What’s up f-stop?

Almost nine months ago I decided to learn manual photography. Eight months ago I finished reading about the basic elements of photography. Seven months ago I bought a real camera and began to actually practice photography.

Now, seven months and over three thousand photos later I’ve crossed over into a world of scientific thought. A year ago I would put my camera on auto and truly believe it was doing all the work. Six months ago I found out it was only doing some of the work and three months ago I read one of the golden rules of photography. “You are smarter than your camera.” DSCF2641This past weekend I began a long-term project for a book proposal. As I began shooting Saturday evening I noticed something different in myself. I no longer struggled with settings. I have become one of those people who walks into an environment and immediately knows what settings I need to get the exposure I want. I have acquired an internal light meter that can not only tell me what I need for a proper exposure but what I need for the kind of exposure I want. Instead of taking five minutes to work it all out on my camera I can do it in my head within a few seconds. I do it everywhere now whether I have my camera with me or not. It happens without any real effort. It’s just there. DSCF2660Honestly when I began this quest I didn’t think it would take this long to get here. One month into it I felt differently. I thought it would take years to get here. Now it’s like becoming a member of some nerdy thoughts club. If people could read my thoughts now I’d have a nickname like “f-stop,” “ISO” or “shutter.” It’s one thing to know some of the lingo but it’s another to actually live it. That awareness changes you and it’s a lot of fun.

 

Every 7th Dawn

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My schedule this summer has not been a flexible one. Oddly enough this has brought some continuity to my photography. Over the last four weeks the only time I was able to get to the city was Sunday morning. I’ve seen the sun rise up over Philadelphia four times this past month. That morning lighting has given my photos something in common.

I’ve been all over the place lately with my shots because I’ve been trying so many different things. When I look at them as thumbnails on my iMac the only thing some of them have in common is the lighting. The good news is that I learn something on every shot. I have a little notebook to write down notes of things that didn’t work or that I didn’t like and the ideas they give me as to what I should try next.

School starts next week for my son and my schedule is about to change drastically because of it. For a short time I’ll have a little more freedom but in a couple of weeks it could be a lot less freedom. I really love going to the city when it’s still asleep but it’s not what I’m looking for when it comes to the story I want to tell with my photos. I’ve got another idea that I want to try but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to try it out since it involves me being in the city at night. It may be a while before I get to try it but in the meantime I’m going to recruit my nephew David to go with me on a couple of local missions when I get the chance just to see if what I have in mind works at all.

Either way it has been an incredible experience to see the city as the sun comes up every Sunday. Driving along to different locations I can literally stop the car in the middle of the street, get out and take a shot because there’s no one else on the road. Several elements may need to come together for my next mission. I may need a different lens and it’s almost certain that cold weather will be necessary to capture what I want. Money is always an element of the equation and David just needs to be there so that shouldn’t be much of a problem. I think he’ll like the idea.

Free to Start Again

DSCF2406This past weekend was a strange one concerning my photography. I suppose it was a mixture of laziness and frustration. On one hand my wife and son were away for the weekend and I had more freedom than I’ve had in months. It made me feel like doing nothing at all even though I starve for that kind of freedom to go shoot every day. As for my frustration I think that may just be impatience. I’d really like to find my own style when it comes to photography so I can just move on in that direction. Spending hours every week learning what distinguishes one historically famous photographer from another makes it seem impossible that I’ll ever find my own voice. I try several things every week searching for that moment when something clicks and I realize what it is I want to say with my photography. IMG_0286I feel good about what I’ve learned and what I’ve tried but when I went out this weekend to shoot I had no direction at all. I think I overwhelmed myself with everything I’ve learned. I had the chance to shoot my hometown on Saturday but ended up with photos very similar to those I took in 2004. I temporarily became one of those photographers who shoot simply to document change in the world. Looking at my photos that evening I was bored silly. On Sunday I only took five photos with my camera. Instead I took my Iphone out for a spin in Philadelphia. While I was waiting for the city to come to life in the early morning hours I suddenly found some peace. Creativity crept it’s way back into my soul as I wandered around aimlessly and I found myself searching again for something new, something beautiful. IMG_0395Not having my camera with me left me free to expect less and I began to have fun again. There were several moments that I wished I did have my camera but the Iphone allowed me to re-evaluate my process when shooting and even though my photos would have been better with the camera it was a necessary break to find my footing again. I took a lot of silly photos that begged for some sort of humorous caption. I took a lot of photos beyond the capabilities of my phone just to see how much luck was involved in my day. The goals I had set for myself were forgotten by lunch. In the end I looked over my photos last night with my wife who had returned and she pointed out five or six photos spread throughout the sets where I clearly did the work for something new. It was a relief to know I hadn’t wasted the weekend completely. IMG_0382

