increases. So if you could funnel a light toward a subject, the light on the subject will be very bright.

open hands faceless portrait Balinese woman copyright Aloha Lavina

Midday light makes both light and shadow intense.

 8. Soft light produces soft shadows.

Because shadows are direct products of light hitting solid objects, soft light also produces soft shadows. So in the early morning when the light is soft, shadows are soft.

soft shadows on hills Batanes Batan Island Philippines copyright Aloha Lavina

Soft morning light means soft shadows, too.

9. Harsh light produces harsh shadows.

Conversely, as we increase the intensity of the light, the intensity of the shadows will also increase. At noon when the light is directly over us, shadows are normally harsher than they are in the early morning.

10. Reflected light carries the color of the surface on which it bounces.

If you reflect a light on a surface that reflects one color, the light will take on the color of that reflective surface. That means if you stand close to a red car and we take your photo, the parts of you that are lit by the light reflected off the red car will have a red tinge. This is partly the reason why it is so exciting to shoot during the times when light has a lot of yellows, such as early morning. The hues in the sunlight bounce off everything and there is a glow in the things that you photograph.

sunset at Huntington Beach California copyright Aloha Lavina

Reflected light on the sand and water at sunset.

Seeing the light and understand how it affects your image is something that you can learn. Try this last tip—go out without your camera with the goal of finding direct light or reflected light. Without the pressure of having to take a photo, your eyes will learn how light hits different things.

I promise you’re going to want to take your camera with you, next time.

If you want to journey with me as I rekindle my love for all kinds of photography in 2012, and learn lots of things along the way, head on over to our new Facebook page (and like us!), where you can participate in project modules, get some feedback, talk photography, and have your photography featured in a monthly roundup!

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Week 4 Module Looking for Light
10 Things that will Transform Your Photographic Composition
Editor’s Picks Week 2 “Backlit Beauty”
Week 2 Module Backlit Beauty
10 Small Things that Make a Big Difference in Your Photos

 

10 Things that will Transform Photographic Composition

A blocked compo, using a strong horizontal line and a strong vertical line.

“Composition is the strongest way of seeing.”

This powerful quote by Edward Weston sums up the art of finding the frame that best suits an image.

Seeing a composition comes after a healthy amount of practice. But what do we practice to get better at composing photographs? Here are some things we learned from a week of shooting at Imagine That Photography Tribe.

1. Move the frame to get the best shot.

Tribe member Schalk Ras took a shot of some lines. The lines formed by clouds, and the line formed by a body of water. But he wasn’t that happy with his composition, and thought about what to do to get a better image. So for the reshoot, Schalk moved his vantage point.

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Moving the vantage point is one of the ways you improve a composition. By moving closer to his subject, Schalk simplified it, focusing more on the lines he spotted. The resulting image illustrates that moving vantage point can improve composition.

2. Use leading lines.

In Schalk’s photo, the cloud line and the water line converge at a point in the background. These lines lead the eye from one point in the composition to another.

Here’s another great example from another Tribe member, Mihaela Limberea. Mihaela used a curved line to lead the eye from the frame to the background.

Leading lines can help the viewer’s eye move from one point of the composition to the next, making it easy for their eyes to view the image. Providing the viewer with a way into and a way out of the image is a way for the photographer to form a connection with the audience.

3. Use the lens to help the composition.

Tribe member Vincent Ng used a wide angle lens to create this image. The wide angle lens helped Vincent to use lens distortion to create depth in the photo. The child in the left bank looks considerably smaller than the person fishing in the right bottom part of the photo. This difference in size creates the illusion of one element being near and another element being far—and creates depth in a two-dimensional image. Knowing the effects a lens has on a subject can help you create a composition with a three dimensional effect.

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

4. Use a triangular design.

Vincent also succeeds in applying a triangular design in his composition. Notice the three people in the photo. If you connect them with lines, you’ll have a triangle in the photograph.

Triangles are stable, solid shapes. They anchor the eye in the image.

5. Find balance.

Tribe member Sarah Darr used balance in her composition. She gives us an image divided by clear horizontal layers: one layer is the sky, followed by the line of trees, then the reeds, and finally the water. But a prominent peak at the upper right hand side and ducks on the lower present variations in the uniformity of the layer’s colors. These two elements in her composition give us the balance that we need, forming an attractive diagonal across the image.

Copyright Sarah Darr 2012.

Below, Cynthia’s image achieves balance by placing the angular roof of the house at a diagonal with the snow covered peak at the upper left of the composition.

