|Workshop practices panning on a tripod|
We practice to become better musicians, we practice to become better athletes, we practice to obtain a driver’s license and yet for the majority of photography enthusiasts the only time we pick up our cameras is when we’re heading to the field in the hopes of capturing that once in a lifetime photograph. Yes, I know, you’ve taken a photography class, attended a workshop, or sat through a seminar but that’s not practicing; your being introduced to new techniques that if used may help elevate your photographs to a new level but being shown how to do something does not mean your proficient at it.
Here’s a good example; for years we’ve all heard that using a tripod will improve the sharpness of our images by increasing our stability, and you may even have gone out and purchased a tripod. Now, be honest, how many of you use it? I’ve been teaching photography classes and leading workshops for over 25 years and if they own one many of my students don’t use it. Why? The answer is simple, they don’t know how, it’s too awkward or uncomfortable or it’s just too slow and they feel they’re missing too many shots. Sound familiar? While all may be valid points they quickly disappear with a little practice and familiarity with the device breeds comfort with its use.
Several years ago I purchased a tripod for my wife for Christmas in anticipation of an upcoming trip to Costa Rica. Prior to the trip I had her sit in our living room and get used to adjusting the legs, mounting the camera, working the head and carrying it around. After a couple days in Costa Rica she came to me and said she was amazed at the difference in the quality of her images…nuff said!
Whether it’s the functions of the camera like tracking modes, exposure modes, or focus points, accessories like a flash, or remote trigger or a new technique such as fill flash becoming familiar with the how, when, and where to use them can spell the difference between a successful outcome and just another image to erase before someone sees it.
The first thing to become familiar with is the user’s manual; I’m always amazed at the number of students I have that have never even cracked the cover of their camera’s user’s manual! If you don’t know the camera can do it, how do you expect to use it? Next, let’s take a look at the functions the camera does that can be useful to the type of photography you enjoy and learn these first. For instance, about 80% of my work deals with wildlife photography so functions such as focus points; single point, point groups and how to move them, and tracking modes are important to me and I’ve learned their locations and how to quickly change them. I’ve also learned how to quickly set up and be ready to shoot when in the field, setting up the tripod, attaching the camera and adjusting my settings. Practicing each of these has made it second nature when in the field, and as my good friend Roy Toft likes to say, “Reduces my dick-around time”!
|Practicing subject coming at you|
It’s equally important to practice shooting; the time to practice tracking a running subject is not when you have a bull elk chasing an opponent during the rut. Pets are great subjects to practice with, I love photographing my Labs and they love getting out and showing off their tracking and retrieving skills. Their speed, rapid changes in direction and sudden stops are all common with wild subjects. Practicing your subject tracking and placement are important techniques to become good at. This is also a great time to practice with those camera functions and settings I mentioned earlier.
No matter how or when you do it, work practicing into your schedule. There’s no travel required, can be done at home, and is one of the few things in photography that’s free! In a short time you’ll see improvements in your images, a higher success rate when dealing with challenging subjects and lighting conditions and you’ll gain a new sense of joy and excitement in and with your photography.
For more information on any of my photography classes, workshops, or safaris or you’ve just got a question you’ve been pondering; drop me at email at firstname.lastname@example.org.