The 25 Percent

IMG_0363I’ve been to a lot of museums. I love art. In Philadelphia the first Sunday of each month brings an opportunity to “pay what you wish” when entering most of the art museums there. Some of them are even free. On the surface it appears to be a perfect set up. How can there be any negatives to opening museums at no charge to the general public? It seems like a no lose proposition. It’s not.IMG_0330I personally love going to see the museums for free when I can because at almost $30 per person on a regular basis it’s something I can’t afford right now. In my experience I’d say that 50% of the people who go when it’s free love art but can’t afford to go all the time when it costs so much. I’m part of that group. Another 25% of the people there are tourists who have been told it’s the place to go. They must like art somewhat to even agree to visiting a museum while they’re on vacation so they’re respectful of the rules and they just happen to be there when it’s free so money had no part of their decision. For them it was just luck.

Finally there’s the last 25% who are only there because it’s free and it’s something to do. They would never visit an art museum if they had to pay for it. Since they don’t frequent museums they consider it a one time event and therefore the rules do not apply to them. They don’t know anything about art so most of them pick up the set of headphones to carry around with them to tell them what they’re looking at. The audio tour is a good thing and even people familiar with art use them on a regular basis but it’s that regular basis that keeps those people from becoming a problem. It’s not rocket science when the device has only two buttons. Play and Pause. For that last 25% though it’s like asking them to solve world hunger.

This is where it gets ugly. Imagine yourself in a small room with a high ceiling. It has fantastic acoustics. If you dropped a needle on the floor everyone would hear it. Either you’re just standing there appreciating the detail of a painting or you’re listening to the audio tour on a low volume. You’re feeling grateful for the opportunity to see something so beautiful and historic at no cost whatsoever. Then more people enter the gallery. They are what I call the dreaded members of that last 25%. Suddenly you can’t concentrate on what you’re looking at because two or even three other couples are now talking loudly because they have a headset on. “How do you get this thing to rewind?” “I don’t know Harry maybe it’s broken.” “I missed what it said about number ten and now I’m lost. I don’t know what I’m looking at.” “Maybe you should take it back to the young man at the desk. Maybe yours is broken.” It goes on and on robbing you of your ability to appreciate the paintings you’ve come to see. Your piece of mind is now under attack.IMG_0392Sadly museums have done away with the please be quiet rule because they want all museums to be family friendly and it would be just too much to expect your kids to act accordingly in public. So the guard walking around can’t ask someone to lower their voice. You move on to the next room hoping to escape the awful conversation you were just assaulted with but within two minutes you find yourself disturbed by another part of the 25%. This time they have no headphones but they feel the need to express their opinions on art with everyone in the room at an exasperating volume. They just want to be heard. They want to be on record as pointing out that “all of these artists were just degenerates.” “Look at all this nonsense done in the name of art I mean Hell I could paint that!” “I’m so glad we didn’t pay for this crap.”IMG_0390Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse a team of security men brush past you quickly to stop the man next to you who thought it would be a good idea to actually run his fingers over a Van Gogh painting to feel the bumps of the paint. It’s a giant commotion as he is escorted from the premises but no sooner is that disturbance over with when another guy sneezes on a Renoir in the same room. You sit and wonder at what kind of moron would come to a small museum with what appears to be the flu and possibly infect everyone else around him. Add to that the fact that he is standing well beyond the large black line on the floor which is there to keep people at a safe distance from the paintings. So now he sees that his snot is dripping down the Renoir and pulls out a napkin from his pocket to wipe it off. All within minutes of the last guy being hauled out of the room for touching a painting. Luckily the guard grabs his arm before he can do any damage but now that gallery is being closed and you’re escorted from the room so they can clean the Renoir. So much for seeing that part of the museum today. What’s frustrating is that both of those people were in line with you when the rules were announced to everyone waiting several times. There are only five rules or so and they’re posted everywhere!

