The Ones that Get Away

On the road last night, I spotted a Basset Hound playing in a huge puddle in a yard with the sun going down behind him. I figured I would at least try to get a shot, maybe from across the street with my 300mm. The instant I stopped, however, he wanted to be friends, and trotted over, barking the whole time. Animals are always hard to photograph because the presence of a photographer, or any other people, tends to get their attention.

Friendly but uncooperative Bassett Hound
Friendly but uncooperative Bassett Hound

The problem, in my photographer’s mind, is that people, when being photographed, should know better. You’d think that with the drillions of cameras around that people would get used to being photographed and relax. But I challenge you to try to photograph someone (other than Abby and me) and see if you can get them to relax and be themselves. I actually have to tell people all the time to stop posing.

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Learning Curve

Photography students
Photography students

As I teach deeper and deeper into intermediate digital photography, I am finding that I am guided by intuition, in much the same way that film directors like Francis Coppola make their movies. I feel, and probably always will feel, that going into the field and shooting is more valuable to my students than listening to me describe f-stops and Bayer patterns by a factor of one grillion.

To that end, tonight I arranged to have the Ada Fire Department being a crew out to the Pontotoc Technology Center to do a couple of training exercises at their fire training tower. It was supposed to be a bit of a surprise for my students, but one of them is actually married to one of the firefighters who was training tonight. Despite that, we all had an excellent time, and made some neat photos.

Afterwards we took a short nature walk in the archery woods to the south. On the way back to the classroom, we discovered a very cool thunderstorm forming to the west, with the sun setting directly behind it. It, too, made pictures, and in the end it seemed like a productive session.

Burgeoning thunderstorm
Burgeoning thunderstorm
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Clear Air vs Haze

Grand View Point, November 2007
Grand View Point, November 2007

A lot of photography depends on luck. We try to be in the right place at the right time, and often it works. Certainly we would get nothing if we didn’t try. An example is the weather. Obviously, rain or clouds or other difficult conditions can put a damper on making good images, but a less tangible factor is haze. There’s no good way to forecast haze in the wilderness (although it is more common in the summer), so it can squelch the best plans. In 2003 on the High Road, Abby and I dealt with haze brought about by forest fires in eastern Arizona, which spread out over a huge region.

The examples here are from Canyonlands. The first image is from November 2007, on The Next Cairn, and you can see how hazy it is. The second was made at about the same time of day, and from near the same spot in March 2004 (The Confluence), and as you can see, it was very clear at the Grand View Point that day.

Grand View Point, March 2004
Grand View Point, March 2004
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Let the Reviews Begin!

Your Host: Photographer Richard R. Barron
Your Host: Photographer Richard R. Barron

1: I am not a pixel warrior, meaning I believe there are about 20 things more important to consider about your camera (or which camera to buy) than pixel count. Pixel count is an easy way for merchants, from the lowly 20-something in his blue shirt at Best Buy to the vaunted head of Sony or Warner Brothers, to tease rich amateurs into buying more camera than they need, or more frequently, the wrong camera for their needs. More on this later.

2: I am not a brand warrior. For the most part, I have Nikon cameras, but my wife and I also have Canons, Olympuses, and even a Kodak or two. As I tell my photography students, it would be hard to buy a bad digital camera with the selection currently at hand.

3: If you are relying on this blog, or any blog, or any photography review web site, to decide about what cameras you need, you need to turn off your computer and go take some pictures.

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