“Let there be snap…”
Dermots challenge turned into something a lot more interesting than I originally thought it would be.
In these days of digital cameras pictures are cheap, free really, if you don’t print them. Why would you ever not take 100 pictures and then sift for the best shot or post process into oblivion to get what you wanted?
Looking at it now, I guess I’m guilty of the same sin as a lot of people. I take pictures without actually thinking what I wanted to capture and then only later look to see if it says something I want to say. Being able to take 100 pictures of a tree is different than being able to take a picture of showing some aspect of the tree. Thinking more about it, I’m actually guilty of taking the same picture two or three times – the EXACT SAME PICTURE, same settings, everything – there is no reason for this unless you think you’re on the fringes of it being sharp or something.
So, what did taking a single picture of an object on a day actually do for me?
It made me stop and think. This is probably more obvious in the poor shots than in the good shots. If you look at day 1, not thinking about the background left me with a poor result. It made me realise that a picture isn’t just an object or a view or whatever, it’s a combination of things – foreground, background, subject, position, light, shadow, focus, etc etc etc. you need to make sure all of this is combining before you ever consider pressing the button.
OK, that’s pretty fundamental. Maybe I should have realised this a year ago. I probably did, but it’s taken me this long to articulate it.
So what else did Dermot’s challenge teach me?
- Use manual – If you’re taking a photo and have the time to set it up and work with it, use manual. It’ll make you think about all aspects of the camera setup not just the comfy slippers setting you normally use. Sure, if it’s a shot that’s fleeting go for Av or Tv, but when you can use manual.
- Don’t be afraid to ‘garden’ a little – If you’re taking a photo of a pretty flower, you are allowed to pull the weeds that might detract. (If they aren’t your weeds, please get permission)
- Give people a focus point for their eye – Something that draws them into the picture, a subject or a path for their eye to follow
- Never ever accept a challenge from Dermot – I mean, he is evil (and flirts far too much with overexposure in night shots)
- Don’t be afraid to throw out rubbish – If the shot doesn’t work it’s no big deal. Unless you’re getting paid for it, it’s not a crime to get a shot wrong. And besides, you might be able to get the picture next time round
- Don’t approach every object and every day looking for a photo, but be ready when one presents itself – It’s OK to always have your camera with you and to always be looking for the photo, but when it becomes an obsession and you spend your day trying to find “that shot”, then you’re just going to stress yourself out. I had much more fun taking Day 7 than I ever could have when I was taking the Day 5 disaster
I think I got a fair bit out of this challenge.
I’m still not a great photographer, but the site isn’t called “LearnedToSnap” so I guess that’s OK.
Hopefully I’m getting better.
“Light at the end of the tunnel”
Day 7 took slightly longer than planned. A few different things came up and to be honest I was keen to make the last shot of the challenge as good as possible.
I’m not sure what dragged me back to those railway bridges. Maybe it was a sense of there being more or maybe I wanted better light, but I’m glad I returned on a sunny day. (If only for the pun above).
What I wanted to achieve was the sense of distance and scale in the picture. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted but was spending time holding the camera to my eye to try and see the shot. As it turned out, the AF actually focused on the bricks to the right and left the far trees and light out of focus without any real planning on my part. But, I liked the look in the viewfinder so took that as Day 7.
Hopefully it works.
(f7.1, 1/50sec, 25mm, ISO-100, 02/06/2008)
I’m still pulling together my thoughts on this challenge of Dermots. I’ll try to sum them up in a future post.
“Messing about on the river”
OK, so there was no Day 5.
I was going to call today Day 5, after all I was away yesterday on business and I didn’t have a huge amount of time for photography. But, I did manage to get a little time late last night and the result of my one shot challenge was abysmal. Let’s not understate it, it was pretty woeful, even for me. It was blurred, out of focus and badly composed.
I was feeling pushed or time, so tried a shot of an ornament in the house. The object is quite nice, but I just didn’t do the right things and I hurried it.
I guess if I was to learn anything about yesterdays shot, it would be that sometimes you have to accept it’s not going to be worth the bother – if the shot isn’t there, you’re not going to get it.
Anyway, on with Day 6.
the weather’s turned here and as a result the blue skies are grey and that miserable drippy rain is – well – miserable and drippy.
I tried to work around that a little and took a stroll down to a railway bridge close to home and shot this.
(F/14, 1/13sec, 18mm, ISO-200, 28/05/2008)
I tried to follow on from Dermot’s comments the other day about lines heading into the distance, as well as give the horizon a bit more life than just the grey sky that was available. I also tried to get lower, both for perspective and to keep the tree I was hiding under out of the picture.
I feel the sky lets it down, and I’ll go back here when it’s a better day to see if it can be improved. A little more exposure might also help the dark areas under the tree in the right foreground.
In an effort to ensure I got a day 4 at all, I took my camera to work today. It’s a habit I’ve been trying to develop as much as possible as there are always photo possibilities when you don’t have it.
To be honest, I’d almost given up on a shot for today by home time. Work seemed to have this expectation of me working, so the camera stayed in it’s case and I stayed firmly up to my eyes. But then, on the way home I remembered a shot I’d wanted to take for a while and thought it might just be OK.
(f16, 1/125sec, 18mm, ISO-200, 26/05/08)
If I’d to do this again outside the realms of this challenge, I’d use a polariser and maybe come earlier in the morning – by my reckoning the sun rises at the end of the tracks or thereabouts.
