Monday, July 11, 2016

The children of the canola

882 photos later. My eyes are tired.

No, I'm not going to make you scroll through that many photos. Many, perhaps even most are experiments with camera settings; some wildly over or under exposed, some are essentially duplicates with slightly different settings, some are badly composed, or have other problems. Some are successful experiments in trying to produce a particular effect but are otherwise uninteresting. A few seem promising to work on as actual photographs.

No, this one isn't mine, you can see me off to the left. This is a screen shot of a Neil Zeller photo showing all of us hard at it, practicing our craft.

No, we aren't trampling canola, there was some patchy dirt where we were standing.

What an awesome weekend though!  Saturday was classroom theory and practice, then doing some evening city shots. Sunday was road trip day. After the car show in Alderside, we headed down the Cowboy Trail, till Neil got excited and yelling "stop the van, stop the van!" I never knew canola could do that to anyone. Still, we all piled out and started clicking. As we were getting in after, there were some corny jokes about 'children of the corn' and that's where the blog title came from.

So back to the beginning. You knew I'd bought a camera as the first step to exploring photography. I've bumped up against the limitations of the iPhone camera, and wanted to better control what was going on. I have to admit all the settings on a camera with manual controls are just a bit intimidating. A lot intimidating.

I explored for a bit, and though I understood what ISO, aperture, and shutter speed were, and knew they were related, I didn't really get the relationship. Nor how to go about getting some of the neat effects I've seen. My explorations weren't a waste of time, but I didn't get very far.

Neil and I have been buddies for a while, and I still get people that find my blog through his dormant barefoot running blog. When he opened registration to a weekend course to learn how to actually use your camera in manual, I snapped it up. It's the best value I've had in a training course ever. I loved the combination of theory and practice. This is really the only way to learn, by actually using your camera and twiddling with the settings. There is no rush. You have all the time you need.

There were just a few off-hand things (for Neil) that were major aha moments for me. I was afraid I'd get stranded deep in the menu and mess up some settings, and didn't know what most of them were. Or why. Some are still a mystery, but that's ok. Start with the basics and move on.

The class was 10 people, essentially all beginners, and a couple of more advanced people showed up a bit later in the morning. Neil has a ton of his own gear, and brought some loaner gear as well. I had always thought camera gear was delicate and would break at a cross look. It is delicate in some ways, but surprisingly durable. Looking at Neil's gear you can see it's been used hard in the real world. I'm still going to be careful with it, of course. Everybody that borrowed an expensive lens was walking very carefully on the rocky ground near the falls.

The difference between my kit lens and the professional lenses was astonishing to me. I came back after one sessions wanting to buy all the lenses! I spent a bit of time today at lunch shopping and reading lens reviews. What fun!

The evening trip around Calgary was 4 different places. We were a bit disappointed in the sunset over the Weaselhead, but several of us noted the next day that the photos looked way better on a computer, and the sunset had more interest than we thought. Poppy Plaza blew my mind. Here's the first long exposure shot of the night for me, dark skies, straight out of the camera raw, no processing at all. (Did you notice the pun?) Nothing special for a lens, just the kit 18-55 mm.

Now that I look at this a little more, I might fix it up in Lightroom just to be able to show the difference in a later blog.

I'd thought of going there just after buying my camera, but it would have been a waste of time. I see now I had a fundamental misunderstanding of how it works, and there would have been no results. We all had a blast trying different things, and were astonished at the results we were getting. Of course we walked downstream a bit and shot the Peace bridge.

It was just as well we were done for the evening, because I couldn't shut my left eye and look through the viewfinder with the right anymore.

Sunday we were off again for a road trip. Alderside, through Nanton, over to Chain Lakes, down to Lundbreck Falls, the Burmis tree, Frank Slide, then several sites near the Oldman River dam just because the light was astonishing! Your trip might be somewhere else, based on weather, time of year, or what Neil hasn't seen recently.

Here's two waterfall shots, one a few seconds after the other to show the difference settings can make. Same lens, same spot, completely different look. This is a screen shot straight out of the camera, no processing at all.

I could go on and on about images. But really the weekend was about learning, experimenting, and having fun. Neil had a great way of explaining why the smallest f stop number is the biggest opening.  I always had to think about it. Then you get to experiment. He completely removed the intimidation factor from the camera, and showed how much fun it was to go out and photograph stuff. Even if I do hold the camera wrong, and he winces every time he sees that. Something else to work on.

So if you have a camera that has lots of buttons, or maybe a dial with an M on it, and are afraid to play with, sign up for Neil's course. Now I'm going to go look at those 882 images to see what I can learn from them, and play with some of them in Lightroom. If I'm not back in a while, send a search party.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a fabulous weekend, Keith. Wish I could have joined you! Look forward to seeing more of those 882 shots.


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