This is the kind of museum experience you don’t have when you pay almost $30 to enter an Art Museum. I love that I have been able to see the museums free several times but when I’ve paid for it I’ve never seen the kind of insanity I see when it’s free.

 

 

It’s a broken world

DSCF2191Some time ago I set myself the task with capturing all the broken things in my area. Months of violence around the world and suddenly it’s a terrible title for a photo book. Along the way I fell in love with old signs that no longer fit in our modern society. Time has passed them by and now most of them remain incomplete and unable to get their message across. DSCF2154They don’t scroll from left to right in a digitized display of modern efficiency like the newer shops that surround them. Instead they conjure up memories like antiques left out in the weather for daily abuse and neglect. Whenever I see them I fail to see the intended message. Instead they say “I’m from the 60’s before you were born” or “I was here when you were child in the 70’s don’t you miss me?” Others say “Yeah, not everything about the 80’s was great.” In any case they go largely unnoticed by the public passing them by. Hipsters might take note but only so they can go make something new and retro as their way of paying homage to a time they romanticize because they weren’t there to appreciate the original. DSCF2120The little towns scattered around Montgomery and Bucks counties are filled with examples of old advertising. I don’t know that I would consider it street photography or not but they do offer themselves up as artistic subjects. DSCF2152

In the Beginning

In the summer of 1994 at the age of 21 I purchased my first camera which was a Nikon N50. Up until that point in my life I had been using compact film cameras that my mother let me use whenever I needed one. Along with my Nikon I purchased a Quantaray 70-200mm lens. I suppose I was thinking bigger is better at the time. I clearly didn’t understand what I might need and perhaps the sales guy at the camera shop in Oxford Valley Mall misled me but for the next five or six years I couldn’t get far enough away from anything to get a good shot.

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The first photo I took with my Nikon N50

For the first few months I struggled to understand the settings on my new Nikon and I doubt I took the time to really read the manual but I remember being frustrated by it. The first photo I ever took with it came out really nice and I thought everything was going to be great from that moment on. Instead the next few hundred photos were lousy. By November I had at least figured out some of the automatic settings like portrait mode, landscape mode and I was eager to try Night mode. It sounds too corny to type out now but back then it was a whole new world to me. My mother had an old tripod in her closet which someone had given her. I don’t think it had ever been used. At least not while we had it. It was a big black heavy son of a gun and I thought who the hell would want to lug this thing around for photography. Of course now I understand the weight was for stability but back then I couldn’t wait to buy something lighter.

Early one evening before Thanksgiving it began to snow. I knew it wasn’t going to amount to much but I set my alarm clock for 4:00 am so that I could get up for an early morning shot of the snow at dawn. I was excited to do the work of photography. Sure enough I got up early, set the tripod up in the carport and focused on the atlas cedar tree in our front yard with the street light behind it. For some reason I only took one shot. I guess I was really confident in my abilities which is laughable now. I suppose I just had confidence in the Night mode setting on my camera. In any case the photo came out well and for the next ten years I would refer to it as the best photo I had ever taken. The sad thing is that I literally stopped making an effort after that. Every now and then I would get the photography bug again and make an effort but for the most part the camera stayed on Auto and took snapshots. February SnowThe list of things I didn’t know then are too numerous to mention but that lack of knowledge really hurts now as I look back. I had no idea that printed photos continue to absorb light and become blurry over time. I had no idea that negatives had to be stored at a certain temperature or they would also blur or turn yellow. Worst of all is that I had no idea how much it would all mean to me in the future. Looking back over the 4,000 negatives I have from that decade I regret not doing the work of photography more often instead of snapping away in ignorance thinking my camera would do all the work. From 1994-2006 I took a total of 10 good photos. That’s friggin’ depressing. The first thing I learned this year was that I am smarter than my camera. A valuable life lesson for sure.

