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Year of New Learnings

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Cruzan80, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Question for the masses...

    If you had almost a year, with nothing pressing to do every day, how would you get better at Photography (in general)? Editing? Shooting styles? Other?

    I ask because my wife has a research grant that has us overseas from now until July '13 (been here about a month). Not a lot of money to spend on equipment, but lots of time. Not shooting professionally, just wanted to get into something more than a P&S, and have more control over the process. Deliberately didn't mention place at the beginning, as I am looking for more generalistic/hypothetical answers. May tell you all later...:wink:

    I have a G3, the 14-42 kit lens, and a few other Minolta MF lenses (Viv. 28 2.0, 45 2.0, 50 1.7, 58 1.4, JCPenny 80-200 3.9). Also have a front 2x teleconverter, and a reversing ring to put the 50 onto the 200, making it 1:1.25. Looking at trying some of the Russian lenses here, but not too many variations that look appealing to me. Keeping my eye out for some special ones, but don't have an adapter with me, so it will be a delay even if I get some of those. Most of the other brands are decently priced, but not bargains (reference the not a lot of money). Things I am looking into aquiring slowly, and may get some while I am here are a tripod, a mid-sized flash unit, the 20mm pancake, and the Pana 45-200 (no particular order there).

    Have a smaller 2gb card that on Raw holds exactly 100 pictures, so I have been trying to go out and shoot a couple of days a week with a single lens to almost filling it. Also have 2 16gb cards for weekend trips, etc, where I don't need to worry about space. Also have a travel backpack that can hold 2/3 of my stuff for a hike or other traveling.

    Have Lightroom 4.2, running it on a Core 2 Duo thinkpad (32bit, 3gb ram) so I have a photo editing program, but it really makes me appreciate the home-built i-7 desktop I left at home. Have been going through all of our old pictures and tagging and re-filing them so they are in some kind of order. Started to mess around with presets and things, downloading ones people say are good, and deciding if they help speed up the editing.

    Not really sure what kind of photography I want to get into. Done some portraiture (wife as quasi-willing subject), some architecture, reversing ring on order to try semblance of macro cheaply, bit of event photography at various things I have gone to.

    Opinions? Ideas? Sarcastic Comments (insert smiley here)? Just looking for some direction from others who may have the opposite driving force (lots of ideas on what they want to, and no time to do it).
  2. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I think the sort of things I might consider trying are:

    1- take a type of photography I do at home, be that street, birds, landscapes, whatever, and do it in the new location. See what the similarities and differences are across locations and whether doing the same sort of shooting in a different location teaches me new things about that sort of shooting.

    2- try something I wouldn't do at home, essentially "play the tourist" in order to learn something new.

    3- try a "photo a day" project but inject some fun by including sub-projects by, say, shooting the same thing or sort of thing every day for a week or shooting an entirely different sort of thing every day for a week. My only photo a day project started running out of steam after around 5 months and I think part of that was due to seeing/shooting the same things too often so I think trying to structure smaller projects into the overall idea might be helpful and it would certainly give you a wealth of travel shots to take home.

    4- spend some time on learning more about processing and working with Lightroom.

    Hmmm, I'm retired and have a little time. Maybe I should start taking my own advice. Whoops, I did that when I told myself to try a photo a day project for a day and I ran out of steam on it in less than half that time. I guess that brings me to my last suggestion: go gently on yourself. Allow time outs for other things, and for reflection on what you're doing. Change something if what you're doing starts to become a slog, effectively take a holiday from it and do something else for a few days or weeks even if that isn't photography. Above all, don't put expectations on yourself to get to some standard or achieve some specific goal during the time. Enjoy the journey and simply "wander along the way" while you have the time to do so. You can't get lost if you don't know where you're going and it's often a lot easier to discover things when you're just wandering with no specific destination in mind to keep you on a particular road in order to get to point B at a specific time. A lot of the best things that have happened in my life were the things that happened by chance, the things I wasn't trying to achieve or intending to do. All of the nicest people I've met were met by "accident", I didn't know about them before I met them. The best books I've read were all surprises, and so on. I even regard most of my own favourite photographs as accidents to some degree. Goal oriented behaviour has its place but it shouldn't govern our lives. It's great when we're working with something we've discovered that we want, or need, to do but it's not a very good or useful way for finding out what we want, or need, to do and the finding out is often more important than the doing. If you're asking the question you're asking, then you're in discovery mode and play is more important than goals at this point so play.
    • Like Like x 2
  3. dcassat