6. Use color to compose the image.

Cynthia Swidler, another Tribe member, composed her winter scene in clear layers of color and texture. Notice in her image that the colors are similar in the top and bottom of the photograph. A dark layer cuts through the middle of the photograph, but sets off the line of trees, and gradually lightens again into the snow at the bottom of the image.

Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

6. Use the rule of thirds.

Cynthia also places the house in the bottom right of the composition, using the rule of thirds to design the image.

7. Use negative space.

Negative space is the space that seems ‘empty’ in the frame. Negative space can be used to balance a composition. Placing the subject in one side of the frame and using the space beside it to balance the frame can result in an attractive composition.

Using negative space.

8. Anchor the composition with a strong horizontal and strong vertical lines.

This photo of the Batan Lighthouse is a simple graphic composition that has a strong line from the grass on the bottom, and then a strong line of the lighthouse on the right side. The eye moves to the lighthouse and then exits through the line of the grass.

A blocked compo, using a strong horizontal line and a strong vertical line.

9. Use the S Curve

S curves are great leading lines, and if you find one, you need to photograph it, quick! The S curve helps to move gracefully from one end of the frame to another, giving the eye a pleasing and relaxing journey into and then out of the frame.

An S Curve.

 

10. Cluster similar shapes.

Taking a photo of similar shapes create pattern in the composition. Patterns are great and help to organize the image. Patterns are attractive to the eye, and satisfy the human need to harmonize what we see.

Shapes echoing each other, forming a patterned composition.

Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, “Our eye must constantly measure, evaluate. We alter our perspective by a slight bending of the knees; we convey the chance meeting of lines by a simple shifting of our heads a thousandth of an inch…. We compose almost at the same time we press the shutter, and in placing the camera closer or farther from the subject, we shape the details –taming or being tamed by them.”

Composition may not be something that we can study like a science, and follow rules to reach impactful images, every time. But by practicing some of the ways that effective compositions have been achieved, we are well on our way to “taming” the frame, and transforming the way we see.

If you want to journey with me as I rekindle my love for all kinds of photography in 2012, and learn lots of things along the way, head on over to our new Facebook page (and like us!), where you can participate in project modules, get some feedback, talk photography, and have your photography featured in a monthly roundup!

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Composition and the Use of Color
Hey Photographer! Who are You and What do You Believe?
Using Background Effectively in Your Portraits
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide

 

Composition and the Use of Color

Drying squid in Pran Buri, Thailand copyright Aloha Lavina

Some days, it’s better to think in black and white.

If you are learning how to use lines and shapes to create great compositions, shooting for monochrome images is a great way to hone those skills.

Black and white photography is a great way to learn composition because it concentrates on techniques that emphasize content, contrast, and most importantly, form.

Forms in the frame, like what the Photography Tribe‘s Module 3 is about, are emphasized in BW photography—those shapes and lines that combine to make the composition.

Documentary Style

Documentary style photography, of which photojournalism and street photography are part, focuses mostly on content. Photos that document events tell stories within the frame, so color may or may not be that important in the image.

Fishermen in Pran Buri copyright Aloha Lavina

Documentary photography focuses on content.

If the colors add to the image, such as in this photo of a fishing boat setting out to sea, taking a color image may be a good decision. In documentary imagery, shooting in color is as much a decision as what to include in the frame. If the color adds to the image, it is better to use color.

Colorful fishing boat, Pran Buri Thailand copyright Aloha Lavina

Color was a must here with the fishing boat, reflection and blue sky and water.

If I had converted this photo of drying squid against a blue sky to a monochrome image, it would not have had the better effect. The contrast between the warm colors of the drying squid and the sky makes for a pleasing combination. It also gives extra information that’s pertinent—that it’s a hot day, perfect for the business of drying squid.

Drying squid in Pran Buri, Thailand copyright Aloha Lavina

Color added contrast and context in this photo of drying squid in Thailand.

 

But sometimes, a lack of color is a better choice.

When I took the photo above of the two fishermen with their almost empty net, I realized that although it sort of works as a documentary style image, the composition itself lacked impact. The background interfered with its clutter. If my goal is to improve composition, I had to zoom in and work only on lines, shapes, and contrast to make compositions that worked better.

Shooting Form: Lines, Shapes, and Textures

Filling the frame with a set of lines and shapes is a technique used in black and white photography. Black and white photography works when the forms in the frame are the main emphasis.

In the photo below, the geometry of the basket acts as a background for the cluster of fish. The lines of the basket lead the eye to the fish. The harmony of the uniform linear shapes makes a good contrast with the more curvy lines of the fish at the nexus of the composition.