 

To Be Prolific

B5CD88C5-49C6-4810-8461-E7506F8437D7One thing that stood out for many people concerning the Vivian Maier story was how prolific she was. She took over 150,000 photos in a period of thirty years. That’s about 5,000 photos a year. The fact that she took so many photographs proves that she was serious about her photography. Taking 5,000 photos a year these days doesn’t mean as much because it’s digital. People have a camera in their phone so they always have a camera with them and they’re not limited to 12, 24 or 36 shots using film. They don’t have to pay to get it developed. Most of Vivian Maier’s work was shot on 120 film and limited to 12 shots per roll. That amounts to shooting one roll of film every day of the year although I’m sure that’s not how she did it. I doubt the amount of shots really mattered to her at all. If you enjoy photography and you work at it you can’t help but shoot whenever you get the opportunity.

Still for some reason when famous professional photographers are interviewed about their art there is always a mention of being prolific. It’s like one of those old ideas that people can’t let go of in the face of the new reality. I read recently on Facebook that some girl I once worked with had taken more than 4000 photos with her phone this year. I’m as addicted to photography as I am breathing but I’ve only taken 2300 this year. The difference is that she took 500 selfies and 3500 snapshots of her friends at the local bar. I’m more selective with my subjects. I’m searching for that one great shot to distinguish my art from all others. Technology has provided me with a lot of advantages over film photographers in the past and for that reason I can see why it’s important to note how prolific they were but modern photography removes that distinction from the conversation. Instead the first thing to note is the quality of the work rather than the amount of it as proof of my dedication to it. I may still end up being a prolific shooter but only as a matter of consequence.

Always Learning

Just when I think I’m getting a good grip on things I go out and take a bunch of lousy photos. Yesterday I decided to try and replicate the photos of William Eggleston so I went to the most depressing place I could find. Quakertown Mart also known as Q-Mart.

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Eggleston captured the every day things focusing on bold color

Before I entered the building I looked over the settings on my camera. Up until now I’ve been concentrating on street photography in the streets of Philadelphia with its bright sun glare and dark shadows. Most of the time my aperture has been set at f8 so I left it there for Q-Mart. Once I stepped inside I realized how much darker it was so I took a few test shots before walking around.

The first thing I noticed during my tests was the sound of my shutter. Q-Mart seemed incredibly quiet considering how many people were there so I turned off my manual shutter and went to Electronic shutter which is silent. The idea is that my subject doesn’t know I’m taking a photo. I also changed my ISO from 200 to 800 but I couldn’t see a difference in my tests so I changed it back to 200. I set the camera for Aperture priority leaving the camera to choose my shutter speeds. DSCF2061After the first few shots of people they somehow knew I was taking a photo of them which didn’t seem possible with a silent shutter so I looked over my settings again. I realized the Autofocus illuminator was on showing them a tiny light on the front of my camera whenever I snapped a shot so I turned that off. Interesting subjects were plentiful and I walked the perimeter of the building twice taking about fifty shots.

Normally I check my shots routinely during a shoot but for some reason I was feeling more confident yesterday so I left that for when I got home later. As I’m sure you can tell already the results were doomed. When I loaded them up on my iMac I saw that more than half of my photos were nothing but motion blur.

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Even though my subject and I are not in motion the slow shutter speed gives the phone cases in the background blur

Thinking back over my choices I realized the mistakes I made leading up to that result. First I tested on a wall that wasn’t moving so my aperture at f8 was fine but for people moving in low light it should have been f3.5 which is as wide open as that particular lens can get to let more light in. Second, once I went to silent shutter I couldn’t hear that my shutter speed was too slow. Third, the Autofocus doesn’t work without the illuminator in low light because it can’t make out the distance to the subject. Fourth, had I checked my photos at any time during the shoot I would have realized the first three mistakes.

