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What do you want to understand better about photography?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by JohnRice, Sep 24, 2017.

  1. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Mike, you seem to be getting the focus figured out with the camera. That 2nd shot, though, is a great example of learning about shutter speed. Notice how the moving legs are blurry? A faster shutter speed would freeze that motion and make the entire image sharp. Of course, there are times where you may actually want to use a slower shutter speed to induce some motion blur -- whether to convey motion, smooth out moving water, etc.

    John,

    I do understand your frustration with attempting to educate folks. I rarely participate in the online photography forums anymore, as there is just too much B.S. out there. And I learned my lesson on offering any photo tips in the field several years ago. I still remember seeing a woman with a dSLR shooting wildlife through a mesh fence, standing several feet from the fence. I politely mentioned that if she put her lens right up against the fence and opened up her aperture, she could make that fence virtually disappear from the photo. All I got from her was a cold, icy stare, and then she went back to shooting several feet away from the fence. Sigh.

    Speaking of learning photography, over Thanksgiving weekend my sister and I were sharing our Amazon wish lists with each other for Christmas ideas. I noticed she had a Canon 80D dSLR on her list (way too expensive for our gift budget, but that's not my point). Knowing all my sister has ever done was take snapshots with her phone, or previously a point & shoot camera, I asked her why she had that camera on her list. She said she thought she may want to have a better camera for taking better photos of the band her husband manages. I asked her if she was willing to learn basic photography skills in order to actually make use of the camera, and her answer was "probably not". I told her she would just be wasting her money, She grudgingly agreed.
     
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  2. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    While most of my photos are of static images, too, I do occasionally shoot birds in flight, larger wildlife in motion, or ice hockey. In fact, I was going to take my camera to the hockey game last night (we have season tickets to USA Hockey's National Team Development Program), but decided at the last minute not to. It's a good thing, because the row in front of us, which is usually empty, was filled with players from the Russian national team, who came into town early for next week's international Four Nations tournament (USA, Russia, Slovekia, Switzerland national teams).

    Anyway, shooting wildlife can be a struggle at times, requiring me to shoot wide open because of the lighting -- a lot of my wildlife shooting is done early in the morning or the evening. Fast, long glass is way too expensive for my budget, so a 100-400mm telephoto with a f/5.6 max aperture is my primary wildlife lens. I try to shoot at f/7.1 or f/8 when possible, but quite often I have to shoot wide open because of the light.

    I have experimented with the focus modes on my 7D2 and 5D3 (their focus systems are very similar). While I normally shoot with a single focus point, I have found that using an expanded focus point helps at times with picking up birds in flight or other moving wildlife. I may get some frames out of focus, but shooting high speed continuous usually allows me to nail the focus on several images in a sequence.

    I will say that the most difficult subject I have ever shot are whales. You never know where they will surface, and they are only visible for a couple of seconds. That means you need to swing your camera around, frame the shot and fire very quickly. So you have to rely on the automation of the camera body a lot more. It took some time, but I finally got a system that works fairly well. I'll use a monopod so I can keep the camera in shooting position without killing my arms during the long waits between surfacing, put the camera in shutter priority mode with a 1/1000sec speed, auto ISO, an expanded center focus point, AI Servo focus mode, and high speed continuous drive mode. It's still difficult, but at least I get some decent keepers. Hopefully I can refine the technique more next summer, as we are going to Iceland for our 30th anniversary trip.

    Here are a few of my better whale shots. The first was taken off the coast of Kauai with my old Canon 40D, and the other two were taken in Juneau, Alaska with my old 7D. We had planned on whale watching again during our trip to Maine in 2017, but the weather didn't cooperate -- we were fogged out every day we were along the coast.

    [​IMG]

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  3. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I spent several months trying to contribute to a couple related photography groups. Little did I know that my very first attempt would end up being as successful as every other one I tried. In that one, I posted a macro shot of a bee, and right away someone chimed in on how well I nailed the focus, and asked for pointers on how to accomplish that. I thought about my response overnight and then posted a pretty extensive, detailed explanation of what's important to accomplish it. The guy who asked the question came back with the response "That's not what I asked." In fact, he seemed to be so annoyed by my response, that he deleted his question, which deleted my answer. Well, that kind of pissed me off, so I explained that I had thought about my explanation overnight and spent quite a bit of time writing it out, and that it was not cool for him to delete it. What resulted from that was, he spent every day following me around the group, trolling me for weeks.

    What I didn't understand was why he claimed I hadn't answered his question, because I did. He asked, "How do you nail the focus so well?" I that's the question I answered. Finally, it got hammered into my head (which was pretty bloody by then) that the answer to all photography questions is always and only, either a new piece of equipment to buy, or a button to push, but never anything else. Certainly not anything about camera handling, technique, knowledge and practice. Oh! My ignorance to suggest such things.

    I eventually realized these groups have hundreds of members who do nothing but troll anyone who shoots with a crop camera. Never posting any photos or anything constructive. Just bashing anything to do with crop cameras. They are left to do that at will, but as soon as anyone makes a comment about building knowledge, or things like easing up on sharpening, saturation, etc. it gets shut down. The people who make constructive comments quickly get frustrated and leave the group. The "pissers and shitters" as I call them, just run wild.

    So, I gave up.
     