Fish in a plastic basket in Pran Buri Thailand copyright Aloha Lavina

Geometry in a composition without distracting color.

In this next photo, the rough texture of the net gives a good contrast between the smooth ones of the fish. The tones in the net are dark, setting off the highlights in the fish, creating a contrast that serves to push focus on the main subject, the fish.

Fish in net, Pran Buri Thailand copyright Aloha Lavina

Tonal contrast, lines, shape and texture without distracting color.

 

Shooting Form: Light

Another advantage of shooting in monochrome is that you can shoot during the times when most people consider the light ‘bad.’ I shot this image of the hanging cuttlefish at around one in the afternoon, when the light is directly overhead. But I noticed that the patterns of the wooden drying racks made some nice patterns of light and shadow on the hanging squid, and made the squid on top of the rack seem almost luminescent.

Hanging squid to dry, Pran Buri Thailand copyright Aloha Lavina

Form, shapes, contrast and light without distracting color.

The other reason why this worked better as a monochrome image was the presence of a very distinct pattern in the hanging squid, a pattern in the squid that was flat on top of the rack, and the natural frame of the drying rack itself.

Finally, the colors present in the image as it was originally shot did not add anything to the image. The sky was blue, but the squid was white and the background included a pink boat and a smattering of dark, water-stained wood. None of these colors really added to the image, so it made sense to make the final image in monochrome.

With today’s cameras where you can switch from color to monochrome easily, it might help to shoot in monochrome sometimes. It certainly helps you zoom in on content, focus on spotting contrast, and shoot for composition using forms in the frame. You can also convert easily to black and white using this method in Photoshop.

 

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Hey Photographer! Who are You and What do You Believe?
Using Background Effectively in Your Portraits
Confessions of a Photoshop User

Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide

How to Fool your Point and Shoot into Thinking it’s a DSLR

260242641_f48c0a28ed

For the research into this article, my friend Pat Neale lent me her pocket Casio Exilim camera. Thanks Pat!

Humph, you say. How can a puny little point and shoot be like a DSLR?

Although compact cameras are cute and lightweight, they can be—believe it or not—quite powerful. If you’re into carrying your equipment in a pocket instead of a backpack, the machine fondly called a “point and shoot” might just be for you.

If you like photography but have no inclination or budget to pop a few thousand dollars into a toy machine, a point and shoot can still deliver some awesome sauce images for you.

Here are some ways you can fool your compact camera into thinking it’s a dSLR.

The key to making point and shoots think like dSLRs is to consider these two things: the shooting situation and the settings that give you a good shot in those situations.  Compact cameras have ready made settings that allow you to match the setting to the type of shooting situation you face.

Usually when you’re shooting with your dSLR, you’re going to adjust the following to get a good shot given any situation: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. But what if you don’t have that luxury?

The answer is in learning the camera adjustments for different settings in the point and shoot camera.

Still Subjects

Some subjects can keep still, such as most folks who ask you to take their portrait, still life, the great meal you’re about to eat, a sweating glass of lemonade. For these subjects in considerably ample light, you need a relatively low ISO, a way to blur the background with a shallow depth of field, and  a shutter speed that’s inversely proportional to your focal length.  For a normal shot that fills the frame when you are around 1-2 meters from the subject, you can use the Portrait setting.

But the Portrait mode of a compact camera usually softens the edges of what’s in your frame. If you are after details, you can try the Food or Flower settings, which generally switch the camera to macro mode.  That way, you can catch every sesame seed in the salad, or the beads of sweat in that ice cold glass of lemonade.

Moving Subjects

If you are shooting moving subjects, say the people at an outdoor fresh food market in Vietnam, you can no longer rely on Portrait setting.

Moving subjects need you to have a fast shutter speed to freeze their motion and keep them sharp. If you want to increase your shutter speed in a point and shoot, there are several ways you can compensate using a pre-programmed setting.

Sports setting bumps up the shutter speed automatically. So does the Children setting. Pet, Party, Splashing Water also increase shutter speed. You can use all these to make sure your focusing is faster and the camera responds quickly when you press the shutter.

If you are making portraits by zooming at people from a distance, you also need a higher shutter speed to compensate for the focal distance and keep  your subject sharp. Using the settings mentioned in the previous paragraph helps you to keep your shutter speed fast and keep your photo sharp.

Depth of field

If you want to increase the depth of field to make sure that the foreground, subject and background are sharp, there are settings that take care of this, too. Scenery and Portrait with Scenery help you to increase the overall sharpness of the elements you included in the photo.