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My best Eggleston impression of the day, bold yet banal

As it happens I still managed to achieve my goal of replicating the banality of William Eggleston’s work but a few other shots would have been fabulous had I checked my work as I went and made adjustments. Oddly enough I’m not broken hearted by the experience. In fact I’m thrilled to have learned so much in one shoot.

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Typical Q-Mart, depressing

Phone Limitations

IMG_0210I’ve had an Iphone 6s for about a month or so now and this morning I decided to see what it’s limits were. Apparently though it zooms further than the kit lens (16-50mm) for my Fujifilm X-T10 it can’t keep any resolution if the lighting is too bright. Shooting through a fence at more than a hundred feet away from my subject the bright morning sunlight made the Iphones limitations obvious. It’s not a complaint. Those are harsh conditions for any phone camera and in every other situation so far it has exceeded my expectations. In fact I recently spent a weekend in Rehoboth Beach Delaware and the photos I took with my phone turned out better than those I took with my camera. This just a note to myself actually so that I don’t forget.

My First Digital Camera

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Mark and Terry with the Kodak DC 240

In November of 2003 my friend Terry Banyard introduced my girlfriends brother Mark and I to the wonderful world of digital cameras. He gave Mark a Kodak DC 240 from 1999. This may be hard to imagine now but back then most people had no respect for digital cameras. The word was that they would never be able to match the quality of a film camera and they had been far too expensive prior to 2003. People still had all their photos printed back then. The Kodak Terry gave Mark that evening had less than 2 megapixels. It was heavy and slow. There was something wrong with the software which prevented anyone from changing the date so for the next two years every photo Mark took was dated January 1st 1999. I took the photo above with my Nikon N55 to document the moment because even then I knew something important was happening. I knew I wanted the next best thing.

Just a few months later in May of 2004 I bought my first digital camera. It was a Fujifilm A205 which had 2.0 megapixels. It took 30 second movies but without audio. It was much smaller and lighter than the Kodak Mark had been using since the previous year so I was pretty happy with it. I went outside and took my first digital photo (shown below) of my mother’s Iris. I was very impressed with the results and I’ve loved Fujifilm’s color renditions ever since. At that point I ceased getting prints made. I simply put the photos on my computer. This was a limitation back then. To show my photos to someone else they either had to come to my home and view them on my PC or I had to have them printed. There were no smart phones and with a 56k modem it took forever to upload a photo to the internet. Cloud technology hadn’t come along yet. Sometimes I burned a cd of my photos to show others on their own PC’s.My First Digital Photo2004 doesn’t seem like that long ago to me. Twelve years? Digital cameras and the supporting technologies have come so far in that twelve years. It’s hard to believe. I find myself taking the stuff we have now for granted as if it were always there. Millennials ask me why I didn’t take more photos while I was in the Marine Corps. or while I was in school. They can’t imagine that in the 1990’s I would have had to lug around a big film camera to have done so. It simply wasn’t convenient then. People would have looked at me like I was crazy if I brought a camera to school. If I had I still would have been limited by the film itself. Changing a roll of film back then was a pain in the butt and even if I just took one roll it would have limited me to 24 or 36 photos. Now kids in elementary schools have smartphones. Clouds over Fairless Hills 04The Fujifilm A205 gave me three good years of service until it developed a spot on the sensor. It’s real limitations left me with regrets however. I managed to take at least five or six really good photos with it in that time not knowing that its lack of megapixels and file size would prevent any of them from ever being printed larger than a 4×6. On one hand I can say it saved me a fortune in printing costs when it came to the thousands of snapshots I took with it. On the other hand I wish I had continued using my Nikon SLR so that I could have had those five or six great photos printed larger and with a higher resolution.

