With great cameras built into cell phones and evolving editing tools, every BA50 reader can be a better photographer! I’ll share my own journey and suggest a few easy steps to improve your own photography.
I look at the family photo albums before 2006 and cringe. On the positive side, I looked a lot younger! However, these images are terrible: bad composition, no editing, overexposed, or fuzzy. After mostly retiring ten years ago, I’ve had adventurous times with my camera, my sister, and my friends.
Take a Class
A class teaches the basics (the rule of threes, leading lines, etc.) of composing a good shot. I like the line of frozen river leading into the middle of the photo in Moab. And practice makes perfect. Over the years, I’ve shot hundreds of photos of white-tailed deer in front of our seaside home and finally got a sweet image of a doe and her two fawns.
Learn Basic Photo Editing
Experts say half the craft is taking the shot, but the other half is applying editing tools. Several great photo fixes are available on your phone. A next step is taking on-line editing classes for Lightroom or Photoshop. I now combine photos and illustrations for my Bella, the Wildlife Ambassador book series featuring two Newfoundlands helping cougars, humpback whales, and cougars.
Plan Photo Forays
I love to plan excursions to nearby locales. In Colorado’s Sand Wash Basin, we searched for the wild horses and found a pair having a lover’s quarrel. We also hiked during wildflower season With my sister and friends, I attended several relatively inexpensive photography seminars in Yellowstone. I’m pleased by the shot of a classmate bathed in yellow sunrise glow after we rose at 4 am to rendezvous at the van and drive to the location. (A caution: It’s all about the golden hour at sunrise and sunset, so be prepared for limited sleep, a crepuscular schedule, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.)
To photograph a Trumpeter Swan on the eponymously named Swan Lake required a perhaps overly obsessive effort to crawl through 300 yards of lakeside weeds without disturbing the bird.
Join a local photography group
My photography group has been pure joy. Pre-Covid, we met monthly to hear presentations on equipment, photography history, or portraiture and vote on photo contest submissions. During quarantine, we share images on a listserv: Black and White Mondays, Colorful Wednesdays, and Funny Fridays. I recently hiked up in the mountains on a cold evening with a member of the group to shoot the moon rising over the Gore Range.
Posting your best pictures on social media provides immediate feedback, although seeing the perfect shots of seasoned photographers can be discouraging! Instead of simply shooting a clear image, I attempt to tell a family story, as in the picture of our younger son, his wife, and their very affectionate dog.
A few final suggestions for pursuing your passion for photography:
- Trust in serendipity and don’t go anywhere without your camera. The photographer who shot an amazing picture of a bird carrying a young shark with a smaller fish in its mouth says, “My camera is like a third arm.”
- Sign up on Facebook photography pages of interest and study the work of other photographers. The Phototherapy site (Rick Sammon) is a great place to start. I’ve enjoyed Colorado Wildlife; Colorado Skies, Newfie Dos and Don’ts, and a Moose Lovers site.
- Learn more about cameras: A cell phone can take you far, but you’ll need a zoom lens for wildlife shots.
- Attend an adventure photography course: Check out the Yellowstone Forever offerings.
- Order my Bella books on Amazon or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out Fineartamerica.com to purchase photo cards and prints.
- Have fun. It’s a great way to see the hope and beauty of our world and our families during such unsettling times.