17 July 2014

A Better Eye

Mount Evans Sunrise, tinkered with in Photoshop(goat was facing the other way)

Photoshop trainer Dave Cross recently published five suggestions for photographers to challenge themselves and shoot better photos.

I sometimes find myself in a photographic rut, not so much because I fail to try new things as being limited via time and daylight.

I found his list interesting, and I'm going to consider a couple of his ideas. What really got me going, though, was the simple phrase: "Challenge yourself." I had recently finished "competing" in the Ravellenics, which sports a stated goal of challenging oneself. Every snowflake and every new pattern are challenges because I typically make them up as I go, and the challenge is multiplied if I attempt to write the pattern, particularly if I'm on a bumpy commuter train and trying to type on my phone.

Photography, too, can be a challenge for me every single time I remove the lens cap. I want every shot to be different than what everyone else is shooting. In addition, I don't like harsh flash shadows, and not every available light opportunity is successful without a tripod. Unfortunately, I don't always carry a tripod. Just too danged inconvenient!

In considering Dave Cross's challenge, I realize I have a built-in challenge right smack dab in the middle of my time and daylight limitations. Trying to snap a great photo when I'm trying not to be late is incorporated into my everyday routine. Getting a great sunrise when all around me are telephone poles and powerlines is SO.DARNED.FRUSTRATING!!! Even worse when I'm stuck on the train when the color hits the sky...

And then there's that not-enough-daylight thing. I've got the answer to that packed in my purse, where it's been for more than a year now, and not once have I attempted to tackle it.

Gonna Paint with Light

I think maybe I should do a little bit of painting with light this weekend.

4th of July Fun

Playing with Night Light

Back to the Dave Cross challenge...

His challenge: Stop chimping. (Chimping is checking the shot on the rear screen.) My reply: Not if it's a shot I can't duplicate and it's imperative I not miss it.

His challenge: Pretend to use a roll of film instead of a huge memory card. My reply: Can you imagine me using only 24 shots at The Wave?!? GET REAL!!!!!

390 of 406

369 of 406

349 of 406

Lived that 24-shot-roll life for 33 years; no interest in ever going back. Sorry! Besides, I always seem to run out of memory when I get to the best shot. I'm SO grateful I don't have to worry anymore whether the film leader catches on the sprockets and spindles.

His challenge: Used a fixed lens. My reply: I hate zoom lenses. My workhorse is a macro portrait lens, which can be a real challenge when I should be using a wide angle. It forces me to work outside the box.

His challenge: Self-assignments. My reply: After 14 years of newspaper journalism, assignments become sort of habit. I've been in my second career for 20 years this summer, and I've still yet to break the habit of assigning myself to new and different shots.

His challenge: Find something new in old territory. My reply: I do that every day.

Sunset, Mary Carter Greenway

Oh, how I hate to be in a place where I can't get a clear view when the sky turns this magnificent color!!!

I couldn't convince the deer to move away from the power lines and fence, darn it!

My version of this particular challenge: Make a good shot from ugly circumstances.

Sometimes I see the most brilliant and colorful sunrises and sunsets. From the train. Or from my bedroom window. Back when we still lived in an apartment, the most beautiful sunrises always seemed to happen when I couldn't get out of the parking lot.

I began taking pictures without the city lights, power lines and signs. Just sky.

And that's how I began digital quilting with sunrises and sunsets. I had to do something creative with all those cloud shots. I call them my Quilted Skies Series.

Sky Swirls

Quilted Skies

This is hanging BIG in my living room now!

While I was writing this post, DIY Photography came up with a post on a completely different topic that really piqued my interest. Allen Mowery uses the example of one of my earliest influences, Ansel Adams, to unhinge the myth a photographer must have all the latests and greatest equipment with all available bells and whistles to take meaningful photos. Ansel Adams often used heavy old cameras and prefered black and white to color.

"Knowing what I know now, any photographer worth his salt could make some beautiful things with pinhole cameras," Adams said.

One of my favorite photos from Snow Canyon in Utah was made with an iPhone. Not even the latest iPhone. A reconditioned model I picked up for 50 cents.

Snow Canyon


  1. Sounds like lots of great tips so things won't go stale, although 24 pics haha yeah you might go nuts pretending that is all you had haha

  2. Great post! I am working on ways to get out of a rut... I like the idea of sticking a different lens than usual on my camera, and seeing what I can do with it. I'm also enjoying a 365 day challenge that forces me to try to make a decent photo no matter what the natural light is like (I hate flashes - or, perhaps, I just don't now how to use them well, so I stick with natural light).

    What really takes me out of a rut is to shoot the night sky. We have 3 weeks of camping in the remote mtns coming up so I should get lots of chances to do that!

    Loved this post. Thanks!

  3. Gosh, that really hits home. I took way fewer photos at Bike MS this year because it felt like I was shooting the exact same things as last year. (Plus I was kind of tired.) Luckily Mr. M came with a fresh pair of eyes and I got to enjoy his photos!

    That light painting is way cool. And #369 takes my breath away.

    You shoot, girl!


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