 

Happiness Sucks

DSCF1873So I spent this past weekend at Rehoboth Beach Delaware. Photography is an all consuming addiction. The constant search for that moment of life I can capture with my camera.DSCF1959As a street photographer I spend my time capturing something with grit. If there’s any grit at the beach I couldn’t find it. It’s like shooting street photography in one of those happy little tourist towns in Bucks County like New Hope. Everyone is too happy or at least too carefree leaving my photos of people looking more like a documentary on white privilege.  DSCF1907I knew going into the weekend that it was a long shot when it came to searching for some real grit in life. Sadly I was right. The people themselves were on vacation from their troubles and left them at home. The only thing sad about Rehoboth Beach were the boardwalk eateries which made me wonder how I ever voluntarily ate that crap.                      DSCF1894I personally hate the beach but I can appreciate that many people find it romantic. It’s easy to find romance at the beach but that’s not what I went looking for. DSCF1887The only thing I know for sure is that happiness sucks when it comes to street photography.

Sculpture Photography

DSCF0593Is sculpture photography a thing? Perhaps not as an occupation but museums do hire photographers for the purpose of sculpture photography. It’s not a field I plan to pursue but over the last six months I’ve used sculpture to practice elements of photography. It’s cheaper than hiring a model and honestly my wife wouldn’t let me hire a female model. No surprise there. I have always loved sculpture and my wife Amanda spent her youth learning how to do sculpture.

Part of my sculpture obsession these past months is based on my wife’s natural abilities as a photographer and artist. Last December she and I visited the Rodin museum in Philadelphia. I took a few photos with my phone and she took some as well with her phone. Even though we were taking photos of the same subjects her results were so different I was left with nothing but envy and admiration. The difference is that she was doing the work herself and I was counting on the camera to do the work.

DSCF1025This year I decided to start doing the work and now I find myself six months into a quest to find out what I have to say through photography. Watching Amanda go over my photos and process them in Adobe Lightroom has been amazing as well. To see how differently we see things. She’s focusing on something in the photo that I never considered. It’s humbling but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Gradually I’m beginning to figure out my own view of things and I’ve been pleased with the results. Of course a sculpture as a the subject makes things easier since it doesn’t move or change in expression. What I find interesting is that most people walking by a sculpture see it from the same point of view. By doing the work for a different angle most sculptures take on a different appearance. Sounds obvious but it isn’t always so.

0513A861-2C27-425E-9E9F-8F592053C4E3One day last week Amanda stopped as she was going through my photos and said “This is the best photo you’ve ever taken.” It was the first time the two of us had shot the same subject and I came home with the winning shot. This time it was myself who found the best angle. Naturally it’s a pleasing result and I’m glad to know that she sees progress in my work but it’s really only a place to start. I think it’s safe to say the sculpture phase is over for me. Now it’s about taking that work to another level and learn something else on my way to finding that element which will distinguish myself from other artists.

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as per Amanda the best photo I’ve ever taken

Budoir Photography

pic003When I was in 8th grade a kid sitting next to me leaned over and said “Dude check this out.” He handed me a Polaroid photo of a girl we knew and she was naked. She had the photo taken so she could give it to her boyfriend but they broke up and the photo got passed around school. At 13 years old or so I was the right age to appreciate seeing it but even then I knew it must be horrible for her.

It was then I realized what common sense meant. NEVER have a nude photo of yourself taken because there’s always someone who will end up seeing it. Even if you took it for yourself it would be found by your children when you’re dead. It’s just not a good way to be remembered. This brings me to the subject of the day. Budoir photography. The market is flooded with Wedding Photographers. Now many of them are adding budoir photography to their list of options for newly engaged couples. Yes, this is a thing. Women/girls want to please their man by sitting for photos in lingerie and having it made into a small book so they can give it to him for a wedding present.