    dcassat Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 16, 2011
    The way I'd proceed

    I began shooting seriously about 1 1/2 years ago. I've always taken pictures but it became my goal to really understand photography as much as possible. I've learned a lot and have made an effort to approach it somewhat systematically and academically.

    My process has been:
    Purchased a serious camera
    Learned the functionality of the camera
    Study the technical aspects of photography
    Take a bunch of pictures, study them
    Read copious amounts of information about composition
    Take a bunch of pictures, study them.
    Look at photo websites that have great photography like 1x.com and 500px.com to find the patterns in what constitute great photography.
    Take a bunch of pictures, study them.
    Participate in technical and composition discussion on web forums
    Post pictures for critique and fun
    Take a bunch of pictures, study them
    Buy new toys to keep the interest going
    Continuously try new techniques and genres
    Take a bunch a pictures, study them.
    Critique the photos of others
    Post a bunch of pictures for critique

    And so it goes, what an amazing hobby!
  4. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    I'd travel to some new places. Nothing gets the photographic juices flowing like a new place. I'd shove all my current gear in a moderate bag and hit the road. Example: The Pentax Q was nice; the Q in Philadelphia was great.
  5. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Think of something mundane and tiresome. Find ways to photograph it that make it interesting.
  6. jnewell

    jnewell Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 23, 2011
    Boston, MA
    Good post. One of my favorite complaints:

    "What I really cannot understand is how people - and a lot of popular 'reviewers' fall into this category - can pass opinion on something that neither they nor anybody else have physically handled or used, and then treat this as gospel. Once again, the problem is that if something."
  7. MajorMagee

    MajorMagee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2011
    Dayton, OH
    My advice is to make sure you enjoy whatever you're doing first, and then take photographs. The quality of your work is enhanced more by living a full life and having fun than anything else. If you get back and have to look at the pictures to find out where you've been you're doing it wrong.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    A few starting points should you desire to be a 'photographer':

    1) There are photographs everyday and everywhere. It is your job as a photographer to see and capture them;

    2) Shoot, Shoot again and when you think you're done Shoot some more;

    3) Photography is like life, there are no true short-cuts. Sure you can skip crawling and jump to walking, but in the long run it will hurt you, same with photography. Take classes, doesn't matter if it's online or in-person, the classes will help you with discipline (which typically runs out the door when faced with a lot of time);

    4) Latch onto a mentor;

    5) Learn the fundamentals, shoot in Manual;

    6) Learn to be your own worst critic;

    7) When you find a photo which grabs you, examine the image, note the elements of the photo you find most interesting;

    8) Emulate photos which grab you, put yourself in the original photog's shoes, feel what they felt, see what they saw ... then take a step beyond that image emulation and make it yours;

    9) Take a camera everywhere, everyday (to the point that you feel naked, even vulnerable without a camera); and

    10) Shoot.

    • Like Like x 1
  9. Iconindustries

    Iconindustries Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    That's an excellent guide Gary. One good thing about photography is that you never stop learning.
  10. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Thanks for some of the advice guys. I have been trying to take a camera out with me quite a bit here, and been slowly working on "seeing" focal lengths (only bringing one lens with me, so I have to zoom with my feet). Trying to improve my rate of "this is what I want in the shot, where do I need to stand" before I raise the camera to my eye.

