A recent work trip to France and then a family trip to Iceland have rekindled my interest in photography. I had gotten bored photographing our garden over and over again — same flowers, same mulch, same butterflies and caterpillars — and I’d gotten in a rut. When we were in Iceland, everything was new (and gorgeous), and I took my camera with me everywhere while we we there.
Since we returned, I want to keep going. Photography helps me see the world with fresh eyes. It helps me find interest in the mundane, in the stuff that’s so much a part of life that I don’t see it as potential for art. This is a theme I’ve found in writing, too. We rarely stop to acknowledge the beauty in the routine things we take for granted, or we minimize their curiosity because they’re so normal and everyday to us.
To help me notice the world around me, and to help me improve my photography, I wanted guidance. I wanted assignments. I wanted direction from someone who is not me. I found an online course that seems to go on sale pretty much every day — Photography Masterclass: A Complete Guide to Photography — and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.
Each day, I discover new settings on my camera, like the bracketing and exposure compensation features, or different film simulations, including black and white. And each day I play more in my editing software (darktable) to see if I can tweak this lighting or that contrast or deepen that color.
I’ve started carrying my camera with me more frequently on outings, and I’m learning a ton about my camera and about photo editing.
I’ve got a long way to go.
There are a few things that no amount of editing can fix, and the biggest ones I’ve found so far are exposure and focus. I take photos now at lots of different settings for exposure, but I still have a lot to learn about light to get it right. Also, my eyes aren’t great, and it’s hard for me to see whether an image is actually in focus until I get it on my computer; I’m often disappointed that what looks great on my camera’s tiny display screen actually isn’t that great on a screen where I can actually see it. Most of that comes down to trying to shoot in low light without a tripod though, meaning I end up with super shallow depth of field, like in the first guitar image below where the grain of the guitar body and part of the bridge are in focus, but the bridge pins and the strings — only about 1cm closer to the camera — are not. These discrepancies are teaching me what I need to improve in order to capture what I’d hoped to capture, though. I’ll keep practicing. I should have a few years left in me to keep learning.