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  4. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    John,

    That is bad. The main forum I participate in (photography-on-the-net) is not nearly that bad. It's a very Canon-centric forum, though, so may not be of as much interest to folks who shoot other brands -- although there are a few participating members who shoot Sony or Nikon. There are some professionals who provide valuable input, but there are also some of gear heads you alluded to who bash anything but the latest equipment. Suddenly a piece of equipment that once was the greatest thing since sliced bread is now garbage because something newer came along. So, did someone sneak into your house at night and change something on your old equipment so it no longer performs the way it used to? :rolleyes:
     
  5. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I've got a different PoV on this because, well, I've actually been a university professor for a period of time. Not a particularly good one but one that had passion and deep knowledge. So I picked up teaching skills from those who were lifelong teachers. And I got better over time but will never be to the level of a full time teacher. I have the utmost respect for those who do it for life.

    And I'll tell ya, teaching is HARD.

    Not the mechanics of it. But the reaching of it. A very wise asshole says in a great movie "Some men you just can't reach", and this is true as it ever was in education. You can't make someone dig into complex subjects if they just aren't into it. Sometimes you can inspire passion and feed that spark, but if the spark ain't there it's impossible. So you take the wins where you can and acknowledge your win percentage isn't going to be nearly as high as you'd like it to be. That does NOT get you off the hook and allow you to be lazy, you've still got to put the effort in.

    But your satisfaction has to come in having done a good job at the end of the day, and the fact that you've helped at least SOME of the students learn things that will be of value. You can lead a horse to a classroom and you can make em read, and you can drill them till they can repeat basic facts, but you can't make em LEARN and understand.

    Multiply that times a 1000 online. Most people want praise not knowledge. Most people want to buy a tool that gets them to the next level, not put in the work to make it work. You can't judge yourself on the wants and whims of internet posters. Down that path lies madness.

    My advice to you @John rice is if you are going to go down the route of writing up something in depth for one of em, make it a blog post or something more permanent you can reference back to. That way if the poster turns out to be a bozo at least you have something you can share with a wider audience and get your satisfaction that way.

    Wanting others on the net to react with satisfaction to your hard work is a recipe for frustration.
     
  6. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    Sam, I definitely get you. I've taught hundreds of seminars on photography, and I loved it, but that was a different time. Yes, social discourse HAS changed a massive amount. Also, people paid to be there and wanted to be there and learn something. Trying to educate through an online forum is more like stand-up comedy, where there are thousands of people there for no other reason than to heckle you and feed their sagging egos.
     
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  7. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    I quit engaging in most of the photography forums a long time ago. Experience is the best teacher. Just go out and shoot and shoot some more. Trial-n-error teaches you things that simply reading about doesn't. Muscle memory allows you to skip the conscious actions needed to nail the shot (it's like driving a stick-shift transmission, you rarely think 'engage the clutch, shift to the next gear, let the clutch out, wash, rinse, repeat"). So just keep shooting, note what works, and stick with it. Never be afraid to experiment, and try not to repeat the things that don't work in your favor.
     
  8. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    Well, considering I dedicated four years of my life, and an enormous amount of money, to properly learning photography, I guess I'm solidly in the camp of obtaining some proper education. That doesn't mean anyone else has take it as far as I did. I'm also a huge fan of tinkering. In fact, for the final production project my senior year, I came up with a way to replicate daguerreotypes using modern materials. It was a big hit. My complaint is the overwhelming amount of misinformation that is so widely conveyed, that it's almost universally thought to be correct. I really want to find a way, to find a few people, somewhere, who want to learn something.

    When I moved back to Colorado 25 years ago, the advisor from when I worked on the newspaper in high school contacted me, and asked me to come in and help any of her photographers who were interested. They all had already completed all photography classes the school offered before they could join the staff, but she was unhappy with the quality of what they were producing. She didn't require them to do it, and only one photographer took up the offer. But in the course of just two days, and maybe 6 hours total, that photographer's work improved so much, she called me back and told me she couldn't believe how much of a difference it had made. That's very gratifying. I'd like to do that again.
     
  9. Message #169 of 172 Mar 7, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2019
    Sam Posten

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  10. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    In school, composition was mostly taught more dynamically and interactively than with books. Lectures, critiques and so on. So I don't recall any of those books, off the top of my head. One thing I am steadfast on is that the Rule of Thirds is, without a doubt, the best fundamental guidance there is. The problem is that it is so widely misunderstood. It's more of a philosophy than anything else. The last book on that list has a section on it, and perfectly demonstrates what it is NOT. The example of how it's bad is making ineffective assumptions. Meanwhile, most of the examples in the same book of "good" composition are effective examples of it, but that's ignored. Also, that same book refers to it as a "starting point". Again, wrong. It's more a tool for fine tuning, so it comes more at the end, not the beginning. I also find it's best once it's so naturally a part of a person's approach to composition, that it is implemented without intentional thought.

    The fact is, I see so many comments about how any compositional concepts, particularly Rule of Thirds, are of no use, mostly from people who can't seem to get away from endless bulls-eye syndrome. That's like a epidemic these days, and I know why. the focus point is, by default, in the center of the frame, and they don't want to take the effort to compose differently.

    Oh yeah, I have to chuckle at the comment in that link... "but after taking hundreds of photos..." WOW, hundreds of photos and you're an expert. :rock:
     
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  11. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Thanks John.
     
  12. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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