Men with a good sense of humor and a lot of humility can hire their wedding photographer for some dudoir. Yes, again, this is a thing. As for the pros and cons of sitting for some budoir photography to give your husband I hope you know the photographer well enough to really trust them since most of them have a disclaimer posted on their site saying something like “cannot be held legally responsible for your experience once initial contact is made with photographers.” I thought perhaps the divorce rate would also make a good argument against this trend but that isn’t even necessary since common sense should make you ask “why take the chance?” The need for budoir photography might also suggest your marriage is based on sex which can’t bode well for the long term either.

Don’t get me wrong I love looking at sexy women in lingerie but it’s a little unnerving to Google “budoir photography” and see a million examples of people who only intended that photo for their husband. People aren’t thinking it through after the photo shoot when the less than professional wedding photographer they’ve hired says “okay I’ll send you the link so you can order prints online.” Yes, he just told you he’s going to upload a photo of you in a compromising position to the Internet. The Internet. Think about it. This is where beautiful people have their photos sold as soft porn and ugly people end up as a meme on Facebook. Either way you’re chance of being humiliated someday just increased, a lot.

The best scenario I could think of was that you’re young, beautiful, and you think it’s fun. You don’t care who sees you naked or scantily clothed. Then forty years later when you’re a different person your thirteen year old child finds it. No matter how you shake it no kid should ever see their parents naked. It’s just something you can’t un-see. The exception to the rule here would have to be someone who loves themselves and how they look. They want to capture themselves at their most beautiful because age will eventually take it away. Someone with no intention of marrying or becoming a parent. The photos are merely documenting the best years your body ever had so that in your old age when you’re alone you can pull them up on your mobile device and say “damn I looked good then.”

 

So far so cliché

New Years Eve, December 31st, 2015. I decided on a New Year’s Resolution. Learn Photography. I’ve always loved photography but I never really knew photography. I had taken 31,000 photos that are best described as snapshots since 1994 and I thought to myself it’s time to really learn about photography. After going through all my photos I only found ten or so that were well thought out, well framed interesting photographs.

I bought a better camera and began making a real effort whenever I took a photo. Five hundred video tutorials later and I’ve made some decent progress halfway through the year but I’m realizing it will take more than one year to accomplish my goal. I spent some time learning my equipment first and I’m fairly comfortable with it but not like a professional. I took some photos that I thought were good and it turned out they weren’t. I took some photos that were just pure luck but realized it was less luck with every try so I know there’s progress. I took boring photos of interesting subjects and eventually got the hang of taking interesting photos of boring subjects.

One of my favorite Youtube channels is Digital Rev. Recently I watched a video about photographic clichés and realized that I was guilty of most of them or at least 11 out of 25 of them. Those in red are the clichés I’ve committed since the beginning of the year.

  1. Selfies
  2. Bokkeh
  3. Put your name on your photo
  4. Filter tricks…tobacco filters ect…
  5. Adding text on your photos
  6. Sunsets
  7. Adding watermarks
  8. Adding borders
  9. Light painting writing your own name
  10. Selected color photos, one thing in color
  11. Color/B&W nudes
  12. Slow shutter speeds to blur water
  13. Panoramic blue/green
  14. Cloud photos
  15. Fake sun lens sunflare
  16. HDR execution
  17. B&W photo that would have been better in color
  18. Zoom burst
  19. Dutch angle, camera tilt
  20. Touristy photos, obvious landmarks
  21. Photos of someone less fortunate than you, then make it B&W for drama ect…
  22. I’m a photographer selfie
  23. Every stock photo ever made
  24. Photo trickery, optical illusion
  25. Photos of people pushing or pulling carts. I don’t think this one counts in the US.

It actually makes me wonder what’s left? Many of the great photographers of the past also took photos that were cliché but no one cares about those. I assume that’s because it’s in the past and it’s okay since they did other fine work. The taste of the general public and the taste of art critics are vastly different. For instance I took a photo of an optical illusion recently and people liked it. It’s not something I could ever include for a show at a gallery though. To a gallery it’s probably the first sign of a total noob.

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Example of an “I’m a Photographer” selfie 

I do like the challenge though. The challenge of going out there with my camera to take a photo of something really interesting and beautiful that isn’t a cliché. We’ll see.