I like the effect of the platform receeding into the distance, though it’s marred a little by the leaning buildings and it could also have been more central. I also tried to get low to take this – sometimes I forget I’m quite tall and that can throw perspective out.
Oh, and fair warning. Day 5 may not be tomorrow- I have business in Dublin and I’m unlikely to be back with time for camera fun.
When I posted about the reversal ring a few weeks back, Dermot mentioned that there were other options to do this sort of thing on a budget including close-up filters.
I found that you can actually buy a set on Ebay for under £10. That makes them cheaper than the reversing ring option.
Well, I couldn’t resist could I?
I’ll post a proper review of them soon, but we took this on Friday afternoon while messing about and it’s been kind of freaking me out ever since I uploaded it at the weekend.
Now, someone else tell me they can see a six in his eye! I mean, why would he have a six in his eye? Why would anyone have a six in their eye? It’s just wrong.
It’s also very very close.
Thanks to Gordons eye for not exploding while we hit it with the lens!
“It’s a what now?”
It’s actually the inside of one of those fabric play tent maze things my daughter has.
I’d spent pretty much all morning looking for today’s shot. I’d considered going out somewhere, I’d considered some form of constructed insanity and then, while trying to chase her out of one of the tunnels I decided I liked the light in there.
Well, you may as well have fun.
(F/10, 1/60sec, 18mm, ISO-200, 25/05/08)
It’s a complete departure from Day 1 and 2, given that there is no central subject. What I wanted more was the effect of colour and the feeling of depth, something that would draw the viewer in. Of the three shots in the insane challenge of Dermot’s, this is my favourite to date. I’m not sure I achieved my aim here, but it felt pretty close.
Biggest issue for me is that rogue tie, hanging at the end of the blue tunnel section. The one further on is less annoying.
In terms of yesterdays mistakes – today I double checked all the settings on the camera. Maybe this could have done with a little more exposure, but as I’ve said before – I like dark.
“There be Dragons…”
Day 2 of this challenge and already I’m finding I’m spending hours thinking about the right shot before setting it up or doing anything about it. I guess that was the idea behind it.
Of course, today I think I fluffed it.
After Dermot’s comments yesterday about backgrounds I spent a little more time considering what I wanted and made some adjustments. I also decided to get out my dragon so to speak.
(F/10, 1/160sec, 55mm, ISO-200, 24/05/08)
I’m not happy with this picture. I kind of knew as I pushed the button I wouldn’t be and only afterwards realised my mistakes.
What I wanted was the head of the dragon with the sky in background. That was all.
But I got a few bits wrong that I can see.
1. the cropping is out. The little trace of the wing on the right and the dead space on the left. I think it would have been better in portrait.
2. ISO-200? Yeah, I forgot to change it back after yesterday.
3. The white balance was on flash. Somehow when I moved it from shade to daylight I got distracted and put it onto flash. I think this is what’s left the odd fringing at the edges of the dragon, though that could be the excessive ambient lighting too (Damn you sun!)
4. The sky is blown out, possibly too over exposed
I like the depth of field in this, I wanted almost the entire head in focus, with the eye being sharpest. I also like the position, it gives a decent 3D perspective of the figure.
I guess if I was allowed two shots a day I might be able to correct a lot of this, but it’s not anything I would typically have noticed until I was back at my pc (OK, ISO and flash white balance, maybe).
Right, I’m off out to see Satriani. Have a good one.
“I’ve a little challenge for you” he said…
“for the next week (or even 10 days), go out and take a picture, just one, and that one has to be the best of all the many other photos that you could have taken. Don’t crop it, edit it or enhance it in any way. The photos can be of anything at all, as long as you take one and only one each day.”
Dermot had finally pulled together his proofs from our trip to the North Coast and after seeing them I was feeling a bit down. It’s hard to find a good excuse as to why your photos aren’t great and it gets harder when you lose the obvious “sure, he had better weather” or the best selling “I could have taken that if I’d been there“. I was left with the classic “His toys are better than mine” and the self effacing “I suck bigtime” (copyright ‘Yerman’, 2008).
So, in an effort to help me focus (Lord I may suck at photography, but I’m the pun master!) on what I’d learned and to give me a short term goal, Dermot set me the shot a day challenge.
I may have been mad, and I quickly had to follow it up with some caveats about still being allowed to snap my family and make use of the camera for the purpose of the macro project (the close up filters have arrived).
But apart from that, I’m allowed one shot.
In an effort to make it really interesting I’ve decided on a few other terms. I’m only going to use the camera and kit lens. I’m also going to make use of the manual function. I’ll also try to explain here exactly what I wanted to achieve and an honest assessment of whether I did or didn’t. Feel free to comment.
I guess a lot of these shots are going to be around the house. I can’t see me travelling 30 miles for a sunset when I have just one chance to get it right. I also can’t see my missus and kid being too happy if I head out every night. (Though, they might like the peace and quiet).
(F/5.6, 1/100sec, 55mm, ISO-200, 23/05/08)
The idea was to pick out this cluster of flowers and throw as much of the rest of the background bush out of focus as possible. What I wanted to achieve was just a simple shot of some flowers.
I think it would have worked better if I’d gotten closer to the flowers I wanted to help throw the DOF a little more. I also think it would have been better if I’d isolated the flowers more, maybe tried to lift them out of the image by removing or adjusting the flowers directly behind the front set. In the end, I think it’s probably too noisy with not enough area for the eye to settle on if that makes sense?
It was just pointed out to me that there might not be an obvious email address to actually send entries to.
All I can say is ‘ooops’.
Please send them to
Needless to say the <at> should be an @…