Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Time In California

Learning On The Go

I knew very little about cameras when I began to pursue photography seriously and I knew even less about creating good photographs.  I realized that I would need to invest time into practicing my new craft.

Shoot.  Evaluate.  Identify the mistakes and the lucky breaks.  Revise the approach, then go out and shoot again.  And again.

I spent a lot of time with my camera.  I got an 'A' for effort even though the results lingered in the 'C' range for quite a while.  A lot of film ended up in the trash, but lessons were learned with every roll.

Eventually, I had a small epiphany - there's value in visiting a location repeatedly.  One can observe the impact of weather, season, and time of day on the available light.  It's also possible to refine technique using information gathered from previous attempts.

I began to develop a list of 'favorite places' that I would visit with some frequency.  Most of these places were within a couple of hours of home, but I added a more distant destination to the list.  Coastal California.

a photo of the big sur coast from hurricane point
Hurricane Point at First Light

I had visited California in the years B.E.C. (before expensive cameras).  It's a land of breathtaking scenery, and I wanted to capture its magic on film.

a photo of mcway waterfall big sur at sunset
McWay Waterfall at Sunset

My earliest attempts at shooting the coast didn't yield remarkable results, but I learned a great deal about the location and local weather conditions in the process.  I also learned that there's a lot more to capturing a good photograph than just pointing a camera toward something interesting and making a 'correct' exposure.

As I explored the amazing Coastal California, I developed a understanding of light, its color, its quality, and its direction.  I developed a methodology for refining compositions from an initial idea to a finished image.  I experimented with techniques for focusing and stabilizing my cameras.

a photo of the point sur lighthouse at sunrise
Point Sur Under Textured Clouds

Eventually, I learned how to predict the occurrence of certain camera-friendly conditions.

When would the light make its first morning appearance over a particular mountain?

Where do you need to park your car to get a particular vantage point?

It's helpful to know these things, and if you pay attention to your surroundings and take good notes, you can return to the scene at a later date to capture something spectacular.  It pays to know what's going to happen before it actually takes place.

a photo of the golden gate bridge at dusk with traffic trails
Golden Gate Bridge At Dusk

Each excursion to my favorite places - near or far - was time well spent.  Even when the photos didn't turn out well, I was gaining insights that would transform my entire approach to photography. 

            Canon EOS 5D Mark II

            Canon TS-E24 f/3.5L II
            Canon 24-105 f/4L IS

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2012 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

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