In the course of a year (part 1)

A comment from Derien on last November’s post made me start to think about what I’ve learned about photography in this past year. At first I thought – wow, I just didn’t really spend as much time thinking about photography as I had in the previous few years… but then I decided that I learned lots of little things, some more technical than others. Here’s a quick rundown, which I’ll split into two posts.

Item Learned #1: Don’t let weather (and the calendar) get in your way.

Thanksgiving morning, early: fresh snow, still falling. I drove up to Sapsucker Woods; the parking lot was empty, everyone was home sleeping in (or enjoying the holiday). I started off down the trail around the pond, but didn’t have to walk very far before I found these deer. I could have just stayed home and enjoyed some nice warm tea, but going out in the wintry cold paid off.

Winter Morning

Item Learned #2: Patience is a virtue.

I bought a used Canon MP-E 65mm specialty macro lens last year, with the primary purpose of capturing snowflakes. I needed to wait for just the right kind of snow – where the flakes were dry enough to keep their definition, and where they weren’t falling in 5+ snowflake clumps. When the snow was good, I’d hold black velveteen cloth out to catch some flakes, then bring it under cover to prevent catching more snow (but still in the cold so it wouldn’t melt). The lens, with its 1x-5x magnification and almost no depth of field, forced me to hunt around on the cloth for My Flake. Most of the flakes were semi-melted or broken by the time I located them. I also had lots of trouble keeping my fingers warm. The very few snowflakes that I managed to get were worth it, though!

  Snowflake

Item Learned #3: Get your feet wet!

My husband and I traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee for a workshop in April. Our guide, Joe Rossbach, LOVES waterfalls and precarious perches; and after being relegated to the rocks on the side of the creek for lack of proper clothing and footwear, I learned that you can get good photos from the side of the creek but you can get spectacular pictures from the middle. Still, I did OK, and I’ll know better for next time.

Spring Creek

Item Learned #4: Luminosity Masks

Another thing that I learned from Joe (besides the importance of being exposed to the elements at crazy hours of the day in very uncomfortable circumstances) was the more technical aspect of working with luminosity masks. Joe introduced me to Tony Kuyper’s TKActions panel, which allows you to (among other things) apply curves and levels to portions of a photo based on the amount of light – using masks based on groupings like “ultra darks” and “wide mid-tones”. I’ve used this on many pictures since, including this one taken at Dolly Sands in West Virginia on another of Joe’s workshops in May.  

Dolly Sods Sunrise

Stay tuned for part 2!

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