    Part of the problem is that I truly have zero resposibilities on my time, and while it was nice to be lazy for a bit, it is getting a bit stir-crazy. Improving my camera work is something that I can take a bit of time each day, and slowly improve. Still doing it because I like it, but sometimes a bit of an internal push may help as well, over some hump days.

    Does anyone have any advice on culling photos? I read Gary's "own worst critic" part, and I have gone culling quite a bit, but either I am a much better photographer than I thought, or (more likely) still have not culled enough. Thinking of making a seperate folder for "print-quality" shots, as opposed to vacation, send to family shots. I am also thinking about processing all of the shots I have from Raw to jpeg, and that may help the culling process.

    Part of the problem may be that I don't have much at home to compare it to. I got the camera about a month and a half before coming here, and had it for two vacation periods (seeing family before we left). Getting everything set up to leave was so crazy I didn't have any time to shoot at home, so can't really compare it to that.
  11. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    I was in you position up to three month ago. Am I a good photographer? I took the courage and started publishing in this forum. I got some critics and a lot of phrase. Put your toes in the water they won't melt.
    Take Gary advice and shot, learn to process and publish. You will be better as you practice.
  12. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    Well it seems like the Op is prepared to devote quite a lot of time to his photography but a limited amount of money especially as much of that is already spoken for.

    I have two constructive suggestions....

    (1) From the items you wish to purchase, buy the 'mid-sized flash' first. Seems to me that 'flash' is a 'skill' and an 'art' that requires a lot of practice, experiment and exploration to get right (well I havent really got there yet.) I would guess if you put in the time and effort it really produces results. If you buy a zoom, its a zoom, you can get the hang of that any time.

    (2) I noticed that things changed for me a lot when I moved from jpeg to RAW and found LR. But that was only the beginning of the process and I also found Nik software (Viveza and Color Efex 4). Now other people much prefer other programs and software.

    Admittedly you dont have much money to spend here. However all these programs (or virtually all) are available on 30 day fully functional 'try' basis. So although you might end up spending a bit at the end, with plenty of time on your hands you can thoroughly test what is on offer.
  13. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Thanks for the advice on what to get. I keep bouncing back and forth between the 20mm pancake and the flash. One is cheaper, but shooting a concert last night with the 28mm 2.0 (which is fairly large) made me understand how it is helpful for those lower light situations.

    Right now, I already have LR 4.2, which is where I am processing the raw photos (slowly). Are you using Nik as a standalone program, or a plugin for lightroom? Is there much difference using it in one way vs another? What do you find it gives you beyond what you have with Lightroom (or in a different fashion)?

    Also does anyone have a suggestion on where to start posting photos online for critique and things? Had flickr before, never really fell in love with the format.
  14. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Post in this forum and ask for critics. You will get some good ones.
    Regarding P20 it is a great lens and can be used in low light if you bump the ISO. I have made some great shots in almost darkness. Please keep in mind that a flash has a distance limitation 7 Meters at best while f stop and ISO increase help you with any distance. Regarding NIK this SW is addictive it completes LR and make it to be a perfect tool, I suggest that you try it only if you can buy it after.
  15. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Which is LR and which Nik? It also looks like Nik makes several different suites, which in particular are more useful/desireable? The full set seems like quite a bit of money.
  16. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    1) Separate family/personal photos from 'your photos'. Don't worry about the family stuff (some family images may be good enough for both folders and that is good).

    2) Stand back and separate yourself from the image. Look at your images through the eyes of a photo editor or art critique. Compare your images to other photos of the same genre. The photograph must communicate. Photography and writing are very similar. The more and louder the photograph communicates the more successful the image and conversely, the less it communicates and if the image barely stirs you, the less successful. I use "Is it publishable?" as a benchmark, a line in the sand for what I consider good. (Of late, I've been uploading stuff which falls beneath my own benchmark, I need to start reading my own stuff.) The higher the standard you set, the more you will delete, the better photographer you will become.

