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Can our Ability to Respond to a Scene Improve Over Time?

Connie Cassinetto (Via the Lens)


Keywords: nikon, d200, d800, d500, birds, wildlife, landscape, via_the_lens

I was bouncing around, or at least my finger was bouncing around on the keyboard, on an online photography forum the other evening and someone asked this question, “Can mental quickness in responding to a changing photographic scenario be learned or improved?”  As would be no surprise to most of us, the answers were all over the place and there were completely opposing opinions regarding the question.  I don’t recall if I responded to the question but it did make me think about photography and the process of learning the craft.  

Bridge Over Sacramento River.
Nikon D200, 1/250 sec. at f/8, ISO 200.
A 28-200 kit lens that came with the D200. I started out learning about the elements of basic composition. Line is a key element in photography and in this shot I was practicing this element by trying to make the bridge look even longer than it was.
Click for an enlargement

 

It actually took my mind back to my first paid tour-type photography trip, in 2011, where I went with a group being led by what was, I assumed this, an experienced photographer.  The trip was to Death Valley.   At that point I had no friends who were photographers to go with me so I signed up and headed out alone to see what the whole paid photography tour thing was about. I knew little about photography as I had only started my journey as a serious photographer in January 2010 and the trip was only a year later.  I had signed up for and was in the process of completing a basic black and white film course at the local junior college, they did not offer digital courses, so I was aware of the basic concepts and knew a tiny bit about using different apertures and how shutter speed affected an image.  I also knew a tiny bit about composition.  When I say a “tiny bit,” that would mean about a thimble full! 

Stairs at Castle.
Nikon D7000, 1/20 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 100.
As I recall I rented a lens for the trip as I had very few pieces of equipment, a 10-24 f/3.5-4.5; I don’t recall the brand. I was also trying to learn the various ways to make an image a bit more interesting, as in these stairs winding down and around at a castle in Death Valley. Note that I appear to have had little concept about which f/stop to use
Click for an enlargement

 

I was determined to learn it all so I jumped into the high-water end of the pool, so to speak, by taking the tour to Death Valley. My most prominent memory of the Death Valley trip was asking someone why I would want to use an aperture of f/8 and how it differed from the other aperture settings.  It turned out to be a good learning experience and I made a couple of friends, one in particular, that I went on numerous trips with over the following years.  I had some of the right ideas on the Death Valley trip so I did get a few acceptable shots, one in fact that almost got me a third-place award in a local annual photography competition (I did not win because one of the judges took exception to an item in the distance that he believed I should have removed!).  Some of the other shots were all right, too, as I focused on the mystery of a window or door or another basic design element that created interest.  I was even shooting my Nikon D7000 in RAW so I was starting to get the right idea, I just needed a lot more education and practice.  

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