Color bias

If you are looking for a certain hue that adds oomph to a photo, compacts can deliver those, too.  A scene that has lots of green in it might benefit from the setting called Natural Green; this setting enhances the green hues. If the scene has a lot of red, such as a display during Chinese New Year (coming up this weekend!), you might want to enhance red hues and use the Autumn Leaves setting. Other settings that add a color bias to your scene is Twilight, giving a magenta tint to a shot, and Sundown, which gives the photo a red filter effect to accentuate yellows, oranges, and reds.

Slow shutter

Yes, this little baby can play.

If you want to use a slow shutter for subjects like fireworks, moving water, night scapes, and portraits in diminishing light, your compact camera may have settings that help you do that. Pat’s Casio Exilim has settings like Soft Flowing Water, Night, Night Portrait, and Fireworks that can slow down the shutter and render similar effects to a dSLR shooting at low ISO, small aperture and slow shutter speed.

It is important, though, to use something to steady this type of shot. The exposure takes a while, so any small movement of a handheld compact can blur the resulting image.

 But does it have a timer?

Yes. There is a two-second timer on a compact camera. Set it on a surface or tripod, focus, set the timer, and you’ve got a remote-released slow shutter shot.

In conclusion, a point and shoot doesn’t really mean you just point and then shoot. All the decisions you make about how to create a good exposure still apply—by adjusting the shutter speed, aperture and ISO to get a sharp, appropriately lit image.

But the difference is, the camera can render the combination for you. All you have to do is to figure out what values you need for the trinity of photography, and you’re bound to produce a shot that works.

 

If you want to journey with me as I rekindle my love for all kinds of photography in 2012, and learn lots of things along the way, head on over to our new Facebook page (and like us!), where you can participate in project modules, get some feedback, talk photography, and have your photography featured in a monthly roundup!

In case you missed last week’s module, check out this article here and here.

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

 

Just in Time versus Just in Case

Convict Lake, California copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

Learning and enjoying yourself while you learn is a situation that we crave our whole lives. That’s why when you find a hobby, like photography that lets you learn for a lifetime, you tend to stick with it because it’s so much fun.

But search on Google right now for “learning photography” and you’ll get 334,000,000 search results. How do you sift through all that and find a kind of learning pathway for yourself? How do you even start?

You can give yourself some photo assignments, first of all. Maybe you can shoot themes. Those are always fun. Just make sure you introduce something new into the task, every time.

What do I mean by that?

Learning and enjoying while learning doesn’t just happen automatically if you give yourself a task. If the task is too easy, it’s boring. If the task is too hard, it’s frustrating and stressful and could turn you off from learning it.

Convict Lake, California copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

When I had learned to trigger the camera remotely, I started working on learning how landscapes are lit.

The task has to be designed well to make it both a learning experience and a fun one at that. It has to be relevant, have a feedback system, and stretch your skills.

Relevance

This criterion for designing your photography learning task means that it has to mean something to you. That’s what I mean by ‘just in time.’ If you learn a skill  because you might need it ‘just in case,’ the relevance floats out of the situation—why learn it if you don’t need it right now?

By creating a need in your task design, you’re setting yourself up for a quick learning curve. Because you need the skills you are learning to make that good shot, you’re going to put a lot more concentration into the photo shoot, giving yourself a very good chance of putting that skill into your working memory, there to call on whenever you need it in the future.

How do you narrow a skill down? It depends on your current skill level. If you know the exposure triangle but need practice with exposure compensation, then that’s what the lesson is, for you at this moment. Design something out of that concept.

Creek, Northern California copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

Learning how to create with a slow shutter is a lot of fun.

Another aspect of relevance is the authenticity of your task. Are you alone on a photowalk, practicing your exposure compensation? Or are you searching for that super duper image that you will post on Facebook or Flickr tonight? Having a real audience for the work that you’re doing gives you added pressure, and that’s a good thing.

What? Did I just say that pressure is a good thing?

Yes.

Adding a relevant audience gives you additional motivation for doing the task well. That little bit of stress you introduce into the task is just enough to complete your optimized concentration.

Feedback System

A feedback system means you get responses about your task results. This is important especially in shaping what you do next, to improve. So it’s important to share your work on a public platform.

Northern California creek copyright Aloha Lavina 2011. All rights reserved.

Shooting this for Canon's PhotoYou magazine helped me learn how to use slow shutter and remote trigger in a couple days.