    3) Using the internet, typically, isn't a good source to measure one's photographic skills. Unless you know and respect the background of the 'critiquee' you really don't know what you're getting. The internet is a great place to have a popularity contest, not so great for constructive criticism. But if the internet is all you got ... use it to your advantage. (Check out the photosite of those providing advice, the photosite will gives you a heads-up to the expertise of the provider and the quality of the advice.)

    4) Do not waste your time on processing 'lesser' images, use that time capturing images and improving on capturing images. FYI- There is a line between photographer and digital artist. Somewhere, processing/photo manipulation will cross that line. For some that line isn't important, for others it is important. When I was shooting film my 'keeper' ratio was about 1:36 now it's about 1:50, (but I shoot a lot of action which keeps the ratio high).

    5) Processing is as equally important as shooting. Processing isn't about 'saving' an image, it is all about maximizing the impact of the image. (Back to communicating, processing should not be use to get the image to speak to you, but rather to get the image to sing or shout.)

    6) When culling, you'll find an image which has potential to be good. Go back and reshoot that image, shoot to its full potential. When you're back at the computer and it still doesn't have the full impact you saw in your mind's eye ... go back, shoot it again and again. (You got the time.)

    7) Shoot

    Using only one lens is very very good. In the old days, days when flashy material goods weren't as important as they are now, that is how we learned and appreciated our equipment, one lens at a time. We would shoot that lens until we knew it inside out, knew its FOV and DOF and it's performance like we knew the capabilities of our hands and reach. After becoming the closest of friends with that lens we'd get another and start the process all over again. Shoot the hell out that one lens, make it your BFF.

    The stuff I'm providing are methodologies useful to develop professional level photographic skills (the tip of the iceberg). Any one of them will be helpful to improve one's skills, all of them will put you on the path to pro level skills. Photographic experience is as important as photographic skills.

    My definition of a 'pro' is a photographer who consistently, day-in and day-out, sees and captures the exceptional image.

    Good Luck and Good Shooting,
    • Like Like x 2
  17. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    My sorting as usefulness is as follow

    Color efex all in all tool for processing
    Vivaze correcting area
    Dfine noise reduction better the LR
    Siver Efex and HDR efex if you want to get into B&W or HDR

    If only one Color efex wins hands down.
  18. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    PS- Most, if not everything offered by Plug-Ins (ala Nik et al), can be attained via your basic photo-manipulation software, i.e. LR, Aperture, Photoshop, et cetera.

    Plug-ins work, but you are not learning/understanding the process. Once you learn the process you'll learn how to shoot to the process. I think we all strive as photographers to achieve our own 'style'. Using 'pug-ins' allow you achieve the style of the plug-in manufacturer. Plug-ins are a good way to quickly manipulate an image to a pleasing result. For most of us hobbyist, the savings in time and the easy/simple attainment of a pleasing result makes plug-ins worthwhile. But if you got the time and you desire to be a complete photographer ...

    The first step in photography is understanding exposure. Once you've mastered exposure you can/will exposure for your final image (previsualization). Regardless if that final image is through a plug-in or your own hand, exposing for the final image is important.

  19. rhoydotp

    rhoydotp Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 5, 2012
    Toronto, Ont
    maybe start a photo blog of your day-to-day so that there's a bit of "accountability" that you'll post better images online for all the world to see
  20. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia

    I own Lightroom 4 and the complete Nik suite. I'm not using the Nik suite any more basically because I found myself processing by looking at previews of different filters and choosing one, in other words accepting Nik's style.

    I don't think there's anything, or at least not much, that you can do with the Nik products that you can't do with Lightroom and you have Lightroom. It may take you a little longer at first to do it yourself and you'll learn a lot more, especially about exposure, when you work at doing it all yourself without relying on plug-ins.
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