While being no stranger to steep hills, the learning curve I've been on over
the last few months has been one heck of a gradient.
Since I made the positive decision that I wanted to try and turn taking photo's into more than just something I did for the sake of it I have been rudely awakened as to just how much I didn't understand, or at least didn't fully comprehend about photography generally, but particularly when it is for an audience other than myself.
I thought I was fairly good at pressing the shutter button and recording an image - you know, the difficult bit (that is a joke by the way). I'd been doing that for a long while. An interest sparked by a basic compact camera as a kid (thanks Mum and Dad) continued through a second-hand film SLR (Canon AE-1 - thanks again Mum and Dad, I mean, Father Christmas) continuing on to various versions of Fuji's series of bridge cameras which did me well for several years, and even a spell working as a professional photographer of sorts, taking school class portraits. (not exactly my chosen field but useful experience) led me to the point I was at late last year.
I'd like to think that I wasn't terrible at finding things to put in the frame. Up to that point I had sporadically endeavoured to give myself photographic opportunities and from an academic point of view after multiple years of study I hoped I had a reasonable knowledge of how some animals would behave, or what I was likely to find in a given habitat at roughly what season or time of day. and how to track certain things down. In fact it was academia that originally re-fired my interest in wildlife photography and encouraged me to get the camera out more; I realised that by taking good (read better than previously rather than better than anyone else's) photo's of insect specimens I could practice identifying them to a better standard than I could in the field trying to spot identifying characteristics in the few seconds they remained stationary. This led me to taking hundreds of photo's of what had become at that point and remains today one of my favourite species groups: Dragonflies.
One of the first dragonfly images I took that I was, and still am, quite happy with
(Migrant hawker Aeshna mixta - Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire)
This process of taking many many photo's inevitable ended up in some that I was quite happy with, which gave me an opportunity to evaluate what made them better than the others while I was practising my dragonfly ID skills. Following a few encouraging comments from people who frankly thought more of my photo's than I did at the time I decided to make a bit more of an effort in chasing a pipe dream which I had harboured on-and-off for 15 years or more - Wild Guy Photography was born., which brings me back to where I started.
Just as what University taught me more than anything else was how much there is to learn, and how little of it I understood, this attempt at rapidly entering the world of more advanced photography has shown me how complex the subject can be, and how little of that I understood. I'll give just one example. Though I didn't read photography literature all that often prior to a year ago when I did it seemed like everyone was talking about light; the quality of light, capturing light, how it makes or breaks images etc etc etc blah blah blah. I passed it off as - and I heartily apologise to any photographers reading this - arty farty nonsense. I was dead wrong.
Fast forward to today, and I find myself constantly noticing how the light looks, how it is changing and what would look good in it. Months of looking at the photo's from photographers far my superior has firmly planted in my mind the difference between a photo of a nice scene and a nice photo and I try to look out for those scenes which I see everyday which have been transformed, or could be, by particular lighting, having realised that it really does make all the difference.
Of course, I'm still learning how to capture it at its best, how to play to its' strengths, and how to harness the abilities of my equipment to their fullest extent - I am still a long way off. I drive to and from work thinking 'Now if only I was 2 miles further down the road at such and such a point this light would work great with such and such a feature (a blessing of working in a National Park), or another frequent one is, "If I didn't have to get to work / get home I could wait here until this reaches its prime position" and so on. Much like when I started becoming fascinated by dragonflies I started looking for them everywhere I went, the same is now true of light, and things in good light.
Of course, this is just one element of my photography which has developed over the last year. It has been a very steep learning curve in many areas; technical understanding of camera equipment; taking less, better photo's rather than more, poor ones (I have deleted thousands of photo's in the last year); thinking properly beforehand about composition, learning how to use post processing wisely, taking more direct control of my pictures etc etc. This path goes on and on, and I am very aware that I am very near the start of it, taking baby steps, but it's an interesting and exciting path to move along.
Just starting out on the path, with a long way to go and steep hills to climb
As my own appreciation of what I like to record and why becomes clearer it allows me to focus more on what I actually want to take photo's of, and try to make those as good as they can be. No doubt over time that will become clearer still and my ability to communicate that will likewise increase.
I suspect this has been boring for a little while already and so I will sign this off until next time.