Flickr is a good place to start, but be aware that Flickr is often indiscriminate about quality. In the early days of learning Photoshop, I have posted horrendously processed photos on Flickr, and people liked them. Why is this bad? It’s bad because it’s like singing Celine Dion songs to my dog Mushu, who always, always licks my face happily no matter how croaky I sound. Do I then conclude that I am Celine Dion reincarnate from Mushu’s happy kisses? I’m not in any way saying Flickr is bad. I am just saying, it’s not a place you can reliably improve your photography just from the feedback. But you can sign up for specific groups that do give you authentic critique, instead of the fluffy “Great shot!” I learned a lot from the Strobist Group on Flickr.

A forum specifically designed for photography learning might work better. There are quite a few online. Search Google for “learning photography forum*” and you get 316,000,000 results.

Stretch your skills

On your journey learning photography, give yourself a new task or skill to learn every time. Say you are solid with the exposure triangle and have been using exposure compensation pretty well for the past few weeks. How about adding a new complexity to the task, like “Shoot a series of images for an essay on architecture of temples.” The task means you have to shoot both indoors and outdoors, so you’ll be using previously learned skills.

Then you might move onto “Shoot a series of portraits at the morning market in Chinatown.” This second task means you have to use the previous skills, mixed lighting situations, and you are shooting constantly moving subjects.

Challenging yourself more means you are learning more. As you move into more complex tasks in photography, you can also adjust your feedback system so it adds that extra pressure that will activate your optimal concentration. Is there a contest you can enter? Are you ready for 500px?

Thoughtful design of your photography improvement tasks can help you improve faster and enjoy your learning. By assigning yourself task to learn “just in time” for the right audience using a new skills, you are on your way to a fun and productive journey in photography.

What will you learn this week?

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
10 Cliches a Photographer Can Believe
Making Expressive Portraits
Five Variations on a Theme: Shooting Silhouettes
10 Things a Photog Can Learn from Golfers
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer

Bring Back that Lovin’ Feelin’

butter candle vendor portrait Kathmandu Nepal copyright Aloha Lavina

Sometimes you forget the journey when you think you’ve arrived.

I am thinking this as I climb the dozens of steps up to Swayambunath Pagoda in Kathmandu. With the camera bag slung over a shoulder, it’s a little tough to mount every step and lift up myself/equipment one more step. But being Zen about it, thinking of each step and concentrating on just that one motion, makes the journey up surprisingly easier, and it seems to take no time at all.

When I get to the top of the temple, I realize this Zenlike approach is what I’ve missed about photography. I’ve been so busy with photography jobs that I’ve forgotten what was important about it in the first place. For 2012, my resolutions consist of going to go back to the beginning.

 Zoom.

Getting lost in the ‘big picture’ is easy once you start getting commissions for your photography. In the last year, I’ve been lucky to have gotten a number of assignments I’ve enjoyed for both fashion and travel photography. But it seems that I only ever shoot when it’s a ‘job.’ In between these, my camera is silent, blind.

butter candle vendor portrait Kathmandu Nepal copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011

Zooming into little lessons that sustain this passion regularly is my first resolution. At Swayambunath, I had no assignment. It was just for fun. Even with the four a.m. wake up and the trek up the cold temple steps, I felt that rekindled love for this craft.

Something new.

The fear of starting all over with something is a fear we relearn as adults. Our years teach us that we are good at something, and we hone that and nurture it until we can do it with our eyes closed.

monk sitting in cold winter morning Swambunath Temple Kathmandu Nepal copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011

Maintaining this expertise is important, but novelty is what sustains our artistry. Learning another genre is my second resolution. I’ve focused so much on portraits and reportage that those are all I ever do. But there’s something about landscapes that intrigue me.  I want to look at a place and know what I have to do to make an image that makes me suck in my breath and smile.

Fall in love three times a day.

Remember the honeymoon period when you carried your camera around every day and took photos of everything?

What made you stop doing that?

It’s probably not because you ran out of subjects.

morning light monochrome Kathmandu Nepal copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011

Matthew Fox once wrote, “If we fell in love with one of Mozart’s work each week, we would have seven years of joy. How could we ever be bored?” This sort of awe is what we need to be inspired, and stay inspired in our craft.

It’s very easy to be distracted these days. Connectivity makes it difficult to stay still and experience a process; things come to us at speeds measured in seconds, and our reality is becoming episodic, an electric mosaic of bits and bytes.

We need to slow down, like we do when we’re falling in love. Take it all in, pay attention to details, stay in the moment.

Now it’s your turn. What are your photography resolutions for 2012?

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos